Liberated (Self-Realized) vs. Ignorant (Samsaric) Living (39)


Lesson 39 clears up false notions surrounding how jñāni (wise person abiding in Self as Self/Ātman) lives in this world, while alive (jīvanmukta). We also discover benefits of brahmavit (knower of Brahman by means of Self-Knowledge / jñāna-yoga), and how it translates to dealing with day to day situations or challenges, compared to ajñāni (one who is ignorant of God).

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 5 – verse 20, 21

Summary of B.Gita CH 5, verse 13-21:

  • Lord Krishna discusses jñāna-yoga in verses 13-21. Topic of all can be summarized as: Discovering higher self (ātman), which has 2 stages: (Statements will be using personal “I” pronoun, because it's direct understanding of jñāni; liberated person)
    1. I am not Body-mind complex. But consciousness, pervading Body-mind, which is different from Body-mind. Can be translated into Sanskrit as: anātma vyatirikta ātma svarūpaḥ aham asmi
    2. I (Consciousness) who am pervading this physical body, is the SAME Consciousness, which is pervading all other physical bodies also. Thus: Bodies are many. Pervading Consciousness is ONE. This non-dual Consciousness, I AM.
  • When I discover that my real nature is Consciousness, then I look at YOUR real nature as also Consciousness. Because how I look upon myself, is how I look upon YOU. Meaning change in how one sees self, immediately changes who one sees entire world (not just Earth but all Creation and God).
    • EG: Sentient wave sees self as wave, thus sees others as perishable, mortal waves.
    • Now image wave discovers that:
      • a) I am H2O.
      • b) Wave-ness is incidental-feature, which comes/goes. But H2O always IS. Such waves sees itself/others as H2O only.
      • This is summarized in verse 18 when Kṛṣṇa says: I ‘see' myself as Ātma, and see you as Ātma, with incidental nāma-rūpa (name/form)”.
        “See” is in quotes because it denotes seeing by understanding, and not thought physical eyes seeing.
      • Such person (wise wave) can never come down again to lower-material interests/pursuits, owning to enjoyment of Ātma fullness.
        EG: Once lived in a clean area, it's hard to live in dirty area… because your standards are permanently etched to “cleanliness”.
  • Wise person only takes care of physical body as Lord's property. And not as “my body”. Such person is not obsessed with incidental, superficial, mortal physical nature.


Bhagavad Gita Chapter 5, Verse 20:

na prahṛṣyet priyaṃ prāpya nodvijet prāpya cāpriyam |
sthirabuddhirasammūḍho brahmavid-brahmaṇi sthitaha ||

Facing the pleasant he is not elated, and facing the unpleasant he is not depressed. A knower of Brahman is firm in Knowledge, free from delusion, and is established in Brahman.


  • jñāni (liberated person who has no doubt that I am NOT body-body, my true nature is Brahman), even AFTER gaining Self-Knowledge (jñāna-yoga), continues to live in this world. Because mukti (liberation while living) is HERE and NOW. Not after death.
    Thus jīvanmukta's life is governed by SAME LAWS governing ajñāni (one whose “I” is still associated to Body-Mind, and may know about Brahman intellectually – but it's still at level of Intellect).
  • All people (jñāni and ajñāni) are governed by 3 factors: (in all worlds, earth and beyond)
    1. Deśaḥ: surrounding, environment, people, nation. Meaning all are influenced by our environment. No one is exception. Jñāni doesn't get treated any worse/better then ajñāni, during an earthquake or in traffic jam.
      Jñāni is just another body-mind complex, no more special or unique to Īśvara then a mosquito. Īśvara doesn't care who is liberated or not. Only the person does. Īśvara's ONLY principle of operation is to take care of needs of TOTAL. (Mosquito is part of total as much as is a criminal, as much as is a holy-man, as much as is a tape-worm inside one's intestines.) 
      Whether one is liberated or not, eternal fact remains true: Īśvara will keep jñāni's body alive to serve the society, no different then then any other person… despite having “attained” the highest purpose of human life.
      In short: You are Īśvara's employee whether like it or not, at least until last breath. And if fail to do bosses work (like in any company), it'll be a challenging experience.
    2. Kālaḥ: time is flowing. Body is aging. Wrinkles, sore joints, weakness. This is same for jñāni and ajñāni. There is no immortality for physical body.
    3. Prārabdha karma: varies person to person. This is the ONLY factor which is different for each living sentient being, who each has a individual karma assigned to just him/her. And this individual karma, determines EXACTLY each day what will happen, how it will happen and with whom it will happen with.
      Prārabdha is what determines what kind of life you're living.
      CAUTION: This can instigate question “Does this mean we have no choice over anything since our prārabdha determines what will happen each day?“.
      Prārabdha is always mixed with puruṣārtha (self-effort). Thus “destiny / fate” is always modified by one's puruṣārtha. If not by their ACTION-effort, then by their ATTITUDE-effort towards the situation, which will then determine what action or no-action is taken to address the prārabdha.
  • Conclusion: jñāni goes through ups/downs no different then ajñāni.
    • Then what is benefit of Self-Knowledge if 1-3 above also affect the jñāni, like like they affect ajñāni?
      • Answer: jñānam (Self-Knowledge) doesn't change the SITUATION. It only gives strength to have a balance response to ups/downs.
        • EG: When prārabdha delivers a + experience, jñāni is not carried away, because he/she knows, the event is caused by one's prārabdha, and thus what arrives, also departs. So what's the point of exerting so much energy for joy/sorrow, since it too shall pass, guaranteed!
      • Answer 2: Jñāni appreciates favorable situation. But is NOT hooked/addicted to the favorable situation (as is case with ajñāni).
        • What's the difference between appreciation and addiction?
          • Addicted: not prepared to lose experience. IF lost, one suffers for some time. And during time of suffering, the person is missing out on many opportunities. It's like being smitten (addicted to one's desire) by pretty girl on train station, and consequently missing the train stop. Then person suffers.
          • Appreciation: Ocean is ever full. In summer, water may evaporate. During rainy season, rivers pour into ocean. Ocean continues being full either way: pūrṇam adaḥ (THAT; brahman) pūrṇam idam (THIS; matter world).
            Thus inner fullness continues (na prahṛṣyet: Jñāni doesn't get elated/carried away by + situations).
    • When unfavorable occurs in jñāni's life, he/she remains full (see ocean example above).
      • EG: Rāma was to become kind of Ayodhya. He heard this news, but wasn't elated/carried away by it. He remained composed and calm. Next day, he was no longer to become king, plus he was exiled to forest. Meaning the victim was Rāma. And all in Ayodhya couldn't face this fact that Rāma wouldn't be king. The only person who could face it was the victim, Rāma himself. It shows how jñāni in favorable/unfavorable situations remains equally full like the Ocean.
      • Lakṣmaṇa (Rāma's brother) was angry because Rāma would no longer be king. So Rāma explained to him, the power of prārabdha karma as: any choiceless situation.
        • Since the situation that happened was choiceless (meaning it came totally by suprise and had no seeming connection to anything in your smooth present life), then it's reasonable to say: STOP putting effort to change the situation, but rather put effort to change your attitude towards the situation. Of course, one should FIRST attempt to do everything they can do resolve the situation.
  • Mere Self-Knowledge is NOT enough. There needs to be conviction (totally convinced by what jñāna-yoga says is TRUE). If conviction isn't 100% (not even 99.999%), then in crises, Self-Knowledge will be unavailable, superseded by emotionality.
    EG: In conviction isn't 100%, then a crises in family (someone does)/job lost, will suddenly make Self-Knowledge take on flavor of “waste of time and unrealistic in the real world of problems”.
    In other words, the person will suddenly discard self-knowledge as mere theory and not applicable to “my dying son” or “this car accident”. When in truth, Self-knowledge is MOSTLY applicable in the worst crises, and complete available to a true jñāni with total conviction.
    • EG: When Shankara's mother died and he payed his respects to her, afterwords he said “I have no mother, brother, sister… they are all mere appearances of Brahman”.
    • EG 2: If person has 100% conviction, then when crises happen to one's life, one won't ask: Why me? What did I do to deserve this God!”.
      These are statements of an ignorant person who philosophies about karma (when things are going well), but says contradictory things (when everything goes wrong).
  • SUMMARY of what Jñāni (wise person) knows: I get what I deserve!
    • If condition is choiceful, then attempt to CHANGE the situation.
    • If condition is choiceless (eg: discover have incurable cancer and will live for X more years), then one finds the strength (through Self-Knowledge) to face it.
    • Both cases above are described in verse as: sthiraḥ buddhiḥ (firm jñānam)
      • How do you know if you're FIRM in Knowledge of Self? Ask: Am I convinced of FACT that I am Consciousness, different from body?
        • If NOT, then continue studying śāstra, until convinced (100% conviction).
  • Another example to demonstrate previous point demonstrating prārabdha karma. Cancer was developed to well known jñāni, Ramana Maharshi.
    During one of the treatments (which Ramana didn't want, but was only asked by his disciples), he looked at the healing-paste applied on the cancerous region on the left arm by the doctor, and said “Mud on mud”. Meaning both the paste and arm are just “mud” (5 elements).
    Thus you can see how jñānam gives inner strength to FACE IT, or have proper perspective of IT. “It” refers to any situation in life that happens unto one's body-mind complex.
  • 3 stages of Vedānta:
    1. śravaṇam: One gets jñānam (Self-Knowledge) by this process. Like going to class. Listening to Advaita teachers on YouTube. Reading verses of a non-dual text.
    2. mananam: Raising questions and gaining answers (by yourself through your own thinking, or answers from teacher), until NO MORE questions are raised by the doubter. This is how to develop 100% conviction, by removing all doubts by process of questions/answers, non-stop!
    3. nididhyāsanam: Even after conviction (developed in step 2), we still have habitual reactions. Thus we need to live a DELIBERATE life of Self-Knowledge. Constantly keeping the teachings in mind by any kind of reminder or routine. Living an ALERT life by applying Vedānta knowledge to every experience. Nididhyāsanam is SOAKING one's personality in wisdom, to gain COMPLETE internalization of Advaita Vedānta, effortlessly without thinking about it: unconscious competence (autopilot thinking).
  • 3 stages compared to verse 20:
    1. brahmavit (knower of brahman): śravaṇam. Get Self-Knowledge.
    2. sthirabuddhiḥ (firm knowledge): mananam. Eliminate doubts by Q&A.
    3. asam mūḍhaḥ: nididyāsanam. Eliminate habitual negative tendencies by soaking your life into Self-Knowledge. Meaning, a liberated person will continue going to classes and studying Advaita Vedānta, not because he/she is ignorant, but because of this INTENTIONAL nididhyāsanam stage. Thus not everyone coming to Vedānta classes is ignorant.
      When all 3 are successful, we call that: jivanmuktaḥ (liberated while living), brahma sthitaḥ (standing firm or ascertained in Awareness as Awareness), brahman niṣṭaḥ (grounded in Awareness as Awareness), sthita prajñaḥ (firmly established in wisdom/intelligence of Self as Self).


Bhagavad Gita Chapter 5, Verse 21:

bāhyasparśeṣvasaktātmā vindatyātmani yat sukham |
sa brahmayogayuktātmā sukhamakṣayamaśnute ||

One whose mind is not engaged in external objects attains that Ānanda which is in Ātma. He whose mind is engaged in the meditation of Brahman attains lasting Ānanda.


  • Summary of verse 18-20, before going to verse 21:
    • Verse 18-20 discusses the transformation that jñāni enjoy as result of Self-Knowledge.
      • Verse 18: sama-darśanam: Vision of Oneness
      • Verse 19: Conquering mortality/fear of death.
      • Verse 20: Right perspective facing ups/downs, which results in: shortening recovery period after crises.
  • Verse 21 speaks about jñāni's ānanda: joy that jñāni derives from his nature (ātma).
    • Jñāni has learned to tap his/her OWN fulfillment (pūrṇatvam). While ajñāni (material/ignorant person) depends on external sources for one's happiness.
  • All pleasure of extenal objects put together, are included ātmānanda (ānanda of ātma). Thus ātmānanda is SUPERIOR to all anātmānanda put together.
    • Reasons is because all sense objects in world are finite. Finite + finite + finite = Finite!
    • Whereas, ātma nature is ānanda (limiteless), thus it's not limited.
    • How to discover ātmānanda? brahma-yoga yuktātmā, meaning: Through a mind that is endowed (yuktātmā) with knowledge that “I am Brahman” (brahma-yoga).
      This is gradually discovered the more one immerses oneself into śāstra's like Bhagavad Gītā or various Upaniṣad's, and contemplates on read/heard verses non-stop.
  • Does a jñāni who is enjoying one's own ānanda, miss the pleasures of the world? No. Do he/she say “I need to go out there and see the world”? Absolutely not! What's there to see? Just more 5 elements put in various combinations/permutations, and they all provide limited ānanda, which is already included in jñāni's ānanda.
  • Jñāni doesn't miss anything in life.
    Meaning (1) Not interested/obsessed (asaktaḥ) because knows everything is Brahman non-separate from the seer, (2) Doesn't hate nor love anything, because vision is: sama-darśanam (what's there to hate/love when it's just appearance of the one same Brahman).
    While ajñāni, no matter how successful, always misses something more.
    EG: Great husband/wife/child/business, but it could be just a little more/better __. (insert anything here according to your vāsanā's or likes/dislikes).


Keywords: ajnani, ananda, anatma, asakta, atma, bhagavad gita, darsanam, darshanam, Desa, desha, jivanmukti, jnana, jnanam, jnani, kala, kalah, Lakshmana, Laksmana, mudha, nididhyasana, nishta, nishtha, nista, prajna, Prarabdha, purnam adah, purnam idam, rama, shravana, sravanam, sthirabuddhi, sthita, svarupa, vedanta, yuktatma

Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching is given to Swami Paramarthananda

Recorded 5 March, 2019



  1. I’ve always struggled with the idea of karma I think its because I try and use the concept of karma as this and that tit for tat.
    I “take” something I “get” something “taken” later .I “give” something I “get” something “later”.
    This is the karma from the view of a samsari!
    I think this view is wrong. Remember the lord of karma is ishwara and its ”purpose” (I think) is for us to all eventually know “ourselves to be IT”. This is the highest “gift” it can give in existence!
    With this in mind to a jñāni BOTH positive AND negative karma both point to this goal. In fact “negative” karma is better because it reveals more about the self.
    But what I have thought is that in a way it kind of all makes sense.
    If we truly are in the belly of Ishwara’s every breath, every moment is an opportunity to find out the truth.
    With that in mind is positive karma really positive and is negative karma really negative?

    1. Good observations. Karma is impersonal. It only becomes pos/neg based on types of ACTIONS we put into the field. Eventually, unpleasant karma makes individual see their actions are not helpful to them, so they change their actions. This is why we have many biographies of criminals/scammers who eventually turned to good, after feeling too guilty/embarrassed of their actions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *