Don't Be Afraid to Desire Liberation

Pink Lily
Who wants liberation?” You’ve heard that one before, haven’t you? Most people in the non-duality world have, to the point of wanting to tear their hair out.

“Who wants it?” – implying that there is no person to want anything – is a confused and confusing question. While the presumption is true, it puts the cart before the horse, making it an unhelpful teaching. While there is still a person here (
i.e., while there is still the belief that what you are is a body/mind), and if this person has heard of enlightenment, and is tired of the suffering of separation, then of course there is going to be desire! It would be crazy not to desire liberation, if you believe you are the body/mind, and you are suffering.

We are told in some non-dual teaching that we shouldn’t want anything – that there has to be a “person” in order for desire to be there – and so if you want something, you are reinforcing the false idea that you are a person. The implication of this is that if you deny your desires – even your burning desire for liberation! – that the lack of reinforcement of a “person” will bring you….hm, what? Liberation?

So the point it’s really making is, if you want liberation, then quit wanting it, or else you’ll reinforce the person. But the bottom line is the same: “
If you want liberation.” If you don’t want liberation, then you’ll be doing something else right now besides reading non-dual websites. Admit that you want liberation, and if you’re lucky, you can fan the flames of that into a burning desire, and then you’re ready. Then you’re qualified.

In
Vedanta, a burning desire for liberation is considered one of the qualifications for enlightenment. It’s called mumukshutva in Sanskrit. It is wanting liberation like a drowning man wants his next breath.

And it’s no problem that there has to be belief in a person in order for there to be desire. That’s the point! That’s exactly who liberation is
for – the imagined person. Don’t deny the fact that you believe there is a person there. Admit it! You do! And then work with that, the truth of your situation, rather than try and deny it. If you deny it, you have nothing to work with.

Sometimes we feel bad about just admitting, “I want this so badly!” But actually this is wonderful. It’s grace to have a burning desire, so cultivate it. Fan the flames. It’s not something in the world of objects you’re wanting, so quit feeling bad about it. It’s not something “for you” you’re wanting, it’s freedom
from you. So go for it.

Attachment to the world is a hindrance – granted. Work on those worldly attachments, lessen those desires, fine. Work on that. Deny your desire for that second piece of chocolate cake, fine. But don’t deny your desire to know who you are. This is the only desire that is not about the world. It is saying, “I don’t want the world, I want myself.” You don’t get to keep the world anyway, so don’t worry about it. The desires for worldly things will go. They will die by themselves, and you can help them by exercising some restraint and good sense. But the desire to get rid of the ignorance that hides your true nature from you? That’s a gift. That is the desire given to you by grace.

In reality, there is no “one” who needs liberation. The Self is already liberated. Liberation, freedom, is your natural state. It is normal for you. You are already experiencing freedom but you don’t know it. This is what non-duality really is. But now, what about the “how”? How do we find this out and know it for ourselves?

Non-duality tells you that you are already experiencing the Self all the time, as your own being. But that’s not what you think. Non-duality is telling you something you are in disagreement with, and you’ve got to work out the contradiction there. This is self-inquiry. This is what knowledge is about. You hear the words of the teaching, the words form knowledge, and the knowledge removes your ignorance. And what you already are, and always were, is revealed. This is what Vedanta does.

Vedanta shows you how this apparent suffering person arises. It shows you what it is made of, and the tricks it has to keep itself going. It gives you tools to apply to your normal, daily thought processes which shine a light on the deceit the mind perpetrates to keep you separate, and it empowers you to uproot the ignorance yourself. Ultimately, it reveals who you are as the Self – pure consciousness.

In closing, I’ll quote
James Swartz on the subject of mumukshutva from his translation and commentary of Adi Shankara’s Tattva Bodha (Knowledge of Reality):

“A burning desire for liberation means that the person has completely ruled out the possibility that anything that could happen in life would make him or her permanently happy. As a result, all the desire that formerly went into making the world work now goes into the search for the Self. If this factor is operating intensely, all the other qualities develop quickly.”

“...all the desire that formerly went into making the world work now goes into the search for the Self”! That’s so beautiful. Think of how hard you work every day, every moment, to try and make the world work for you. Think of putting all that desire instead into your self-inquiry. This is mumukshutva, and it is a blessing. Don’t be afraid of it.