The Way to Liberation
The Way to Liberation
When the nets of dispositions good and bad are dissolved without any residue, when the accumulated deeds virtuous and vicious are completely destroyed to the very roots, the past and the future alike, owing to the removal of all impediments, bring about the direct and immediate perception of Brahman as of the āmalaka fruit on the palm of the hand, then the knower of Brahman becomes one liberated while in life.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Paiṅgala Upaniṣad 3.2. upr, 916
What Are the Four Stages on the Path?
The path of enlightenment is divided naturally into four stages:
charyā -virtue and selfless service;
kriyā -worshipful sādhanas;
yoga - meditation under a guru’s guidance; and
jñāna, the wisdom state of the realized soul. Aum.
Charyā, kriyā, yoga and jñāna are the sequence of the soul’s evolutionary process, much like the natural development of a butterfly from egg to caterpillar, from caterpillar to pupa, and then the final metamorphosis to butterfly.
These are four pādas, or stages, through which each human soul must pass in many births to attain its final goal.
Before entering these spiritual stages, the soul is immersed in the lower nature, the āṇava mārga, or self-centered path, bound in fear and lust, hurtful rage, jealousy, confusion, selfishness, conscience-lessness and malice.
Then it awakens into charyā, unselfish religious service, or karma yoga. Once matured in charyā, it enters kriyā, devotion or bhakti yoga, and finally blossoms into kundalini yoga.
Jñāna is the state of enlightened wisdom reached toward the path’s end as a result of Self Realization.
The four pādas are not alternative ways, but progressive, cumulative phases of a one path, San Mārga.
The Tirumantiram says:
“Being the Life of life is splendrous jñāna worship. Beholding the Light of life is great yoga worship. Giving life by invocation is external worship. Expressing adoration is charyā" Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is the Nature of the Charyā Pāda?
Charyā is the performance of altruistic religious service and living according to traditional ethical conduct and culture, by which the outer nature is purified. It is the stage of overcoming basic instinctive patterns. Aum.
Charyā, literally “conduct," is the first stage of religiousness and the foundation for the next three stages. It is also called the dāsa mārga, meaning “path of servitude," for here the soul relates to God as servant to master.
The disciplines of charyā include humble service, attending the temple, performing one’s duty to community and family, honoring holy men, respecting elders, atoning for misdeeds and fulfilling the ten classical restraints called yamas.
Within a strong society, one performs charyā whether he wants to or not. Young or rebellious souls often resist and resent, whereas mature souls fulfill these obligations most naturally.
Right behavior and self-sacrificing service are never outgrown. The keynote of charyā, or karma yoga, is sevā, religious service given without the least thought of reward, which has the magical effect of softening the ego and bringing forth the soul’s innate devotion.
The Tirumantiram explains:
“The simple temple duties, lighting the lamps, picking flowers, lovingly polishing the floors, sweeping, singing the Lord’s praise, ringing the bell and fetching ceremonial water—these constitute the dāsa mārga.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is the Nature of the Kriyā Pāda?
Kriyā is joyous and regular worship, both internal and external, in the home and temple. It includes pūjā, japa, penance, fasting and scriptural learning, by which our understanding and love of God and Gods deepen. Aum.
Hinduism demands deep devotion through bhakti yoga in the kriyā pāda, softening the intellect and unfolding love. In kriyā, the second stage of religiousness, our sādhana, which was mostly external in charyā, is now also internal.
Kriyā, literally “action or rite,” is a stirring of the soul in awareness of the Divine, overcoming the obstinacy of the instinctive-intellectual mind.
We now look upon the Deity image not just as carved stone, but as the living presence of the God. We perform ritual and pūjā not because we have to but because we want to. We are drawn to the temple to satisfy our longing.
We sing joyfully. We absorb and intuit the wisdom of the Vedas and Āgamas. We perform pilgrimage and fulfill the sacraments. We practice diligently the ten classical observances called niyamas.
Our relationship with God in kriyā is as a son to his parents and thus this stage is called the satputra mārga.
The Tirumantiram instructs:
“Pūjā, reading the scriptures, singing hymns, performing japa and unsullied austerity, truthfulness, restraint of envy, and offering of food—these and other self-purifying acts constitute the flawless satputra mārga. ” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is the Nature of the Yoga Pāda?
Yoga is internalized worship which leads to union with God. It is the regular practice of meditation, detachment and austerities under the guidance of a satguru through whose grace we attain the realization of Paraśiva. Aum.
Yoga, “union,” is the process of uniting with God within oneself, a stage arrived at through perfecting charyā and kriyā. As God is now like a friend to us, yoga is known as the sakhā mārga.
This system of inner discovery begins with āsana—sitting quietly in yogic posture—and prāṇāyāma, breath control. Pratyāhāra, sense withdrawal, brings awareness into dhāraṇa, concentration, then into dhyāna, meditation.
Over the years, under ideal conditions, the kundalini fire of consciousness ascends to the higher chakras, burning the dross of ignorance and past karmas.
Dhyāna finally leads to enstasy—first to savikalpa samādhi, the contemplative experience of Satchidānanda, and ultimately to nirvikalpa samādhi, Paraśiva.
Truly a living satguru is needed as a steady guide to traverse this path. When yoga is practiced by one perfected in kriyā, the Gods receive the yogi into their midst through his awakened, fiery kundalini.
The Vedas enjoin the yogi:
“With earnest effort hold the senses in check. Controlling the breath, regulate the vital activities. As a charioteer holds back his restive horses, so does a persevering aspirant restrain his mind.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is the Nature of the Jñāna Pāda?
Jñāna is divine wisdom emanating from an enlightened being, a soul in its maturity, immersed in Śiva-ness, the blessed realization of God, while living out earthly karma. Jñāna is the fruition of yoga tapas. Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
The instinctive mind in the young soul is firm and well-knit together. The intellectual mind in the adolescent soul is complicated, and he sees the physical world as his only reality.
The sub-superconscious mind in the mystically inclined soul well perfected in kriyā longs for realization of Śiva’s two perfections, Satchidānanda and Paraśiva.
Through yoga he bursts into the superconscious mind, experiencing bliss, all-knowingness and perfect silence. It is when the yogi’s intellect is shattered that he soars into Paraśiva and comes out a jñāni.
Each time he enters that unspeakable nirvikalpa samadhi, he returns to consciousness more and more the knower. He is the liberated one, the Jīvanmukta, the epitome of kaivalya—perfect freedom—far- seeing, filled with light, filled with love.
One does not become a jñāni simply by reading and understanding philosophy. The state of jñāna lies in the realm of intuition, beyond the intellect.
The Vedas say:
“Having realized the Self, the rishis, perfected souls, satisfied with their knowledge, passion-free, tranquil—those wise beings, having attained the omnipresent on all sides—enter into the All itself.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
The wisdom called jñāna is brought forth by purification, practice and realization.
Like the household fire, devotees seek the glory of the Lord even from afar and enshrine it in their inner chamber for enlightenment. The glory of our Lord is full of splendor, all-illuminative and worthy to be honored in every heart.
Rig Veda 7.1.2. rvp, 2341
For the great-souled, the surest way to liberation is the conviction that “I am Brahman.” The two terms, what leads to bondage and what leads to liberation, are the sense of mineness and the absence of the sense of mineness.
Yajur Veda, Paiṅgala Upaniṣad 4.19. upr, 923
He remains aloof, but not aloof, in the body, but not in the body; his inmost Self becomes the All-Pervading. Having purified his heart and accomplished his perfect thinking, the yogin sees: I am the All, the Highest Bliss.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Paiṅgala Upaniṣad 4.9. ve, 441
When the yogin unites his breath with Aum or is united with the All in manifold ways, it is called yoga. This oneness of breath, mind and senses, the renunciation of all existence—this is termed yoga.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Maitrī Upaniṣad 6.25. ve, 776
When cease the five (sense) knowledges, together with the mind, and the intellect stirs not—that, they say, is the highest course.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Maitrī Upanishad 6.30. uph, 443
The initiation for the attainment of liberation can only be obtained from the guru. Without the help of the guru, no penance could ever be helpful in producing the desired result.
The guru teaches the pupil. The guru becomes the object of glory for the disciple and enhances the pupil’s dignity. Hence the disciple must have immense regard for the guru.
The guru is Śiva Himself, and Śiva is called the guru. Whether guru or Śiva, both have been accepted as vidyā.
Chandrajñāna Śaiva Āgama, Kriya pāda, 2.7
It should be known that effort for yogic realization by yogis must proceed in eight steps: yama, niyama, āsana, prāṇāyāma, Pratyāhāra, dhāraṇa, dhyāna and samādhi.
Suprabheda Āgama, 3.54-55. bo sa, 314
Never does a man attain moksha by his own skill; by no means other than the grace of Śiva, the dispeller of evil, is such an attainment possible.
He alone is learned, he alone is fortunate and successful, whose mind is no longer unstable as air, but is held firm. That is the way to liberation, that is the highest virtue, that is wisdom, that is strength and that is the merit of those who seek.
Devīkālottara Āgama, Jñāna-achara-vichara 7-8. rm, 112
This Lord of Māyā-world that has its rise in the mind, He knows all our thoughts, but we do not think of Him.
Some be who groan: “God is not favorable to me,” but surely God seeks those who seek, their souls to save.
“How is it they received God Śiva’s grace?” you ask. In the battle of life, their bewildered thoughts wandered. They trained their course and, freed of darkness, sought the Lord and adored His precious, holy feet.
Tirumantiram 22; 599. tm
To see him, to adore him, to meditate on him, to touch him, to sing of him, to bear his holy feet on humbled head—they that render devotion to guru in diverse ways thus—they indeed walk the San Mārga that to liberation leads.
Tirumantiram 1479. tm
Self-control will place one among the Gods, while lack of it will lead to deepest darkness.
Thirukural 121. ww
Listen while I tell you the path to liberation: truth, patience, calmness and discipline of self, discrimination between the eternal and the passing; devotion to the humble servants of the Lord;
rising in the early morning and bathing before daybreak; repeating in the way prescribed the flawless Letters Five;
worshiping the guru’s feet; applying holy ash; eating but when hungry; with the whole heart giving praise; studying the śāstras; seeing others as oneself;
severing attachment to all property and wealth; speaking with fit courtesy; avoiding argument; driving from the mind all thought of family and caste; being ever free of the smallest like or dislike; living and abiding ’neath the Lord’s eternal feet.
Natchintanai, “Path to Liberation" NT, 33