THE PATH TO LIBERATION
Speaker - It is a fundamental fact, accepted and experienced by all, that all the living beings in this world are unhappy and everybody wants to get rid of this unhappiness. They also make attempts to do so, but since they do not know the correct path to the state of perfect happiness, all their attempts are in vain. The basic question, thus is, what is the real path to liberation ?
What is the path of liberation? Before this question is answered, it is desirable to solve the question what liberation is. Liberation means complete freedom from grief and pain. All unhappiness is full of restlessness. Liberation, therefore, must be without any restlessness. There is no complete happiness, i.e., liberation, as long as there is even a little of restlessness.
Describing the path of liberation, Acharya Amritcharldra writes - "The unity of right faith, right knowledge and right conduct is the path to liberation. All beings should try to follow this path."
It is, thus, clear that the unity of the three i,e., right faith which means true belief, right knowledge which means true understanding and right conduct is real path to liberation. The question now arises what are right faith, right knowledge and right conduct.
Really speaking all the three are modifications of the soul, i.e., they are its pure modifications. Discarding non-self substances, to lean towards one's soul and to regard it as one's nature is right faith, to have real knowledge of the soul and other substances is right knowledge and to merge oneself with one's sentient soul is right conduct.
Explaining it further, Acharya Amritchandra writes :-
Correct belief of soul substance and other elements without any contradictory faith is right faith. One should try to achieve it always, since it is the nature of the soul itself.
First of all, we should try to develop right faith, because path to liberation does not begin without achieving this.
Of all the three, first of all we should try to achieve right faith with all our strength, since in the presence of this attribute, both consciousness and conduct become right.
Without right faith, all knowledge is ignorance and all merits including abstinence and rules of conduct are unreal conduct.
Disciple - How is right faith achieved ?
Speaker - First of all, with the help of the study of the essential seven elements, one should develop a sense of distinction between our own soul and all non-soul substances, and thus realising the self, lean towards our ever-pure soul, to attain realisation of the self, is the way to attain right faith.
Disciple - And right knowledge.................
Speaker - The correct knowledge of purposeful, multifaced elements without doubt, perversity and indecisiveness is right knowledge. One should always try to achieve right knowledge.
Disciple - What are doubt, perversity and indecisiveness?
Speaker - Comprehending an object in two ways contrary other is doubt e.g., Is attachment towards spiritual beings merit or religion? or Is it silver or shell?
Comprehending an object contrary to the intrinsic nature of that substance is perversity e.g. to regard merit as religion or to regard shell as silver.
Comprehending an object without certainty and taste, e.g., "What is this ?" or "It is something"-is called indecisiveness. 'Soul must be something", or to say "something is there, on touching some soft substance in the way."
Disciple - Please tell me something about right conduct also.
Speaker - Pure absorption of the soul without any sinful activity or feelings, free from all passions of merits and demerits and indifferent with the worldly attachments, is right conduct. Right faith, right knowledge and right conduct are also called the three Gems and their unity leads one to liberation.
Disciple - Do we attain complete liberation and not heavenly existence by following these three Gems ?
Speaker - Heavenly existence is worldly. That which is the path of liberation cannot also be a path to worldly existence. The traveller on the path of liberation comes across undesirable merit and consequent heavenly existence due to merit bondage, as a matter of course. Following three Gems is the way to complete liberation, not a path of worldly existence.
Disciple - Why do, then, monks following the three Gems go to the heavens ?
Speaker - Three Gems are the cause of liberation only, but the partial attachment that is present in the lives of the monks is the cause of their bondage. Monks go to the heavens due to their guilts of merits.
Disciple - Do you call merit inclinations guilts ?
Speaker - It is not I, but Amritchandracharya who calls them so. "If the three Gems do not result in bondage how do divisions of merit karmas including heavenly life associate with the soul." In answer to this he writes :-The religion of the three Gems is instrument to liberation only, not to heavenly lives. It is the fault of merit operative consciousness that results in heavenly lives for the monks.
Disciple - Those monks followed the path of three Gems, how did they suffer from the bondage of the karmas ?
Speaker - The soul is without bondage to the extent it follows the path of the three Gems. Bondage present is only to the extent of passions like attachment and others. The Acharya asserts -
"The soul having right faith has no bondage to that extent. Whatever passions like attachment etc. are there, lead to the bondage to that extent. The soul having right knowledge has no bondage to that extent. Whatever passions like attachment etc. are there, lead to bondage to that extent. The soul having right conduct has no bondage to that extent. Whatever passions like attachment etc. are there, lead to bondage to that extent.
If we, therefore, want to annihilate bondage i.e., to destroy unhappiness, we should follow the path of the three Gems. That is the only way to get rid of worldly turmoils and to obtain the supreme spiritual state of liberation.