Scriptures extol the infinite power of Yoga and how the individual soul can strive to attain proficiency in it through practice, concentration and renunciation. The highest state that a living being can attain is that of a Jivanmukta — where one is fully realised while living in this world. The Bhagavad Gita talks of the Stitaprajna, Gunatita, Jnani, and the Bhakta — terms that describe the state of the realised soul from different angles.

The whole idea may seem paradoxical, for liberation and worldliness are antithetical. Yet there have been realised souls who have been a Jnani and a Yogi at one stroke and have lived among the people exemplifying the state of a Jivanmukta, pointed out Sri Goda Venkateswara Sastrigal in a discourse.

How a Yogi and a Jnani co-exist in an individual is best illustrated in the life of Sadasiva Brahmendra, a great saint and Advaita philosopher who lived in Tamil Nadu during the 18th century. He also composed songs that spell the truths of the Upanishads. He had realised the inner self as the only truth and that the body has only a temporary existence. Once, when he was wandering around like an Avaduta (realised soul), a local ruler seeing the naked seer, mistook him for a madman and cut off one of his hands. With total detachment the seer continued in his way. This made the ruler ponder on the seer's state of mind and caused him to repent. The seer, who had yogic power, was then able to fix the severed hand on his shoulder, much to the astonishment of all.

It is possible to experience the highest truth, if one chooses to cast aside the mortal experiences. Liberation is the realisation of that which is eternal, and all pervading. To gain access to that, one has to overcome the hurdles that come in the way. These hurdles are the worldly desires that constantly engage our attention and prevent us from the search for the eternal truth. This path is not a physical journey to be undertaken, but a state of mind that is attained through renunciation of the world. By yoga is meant the unique way in which the individual remains connected to the Supreme Brahman.

More In: Faith | Friday Review