Qualities of a Jivanmukta as a Spiritual Practice
Q&A with Swami Swaroopananda

This article is from one of Swami Swaroopananda's spontaneous question and answer sessions. To hear more of his teachings from the Bhagavad Gita, come to the Advanced Bhagavad Gita Certification Course March 11-March 21.


What is it like to become realized? Does something obvious happen?

Answer: At the end of his text the Tattva Bodha, the great Adi Shankaracharya poses the question, "What are the signs by which we can identify a jivanmukta, a realized soul?" He then answers, "There are no external signs. There are no external signs." Does this mean there are no signs that show us a person has attained realization? No, it means there are signs, but that these signs manifest internally.

This is why Arjuna asks Lord Krishna, in the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita: Oh Lord, please describe to me the qualities of a person who has attained steady wisdom. How does such a person sit? How does such a person walk? How does such a person talk? Please describe to me the signs. Why? Because Arjuna is so confused that he is even in doubt about himself. Later on in the Gita, he tells Lord Krishna, I am not sure whether I am a divine being or a demoniacal being. Because he has these doubts, he asks the Lord, Please tell me, what are the qualities of demons, and what are the qualities of divine beings. Why? Because he is going to fight and kill his own relatives, and this is a demoniacal type of action. This is the mind of Arjuna, and he wants to be reassured that he is not a demoniacal being. In the same manner, he wants to know, What are the qualities of a liberated soul? And in the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna describes to him the qualities of a person with steady wisdom.

Jnaneswari will recite a few verses.

Jnaneswari: Qualities?

Swami Swaroopananda: Qualities.


"When a man completely casts off, O Arjuna, all the desires of the mind, and is satisfied in the Self by the Self, then is he said to be one of steady wisdom.

"He whose mind is not shaken by adversity, who does not hanker after pleasures and is free from attachment, fear, and anger, is called a sage of steady wisdom.

"He who is everywhere without attachment, on meeting with anything good or bad, who neither rejoices nor hates, his wisdom is fixed.

"When, like the tortoise which withdraws on all sides its limbs, he withdraws his senses from the sense-objects, then his wisdom becomes steady. "The objects of the senses turn away from the abstinent man, leaving the longing behind; but his longing also turns away on seeing the Supreme.

"The turbulent senses, O Arjuna, do violently carry away the mind of a wise man, though he be striving to control them.

"Having restrained them all, he should sit steadfast, intent on Me; his wisdom is steady whose senses are under control.

"When a man thinks of the objects, attachment for them arises; from attachment desire is born; from desire, anger arises.

"From anger comes delusion; from delusion loss of memory; from loss of memory the destruction of discrimination; from the destruction of discrimination he perishes.

"But the self-controlled man, moving among the objects with the senses under restraint and free from attraction and repulsion, attains to peace.

"In that peace, all pains are destroyed; for the intellect of the tranquil-minded soon becomes steady.

"There is no knowledge of the Self to the unsteady and to the unsteady no meditation is possible, and to the unmeditative, there can be no peace, and to the man who has no peace, how can there be happiness?

"For the mind, which follows in the wake of the wandering senses, carries away his discrimination, as the wind carries away a boat on the waters.

"Therefore, O Mighty-Armed Arjuna, his knowledge is steady whose senses are completely restrained from sense-objects.

"That which is night to all beings, in that the self-controlled man is awake; when all beings are awake, that is night for the sage who sees.

"He attains peace into whom all desires enter as waters enter the ocean which, filled from all sides, remains unmoved; but not the man who is full of desires.

"That man attains peace who, abandoning all desires, moves about without longing, without the sense of mine and without egoism.

"This is the Brahmic seat, O Son of Pritha. Attaining to this, none is deluded. Being established therein, even at the end of life, one attains to oneness with Brahman."

Swami Swaroopananda: These are the signs of realization, and these qualities of a jivanmukta in the second chapter are also spiritual instructions. The meaning, the yogic teaching, is that what is an attribute for a realized person is a practice for an unrealized person. I repeat: Whatever is an attribute for a realized person is a practice for an unrealized person. You see? So when Lord Krishna describes to Arjuna the attributes of a person of steady wisdom, He's also teaching Arjuna the practices that Arjuna has to undertake in order to attain that realization. Because those attributes of the jivanmukta, which for the jivanmukta are just his nature, for Arjuna these are practices. And also for us, because the Bhagavad Gita was not given only to Arjuna; the Bhagavad Gita was given to the whole world. So this teaching is very, very precious.

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