If Self is Free, Why Purify the Jiva (Not-Self)?

INQUIRER: It seems like the only difference after enlightenment (moksha) is that thoughts of being limited no longer appear in the intellect (buddhi).

Or if they do appear they’re quickly neutralized by self-inquiry (which has taken place in class with guru).

The body is still the body, the mind is still the mind, and awareness (atman) is the same as it always was; nothing has changed except for the elimination of limiting thoughts within the buddhi.

Is this a decent understanding of the process?

RESPONSE: Correct, the permanent eradication of avidya/ignorance (no more need to remind oneself; since knowledge occurs spontaneously and consistently) in the form of limiting thoughts — is the only change.

But what a powerful impact this “simple” shift from the perspective of the apparent individual (jiva) to that of limitless awareness (atman) has on direct experience and perception while living.

Rather than apparently identifying with the phenomena arising and obtaining within the subtle body (sukshma-sharira) — the intellect of the jiva effortlessly registers the recognition of its true identity as limitless awareness and, thus, remains ever free of all experience.

While the jiva will still perceive, feel, and think, he will no longer suffer as a consequence of whatever objective phenomena appear within the scope of his being.

INQUIRER: It's said that moksha is freedom from suffering. However self (atman) is already free; ie: attributeless (nirgunam). Meaning atman was and is never suffering.  So what's the point of sadhana (purifying the mind) then? It's only helping the temporary jiva entity.

RESPONSE: The eradication of limiting thoughts by means of sadhana, makes the mind (antahkarana) more available for contemplation/devotion for sake of arriving to the final understanding that my nature is much bigger then this apparent body-mind complex (jiva).

What's more, a pure, quiet, stable mind — increases the person’s enjoyment of life (while living). Noone prefers an unorganized, anxious, erratic mind.

Similarly, with spiritual sadhana — it's to prepare or mature the mind for the assimilation of knowledge (brahmavidya) that affords the jiva the freedom from the sense of limitation and consequent suffering.

The point you make is true from the standpoint of pure awareness (atman), but it neglects to acknowledge the validity of the transactional reality (vyavaharika) — which is the context in which all experience takes place, including the experience of self-knowledge and jivanmukti (liberated while living).

Vedanta is a complete teaching that affords one a comprehensive view of reality, within which the apparent reality (vyavaharika) appears.

Though the apparent reality is not real (mithya) because it is impermanent, it nevertheless exists since it is experienced.

Hence, while it is of vital importance that we be able to discriminate between the real (satyam) and the apparent (mithya) — we can’t simply deny the apparent aspect of our being.

In order for self-knowledge (brahmavidya/jnana-yoga) to be complete, you want to be able to shift perspectives at will, so to speak, and thus enjoy the relative reality for what it has to offer — while at the same time standing with unshakable confidence in your true nature as whole, complete, limitless, actionless, ever-present, all-pervasive, non-dual awareness.


  1. “The body is still the body, the mind is still the mind, and awareness (atman) is the same as it always was; nothing has changed except for the elimination of limiting thoughts within the buddhi.”

    I copied this into my notes because it’s such a great summary for someone new to Vedanta (me). Thank you for a great and helpful post.

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