Bliss is the Opposite of Suffering

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Bryce Canyon Utah

In his 10th century masterwork on Kashmir Shaivism, the Tantrāloka (“Light on the Tantras”), the sage Abhinavagupta succinctly summaries the argument for knowledge as the direct path to liberation:

“Indeed bondage consists of the habitual enactment of a persistent double false presumption that is persistently enacted in ordinary awareness:

“First, we take what is not our True Self to be the authentic self. (the body, the mind, our roles in life and other partial identifications, etc.)

            “Secondly, we persistently animate the opposite false habitual presumption: We fail to recognize that which actually is our true and authentic Self (perfectly full Consciousness) as being our true and abiding Self.

            “Liberation consists of the dissolution and eradication of this double erroneous presumption. First there must occur the dissolution of the false and ignorant limited identifications. Only then can we proceed to release the blindness that prevents the full realization of the highest, imperishable and authentic Self.

            “This is what is known as the Great Fusional Pervasion (mahā-viapti) and is how it is established.” (Paraphrased from Ahnika V, v. 105-107, after Paul Muller-Ortega.)

What is known as “limited knowledge” (“jñanam-bandhah”, of Shiva Sutra I.2) is not just the knowledge of limitation, of the forms of partiality, of the lived relative small self. It is rather that which precludes the knowledge of fullness, the knowledge that bestows liberation. When all limited and limiting knowledge dissolves (through our sustained authentic meditation practice), then what remains is the already-present and prior non-dual direct experiential knowledge of Wholeness, of the Great Self (“caitanyam-ātma”, of Shiva Sutra I.1).

In the same manner, the dissolution of all forms of contraction and suffering, of the three modes of limitation (mala) [1. of the limitation of smallness and lack of fullness (anava); 2. of the limitation of differences or discrimination (mayiya); and 3. of the limitation of arrogation of doer-ship (karma)]; When these all dissolve into the fullness of that lived knowledge, what remains when all suffering is dissolved, is known as “Bliss” – Ānanda.

A person might ask: If everyone is already perfect and complete in our essence-nature as imperishable Consciousness, then what is the need for pursuing a life of practice (sadhana) in order to achieve spiritual liberation (jivan-mukti) in this lifetime?

Bliss is the opposite of suffering. It is the way we live that intersects and determines the experience of our life: the fullness, the satisfaction, the meaningfulness and the fulfillment. That is what permits the establishment in our lives of the moment-by-moment lived values of highest love, of bliss, of knowledge and the capacity to enact our own highest forms of service to life.

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