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On the Liberated State

Updated: Jun 4

The following is a series of selected excerpts depicting the nature of the liberated state according to the Śaivādvaita or Visiṣṭādvaita view, as found in Śrīkaṇṭha’s commentary on the Vedānta Sūtras (IV.4), translated by A. Mahadeva Sastri.


"The Śruti teaches that he who has reached the Parabrahman, - the Great Luminary, the Supreme Light, - manifests himself in his true form: 'Having risen from out of this earthly body, and having reached the highest light, (the serene being) appears in its own form.' (Chāndogya Upaniṣad, VIII.3.4.) (...) When the Jīva reaches Brahman, his true form – similar in its nature to that of Brahman – which has already existed in him veiled by his impurity, manifests itself on the removal of the impurity. (...) when the impurity veiling the true nature of the Jīva has been removed by the Grace of Śiva, the Parabrahman who is gracious to all, the true nature of the Ātman, similar to the nature of Śiva, comes into manifestation; it is not newly brought into existence, as the result of an act is. (...) Wherefore we conclude that when the Jīva is liberated, it is his true inherent nature, the pure consciousness and bliss endued with omniscience and other such attributes, - which bursts forth into manifestation."


"... according to Jaimini, the liberated one becomes equal to Brahman only in respect of the attributes above referred to. (...) Auḍulomi holds that the liberated soul is equal to Brahman only in so far the inherent nature of both is consciousness (...). As we find both the views upheld, we have to conclude that the liberated soul and Brahman are distinguishable as well as undistinguishable; (...) But Bādarāyaṇa maintains that the liberated soul is, both by nature and attributes, equal to Brahman, because there is no inconsistency whatever involved in the view. (...) Wherefore, as the two aspects based on the teaching of the twofold authority are not inconsistent with each other, it is but proper to admit both. (...) Thus, we conclude that the liberated soul is like Brahman, self-luminous, as he is consciousness by his very nature, and that he is also endued with all excellent qualities, as it is declared that he is free from sin, and so on."


"For the very reason that he has attained to the nature of Brahman and is endued with sinlessness and other such attributes, he has none else for his lord; he is independent, never subject to karma, since all karma has been destroyed. The Parameśvara does not control him, because he has gone beyond the sphere of the injunctions and the prohibitions which constitute His command and which have been in vogue in the long current of time. How so? – Because he has ceased to be a dependent being (paśu). And certainly, on the removal of sin, he has attained to the state of Śiva Himself. His attainment of the state of Siva consists in his possessing all the unsurpassed blessed qualities free from the taint of all sin, - that is, - in being of the same nature as that of Śiva. Now, the nature of Śiva is made up of omniscience, etc. Therefore the liberated soul who is equal to Śiva , has Śiva's attributes such as omniscience, eternal knowledge, eternal happiness, perfect freedom, omnipotence, unfailing power, and endless resources. Samsara means the contraction of the self-knowledge (ātmajñāna) so that, when the sin, the cause of contraction, is removed, the liberated soul attains omniscience. For the same reason, when ignorance, the source of samsara has been eradicated, the illusion also, by which the soul identifies himself with a large or a small body, ceases to exist. And because the liberated soul is devoid of decay, death, and grief, therefore, not being subject to karma, he is perfectly free. He is ever happy, because he rejoices in his own self, being solely immersed in the enjoyment of that unsurpassed bliss which constitutes his very nature; and he is therefore devoid of hunger, thirst, and so on. Because all his powers are ever unfailing, therefore his desires and his will are always realised. Hence it is that the liberated soul and the Parameśvara are spoken of in the śruti as endued with the eight attributes, such as freedom from sin, etc. Wherefore it is but right to say that the liberated soul who is equal to Śiva is perfectly independent."


"Bādari maintains that the liberated soul has no such organs as the body and the senses; for, the śruti speaks of Brahman as disembodied, - the words 'who is without parts, without actions,' – and the liberated soul, who is of the same nature as Brahman, must also be disembodied. (...) But Jaimini holds that the liberated soul has a body, because the śruti speaks of him as putting on different phases of existence with bodies and the sense-organs. (...) As the śruti speaks of both embodied and disembodied states, the liberated soul exists in either way at will. So thinks the blessed Bādarāyaṇa.

"(...) The liberated one sometimes creates several bodies at will, and, entering into them, he wanders about. Sometimes, withdrawing the bodies, he remains in the disembodied state, the liberated one enjoys the pleasure created by the Parameśvara, in the same way that in a dream a person in the state of bondage enjoys by the mind (manas) the pleasures etc., created by the Parameśvara. That is to say: - Just as in a dream a person enjoys with the mind alone, without the aid of the body and the sense-organs, the objects brought before his view by the Īśvara, so also the liberated one enjoys the bliss which is the essential being of Brahman with the mind alone which forms part and parcel of his being. (...) During the existence of the body and other accessories created by his will, the liberated one enjoys all pleasures like a person in the waking state.

"(Objection): - If it be possible for the liberated one to enjoy by way of perceiving material objects, then, as the liberated one will have to perceive also what is not desirable in the universe, he cannot be free from the contact of the miseries of samsara.

"(Answer): - No; for, the liberated one never perceives the universe in an undesirable form. In point of fact, the whole of this universe appears to him as Brahman. (...) it has been said that the Yogin attains to the abode of Śiva, the Parabrahman, the one essential bliss of the heavenly kingdom, that he attains to the Lord of wisdom, to that one who is the fountain source of all wisdom. (...) In the case of the liberated one who has attained to this state, - that is to say, who has risen to the state of Brahman embodied in ākāśa, and whose organs of speech, etc., are pure and obedient to his own will, -, then, i.e, on his attaining to that state, this whole universe becomes the Brahman Himself embodied in ākāśa, that is, Brahman clothed in the supreme splendour (ākāśa), i.e., in His Supreme Bliss. That Supreme Power (Paraśakti) which is the fountain source of all being, the one homogeneous essence of ultimate being, light, and bliss, is what is called Paramākāśa, the Supreme Splendour, forming the very being of Brahman, and which directly in the case of the Parameśvara and the liberated one, and ultimately in the case of others, is the means of realising their will and activity. (...) Accordingly, in as much as the universe appears to the liberated ones as Brahman clad in His Supreme Splendour, they become immersed in the Supreme Bliss, and are, therefore, like Brahman, free from all contact with misery."


"…the liberated soul becomes all-pervading in virtue of his power of assuming an infinite number of bodies at his own will. [...] Just as a lamp enclosed within a jar pervades the whole room by its light on the removal of limitation, so also does the liberated soul (that) becomes all-pervasive by way of pervading the whole universe through his Śakti (divine power), on the removal of the impurity which obscured his Śakti.

[Here the metaphor of the lamp also explains how the several liberated souls can be simultaneously all-pervading and still individualized: just like the light of many lamps may fill one room, pervading it entirely, without ceasing to be a lamp.]

(...) "The liberated souls spread over the earth and sky with the rays of their own divine power (Śakti); they spread over even the regions of the Hiraṇyagarbha (the universal mind) and the like; they spread through the four quarters. Thus they dwell, pervading the whole universe. So that, omniscient as they are, they rend asunder the vast thread of destiny caused by Karma; and thus released from bonds of virtue and vice, they behold in all beings the one Being, Mahādeva, and become one with Him, one with all. Therefore, the liberated ones immersed in the one Being, Śiva, do pervade the whole. Thus, the liberated jīvas are of the same nature as Mahādeva and are spoken of as Devas, pervading the universe including heaven itself. It is they that are extolled in the Sāman called Devavrata beginning with 'those Devas who abides in Heaven', etc. [...] [abiding in] the 'earth', meaning 'brahmāṇḍa' (universe); what is spoken of as 'antarikṣa' refers to the region called māyā; what is here spoken of as 'heaven' (dyauḥ) refers to the otherwise known as Paramākāśa, the supreme Light, the pure Divine Source, the abode of Śiva."


"Wandering freely in the region of the hierarchical beings ranging from Sadāśiva to Brahmā, ... putting on the form he likes, free from all sense of identification with the human and other bodies, with his three powers (of will, knowledge and activity) uncontracted, the liberated soul fully realises his all-pervading self, endued with the supreme Bliss and light, with Śiva and Śakti held in homogeneous union in all their glories, immersed in the universe which is of one homogeneous texteure in perfect unison with Parabrahman. [...] the śruti (Veda) teaches that the liberated soul regards his self as all-pervading, identifying himself with the whole sphere of experiencer [subjects, puruṣas] and objects of experience. [...] the self, 'Aham' [meaning 'I' or 'I am'], refers to Śiva and Śakti held in perfect unison. ... Hence the saying of the wise: 'The recognition of Śiva and Śakti in perfect union, embracing the whole from 'a' to 'ha', is spoken of as 'aham' [I am]. [...] The syllable 'a' is in the heart, and the syllable 'ha' is in the twelve membered regions. Hence the sages look upon this (all) as 'aham', the non-dual, resting in the shining Self.' Now, the song of the liberated soul who has entered the supreme abode of the unsurpassed Brahman, accompanying his meditation of the glorious word 'aham' which denotes Śiva and comprehends all universe...".


"Beyond this is that Light, the Para-Brahman known as Śiva, associated with Umā. The abode wherein He dwells, it needs no saying, is as resplendent as a crore of the suns put together. [...] The abode is primeval because it is beyond all lokas or regions [...]. the liberated souls and this abode are comprehended in the being of Śiva. These are equally blessed (śiva, meaning 'auspicious') as seats of perfect purity. [...] the body and the like which the liberated ones assume at will are all perfectly pure, because they are formed by Mahāmāyā. [...] the śruti teaches that even Īśvara assumes, by His powers of Mahāmāyā, many bodies, such as the one with dark neck. [...] the śruti teaches that the bodies assumed by the Parameśvara are not made of matter, are made of pure spirit (vidyā) and are eternal. Just as the Parameśvara assumes manifold pure bodies, so also the liberated souls. [...] The śruti teaches that those who have attained equality with Śiva are without form and have manifold forms. When they become embodied, then whatever bodies - marked with dark neck and so on, - the Īśvara assumes, all such bodies can be assumed by those who have attained equality with Him. (...) The liberated ones become blended with Brahman, with Śiva who is one mass of unsurpassed bliss and light, and attain luminous bodies. They become omniscient, omnipresent, peaceful; they are the seat of the supreme eternal glories; from them all veils of sin have glided away; and they see Him everywhere; and He is their very being and self. As the śruti says, 'where the gods having attained the immortal pass into abodes of the Third', they attain the abodes they like in His Supreme Spiritual world; and with all wish accomplished at their own will, they shine everywhere along with Him at all times."

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Yuri Wolf
Yuri Wolf
Dec 10, 2021

Abhi, I believe here the author's intent is to give the perspective of the souls that have reached the liberated state a.k.a. acquired full autonomy (svātantrya), and due its total freedom chooses to remain experiencing Reality 'as an individual', while totally aware and empowered with its pūrṇatā.

May be or may not be 😊

Abhi R
Abhi R
Dec 15, 2021
Replying to

In our Bengal tradition, there is a saying," I don't want to be Sugar, but want to taste Sugar ". Based on this , from one aspect, Bhakti and its Dual or Qualified Non-Dual stands, can be related; but from Yogic point of view, this aspect is also fascinating.


Abhi R
Abhi R
Dec 08, 2021

A very helpful excerpts. I wonder, why the very nature of Aananda and Purnataa is not used with more stress in logic to establish body and bodyless state of Liberated ; or it might be lost , as this is only excerpts.

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