Moksha Can’t Be for Atman nor the Mind. Then Who Gets Liberated?

Self-enquiry questions


It is said, “Self-knowledge takes place in the mind, and enlightenment is for the mind.”


In beginning stages, Vedanta pretends that the mind is conscious because Self (ātmā; Awareness) in association with the ignorant buddhi, thinks it is the mind. In short, there is One Universal Self with apparent knowledge or apparent ignorance. So when it is said that liberation is for the mind — it actually means, liberation is for the Self that thinks it is a mind.


It is understood that the mind (sukshma-sharira; subtle-body) is enlivened and illumined by Self/Awareness, which causes it to enjoy sentiency.

So is Self-realization/enlightenment for:

(a) Self/Awareness that is illumining the mind and thinks it’s the mind, or…

(b) For the intellect (buddhi), or…

(c) For the Self (atman; Awareness).

And which of these 3 knows that “I am free“, or “I am ignorant“?


Firstly, self-realization is neither for just the mind, nor just the intellect, nor just the Self. Enlightenment can only take place WHEN there is a combination of (ignorant) mind illumined by Self. Without this combination, Self-realization or Moksha would be unnecessary. 

Expanding on this…

Enlightenment is not for Self because Self is not a personal entity with a mind that is subject to stupefaction.

Enlightenment is not for the intellect (buddhi) because the intellect is an inert mechanism of the subtle-body (sukshma-sharira). Hence intellect is also not an entity that “knows”. It needs help of Self to know. Know what? That the principle which causes the intellect to know and perceive, is NOT the intellect, but Self (atman/awareness).

Furthermore, the Self is sometimes referred to as “the knower” — but this is only in a figurative sense and is meant to suggest that the Self is the principle of consciousness that illumines the intellect, thereby making the intellect capable of knowing objects.

Summary so far: It is only when the subtle-body is illumined by consciousness, that process of KNOWING happens. That is, objects are perceived, decisions are made regarding how to respond to those objects, memories/impressions are gathered and stored, and ego (ahamkara) arises and proclaims that it is indeed an autonomous entity that is thinking and doing and experiencing by means of its body-mind.

The ego arises due to the conditioning influence of Maya, which is that aspect of Consciousness that makes Consciousness appear to be something it is not – namely the plethora of objective gross/subtle phenomena that comprise the manifest universe.

Actually, it is more accurate to say that Maya exerts a seemingly conditioning influence on Consciousness. Just as the essential nature of clay remains unchanged by the objects into which it is molded — so the essential nature of Consciousness remains unchanged by the objects projected upon it, which it appears to have become.

When, through Self-inquiry, the ego is recognized to be nothing more than a pseudo-entity that is wholly dependent on Consciousness and, thus, essentially nothing other than Consciousness — then Self-knowledge dawns in the intellect (buddhi). Now the intellect registers the understanding of what has been the actual truth all along.

In a figurative sense, we could say that the Self (or Consciousness) is freed of the avidya (self-ignorance), imposed upon it by Maya. But the fact is that the Self was always already free. And it didn’t ever think it wasn’t because Self isn’t a personal entity with a mind that thinks.

What does occur as a consequence of Maya’s seemingly conditioning influence on Consciousness, is that the inert mechanism that is the mind arises and, furthermore, is riddled with avidya.

In this regard, a rock isn’t riddled with self-ignorance because it does not have the capacity to perform the functions referred to as thinking.

A fish or a toad or bear or a blackbird are capable of thinking, but their capacity for self-reflection is limited and, thus, all such creatures remain in a state of self-ignorance.

Only the human being — or the body-mind-sense mechanism that is of a human type — has an intellect subtle or refined enough to register the understanding of its true nature. It is for this reason that we might also say that Self-knowledge is for the intellect.


Before self-realization has taken place; self-knowledge or liberation was freedom FOR the jiva (who is actually Self). 

Once permanent self-realization takes place, then it's said that self-knowledge or liberation was freedom FROM the jiva.

So who gets liberated? Atman (in association with the body-mind due to avidya) gets liberated.  

Liberated from what? From the notion that Atman is the body-mind.


  1. “ self isn’t a personal entity with a mind that thinks”.
    So I gain Moksha, but:
    I lose my personal identity.
    I lose the ability to experience.
    I am just a universal formless principle.
    Sat Chi Ananda, where Ananda is not understood as an experience of limitless bliss ( since atma doesn’t experience).
    From the point of view of the Jiva, which Roberts mind takes itself to be, where is the payoff?
    It sounds like Sunyata, the void, naked awareness that pervades all manifest experience and yet experiences none of it.
    Why would the Jiva desire it’s own annihilation?

    I have not been able to adequately answer these questions for myself, even though I have a strong compulsion to study and ‘ achieve’ moksha.

    Some help to correct lack of understanding is needed.

    1. Thank you for the question.

      ANSWER 1:
      Why would the Jiva desire it’s own annihilation? To enjoy it’s natural state of peace. In fact everything jiva does from birth to death is for sake of peace & happiness.

      When does peace and happiness come? When the jiva is temporarily resolved. The sense of “I” is temporarily resolved.

      Why is jiva willing to risk life with extreme sports? To get few moments of “forgetting itself”.

      Why is deep sleep the ultimate refuge all jivas seek (even after hours of drug intoxication)? Because it’s the most natural state of being. When all dualistic phenomena resolves.

      Why is savikalpa-samadhi so pleasant (where no sounds/images/tastes/sensations exist)? Because all experience of world goes. Samskaras go away (which is what makes up the Robert person). Only remains the reflection of your own Ānand, which contrary to sunyata, is infinitely VAST and full.

      Yes, one can OBJECT by saying “…that’s because in savikalpa, the reflecting-medium (ahamkara) is still present, thus technically Robert’s identity still hasn’t gone away!”.

      Response to objection: It’s the samskaras that make up Andre/Robert identity. Ahamkara only OWNS their effects (thoughts). In savikalpa, the ahamkara is not owning anything, it’s only REFLECTING the Self. And what is experience of Savikalpa? Fullness, completeness, indescribable peace, joy. Which is contrary to sunyata (emptiness, deadness, blackness). Thus savikalpa is one way to demonstrate that Ānanda is NOT sunyata.

      ANSWER 2:
      ” since atma doesn’t experience”

      Incorrect. Atma is experiencing itself. As what? As ānanda. Limitless bliss. Infinite vastness. Nothing is missing. I am everything, and I know it.

      Whatever little blisses jiva gets (a kiss, hug, child), are all in the name of sat-cit-ānanda’s bliss.

      ANSWER 3:
      I lose my personal identity.
      I lose the ability to experience.
      I am just a universal formless principle.

      Yes, all our lives we’re trying to lose our burdensome identity. Meaning, we’re seeking freedom from one potential (called Robert identity) to all potentials called Ishvara-identity.

      That’s why all are seeking God.

      Meaning: I, the apparently small, am seeking to end this single wave form, and remain as the entire ocean. As the ocean, I am not only in-and-through all waves, but also free of them.

      In fact, what is described above, is true right now.

      Like clay, your existence (whose nature is self-aware of one’s own bliss) is in and through the universe of forms. One of those forms is this short lasting Andre/Robert form.

      When Robert form is dropped, I am both Ishvara (all names-forms, infinite power, infinite knowledge), but also Brahman (the limitless One who is experience one’s own Limitlessness).

      While alive, the clay-pot is temporarily experiencing limited ānanda due to the pot-ness upādhi.

  2. “ Atma is experiencing itself “.
    This changes everything.
    But how does it experience itself, know itself, without a mind as a reflecting medium to do so?
    What is it that knows, since atma is without attributes?
    I know I have experienced great peace in deep sleep because my mind is able to reflect on it.
    How would ‘I’ know that l am Ananda without a faculty to experience that?

    1. ==================
      But how does it experience itself, know itself, without a mind as a reflecting medium to do so?

      You (atma) are experiencing yourself even NOW (without a reflecting-medium). As what? As Self-evident existence that is conscious.

      There’s only one fact that’s indisputable and noone needs to teach: I am.

      The (non-verbalized, non-participating, non-interfering, unchanging) am-ness is NOT because of the reflecting-medium.

      The am-ness is because is YOU (atma).

      As for the reflecting-medium (antahkarana/sukhsma-sharira), it is always molding into shape of thoughts, doubts, assurances that are constantly manifesting and resolving in reference to vyavaharika-reality.

      In the presence of I (atma), there is DOUBT.
      In the presence of I (atma), there is ASSURANCE.

      Doubt/assurances are moldings of maya’s-upadhi. In other words, moldings of the reflecting-medium.

      You (atma) are still you (atma), with or without doubt/assurance.

      SUMMARY: The question “But how does it experience itself, know itself, without a mind as a reflecting medium to do so” presupposes that YOU (atma) require a reflecting-medium to know YOU (atma). When in fact, the reflecting-medium requires YOU (atma) this very instant, for it’s vṛttis to be known (like vṛtti of “I get it”, or “I don’t get it”).

      What is it that knows, since atma is without attributes?

      From standpoint of vyavaharika: I (Atma), in association with the buddhi, knows.

      How would ‘I’ know that l am Ananda without a faculty to experience that?

      Because you are ānanda. That what you are, needs no external proof.

      How does formless-ananda manifest from standpoint of vyavaharika? As love for Being. Love of own existence. In other words: I don’t want to go out of existence; I want to continue.

      Metaphorically: Sun (Conscious Atma) needs no proof that it’s nature is shine (ananda). Sun’s helpless/innocent nature of shining is what gives it joy.

      This ānanda requires a reflecting medium. Example, friend is seen. The reflecting-medium molds in form of “happiness”. And I (ātma) Aware that upādhi.

  3. Thank you for such a complete and comprehensive response.
    Yes, I did assume that Atma needs a reflecting medium to know Atma.
    Realising this error has removed many difficulties that Roberts mind had manufactured!
    There is so much to contemplate in your answers and explanations.
    This certainly emphasises to me the value of asking questions of the Acarya rather than wandering around the labyrinths of one’s own mind desperately seeking answers from a position of ignorance.
    Problem is, the mind believes it’s own conclusions when it does this.
    Perfect demonstration of the need for a pramana in the form of the Shastra and a competent Acarya to guide the jijnasu.

  4. “… because Self isn’t a personal entity with a mind that thinks.”

    Wow! This is another very powerful line that really helps me know what I am.

    Again, I’ve heard similar stuff before but this line seems to make it so obvious. Either that, or so many things are coming together for me now.

    It’s so easy to misinterpret advice and think that the thought you have about other thoughts is by the real you. There can be so many layers of thoughts about thoughts about thoughts about thoughts about thoughts. You can get the feeling that yeah, I’m the one behind all these layers of thoughts watching all these thoughts until in the next second you’re thinking about that thought too and that one, and that one, and that one.

    So the Self doesn’t wonder, it doesn’t work things out, it doesn’t have inklings or intuition or ideas, it can’t consider or contemplate, it can’t struggle or feel bad or feel good, it can’t discriminate, it can’t decide, it doesn’t have opinions or preferences, it can’t realize who it is, it can’t even get up in the morning and go for a walk! It literally can’t do any of these things! Why? – because Self isn’t a personal entity with a mind that thinks!

    I can’t do any of those things. And that’s ok with me. I’m free FROM Lloyd. I can AWARE Lloyd but I’m not limited TO Lloyd, now I’m NO THING and everything at the same time. By the way, Lloyd can only do those things because of me.

    So there’s just existence, awareness and this wonderful, incredible, fascinating experience of life that is Maya (another aspect of me). Woohoo!

  5. “Mind is a river of thoughts (continuous flow) you stay on the bank and observe”
    Beautiful article and excellent questions and answers. A wonderful way to start my day :), reading this at 4.30 AM
    Om tat sat!

  6. Great questions and answers.
    It seems that we have all ‘apparently’ experienced every life possible, with countless combinations of forms in beginning less existence, to finally hear and comprehend this truth of being, so clearly explained by acharya in this very life. Very grateful 🙏

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