Can We Experience Liberation Prior To Death

[Krishna's lotus feet]“When the soul is situated in his original constitutional position of existence, he is said to be liberated. It is possible to engage in transcendental loving service to the Lord and become jivan-mukta, a liberated soul, even while in the material body.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 2.91-92 Purport)

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Friend1: I know that the foundational teaching of the spiritual science that is Vedanta is the difference between matter and spirit.

Friend2: It’s an issue of proper identification. You wouldn’t want to continue to see things improperly, would you? If there is a corrective lens that can help you to read the sign in the distance, is it not worth utilizing?

Friend1: Sure. The improper identification is from the time of birth.

Friend2: You can’t blame the individual in that sense. Children are called innocent for a reason. The only objective is immediate enjoyment, preyas. They are unaware of the concept of shreyas, or long-term benefit.

Friend1: Starting out in learning the Vedic science, the first block to possess in building a full knowledgebase is the one that teaches the distinction. Aham brahmasmi. I am spirit soul, part and parcel of the spiritual energy known as Brahman.

Friend2: Which has a source, Parabrahman, who is also a person.

Friend1: As opposed to a formless energy.

Friend2: Yes.

Friend1: Liberation is obviously the release from the spirit-body dichotomy.

Friend2: The Sanskrit term is moksha, which also means “release.” The achievement, the enjoyment, if you will, is called mukti. Bhukti is enjoying the senses, mukti is renunciation, siddhi is attaining mystical perfection, and bhakti is something else.

Friend1: Let’s stick with mukti and moksha for now. Gaining release from the body is liberation.

Friend2: Well, not necessarily. Release from the cycle of birth and death. You could quit this body only to accept another one moving forward. Shri Krishna compares this to taking off and putting on clothes.

वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय
नवानि गृह्णाति नरो ऽपराणि
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णान्य्
अन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही

vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya
navāni gṛhṇāti naro ‘parāṇi
tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny
anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī

“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)

Friend1: Here is my question, then. Is it possible to experience liberation prior to death? Or are we just like everyone else in saying to trust the process, to have faith that the afterlife will bring everything desired?

[Prabhupada]Friend2: It goes way beyond faith, if that’s what you are asking. The person connected to the Supreme Consciousness is as confident of the mercy of the Divine as they are of forces of nature like gravity. A sane person doesn’t say they believe in gravity; they know it to exist. In the same way, a person realized into the Absolute Truth, a tattva-darshi, knows beyond any doubt of the spiritual energy and the source behind it.

Friend1: What about liberation, though? That can only occur after dying?

Friend2: No. There is something called jivan-mukta.

Friend1: What does that mean?

Friend2: Liberated while living.

Friend1: Oh.

Friend2: The spiritual master is this way. He is the representative of the Supreme Lord, sent to this world to rescue the fallen souls, bringing enlightenment effected through precept and example. The guru is an eternally liberated soul. Though they come to this world, it should be understood that they are never under the sway of the illusory maya. They are always under the control of the Divine energy.

महात्मानस् तु मां पार्थ
दैवीं प्रकृतिम् आश्रिताः
भजन्त्य् अनन्य-मनसो
ज्ञात्वा भूतादिम् अव्ययम्

mahātmānas tu māṁ pārtha
daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ
bhajanty ananya-manaso
jñātvā bhūtādim avyayam

“O son of Pritha, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.13)

Friend1: But I am not one of those souls. I am eternally bound, nitya-baddha. I have not descended from the spiritual world to rescue others.

Friend2: How do you know that?

Friend1: I’m assuming.

Friend2: You have no idea. Of course you have the opportunity to be liberated prior to death. Otherwise, activities like chanting the holy names would be on an equal level with karma-kanda, fruitive activities.

Friend1: And we know bhakti is above material desire.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: It is pure goodness, shuddha-sattva. Attaining the liberated state, either prior to or after death, is difficult. It may take many lifetimes to reach the achievement, but the potential is always there. After all, “falling” from the spiritual world is nothing more than forgetting the eternal relationship to Bhagavan, who is always with us. The opposite condition, liberation, is merely remembering again and staying in the pure consciousness.

In Closing:

Not only on faith relying,

Success through effort trying.

Where attaining liberated state,

Not just for afterlife to wait.

Example the guru one,

Who under illusion none.

Others with potential the same,

The path through holy name.

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