By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
The mystery of human life and its destiny has been perplexing the philosophers since time immemorial. In the creative process various things have emerged in different phases. Man is supposed to be the highest product of evolution. He is a finite being and is limited by environment, but he has a distinctive feature of superiority than other created things. Logic declares that man is a ratiol animal—he has appetite, passions and all other kinds of sensibilities, as the animals have. But one characteristic distinguishes him from lower animals—and that is ratiolity. Man is both finite and infinite. Infinity is potentially existent in him—and he has the capacity to look beyond himself. All the Indian philosophers, except the charvakas, believe in the immortality and the spirituality of soul, which goes through a process of birth and rebirth in the passage of time.
Dr. Radhakrishn advocated the monistic philosophy of Vedanta system and believed soul to be a spiritual entity. The soul has to go through various stages of embodied life—but these stages are not the goal of the soul—they are merely some resting places for it. Through all these embodied stages, the soul strives to attain the goal of existence—and that is the ultimate human destiny.
According to Radhakrishn, man’s destiny lies in ‘moksa’ or liberation. He believes that the finite aspects of man are real—but his uniqueness lies in his spirituality. After attaining complete liberation or salvation, he realizes the complete universality, pervading through the whole universe. And that is the state when he attains Divinity, which lies within himself, but he has to make sincere effort to realize it through self-discipline. He says, “The destiny of the human soul is to realize its oneness with the Supreme”. The goal of life is to become one with God or Reality—and the monistic character of the Reality. This can also be termed as self-realisation, because ‘Jivatma’ and ‘Paramatma’ are not different from one another. In self-realisation, the soul becomes one with the Supreme Being and it is the fullest expression of the higher ture. The infinite aspect of man is actually a part of the Divine Being and it constantly reminds the soul of its true ture.
When the self becomes conscious of its true ture, it also attains a new experience—that is the awareness of the universal, which manifests itself everywhere. Even in a life of bondage we can have a faint glimpse of the universal. In artistic, aesthetic or ethical experience, we may have such an all-comprehensive awareness, when individuality disappears, at least temporarily. When one stands before a vast ocean or a magnificent mountain, he can have the experience of the infinite or the universal. The gifted sages have experienced such feelings through the ages. In these rare moments of aesthetic contemplation, the individual can rise above the distinction of “me” and “thou”—and he feels one with the others. Such rare experiences reveal the realization of the universal working both within us and in the object of contemplation. At this stage the individual feels perfect bliss and joy.
When man realizes his true self and its unity with the Supreme Reality, all strifes, tensions, jealousies and other baser feelings cease to torment him. He experiences perfect peace and understands his true relation with the exterl world. When he becomes aware of his unity with the Supreme Being, he also realizes that one spirit is pervading all the individual minds, lives and bodies—and the individual becomes as comprehensive as the universe.
Such liberation is possible even when the self is in bondage of the body. According to the Vedanta philosophy, liberation is not the product of anything new, nor is it the purification of any old state. Actually it is the realization of what is always real, though it is not recognized. Although the liberated soul, being perfect, has no end to achieve, it can still work, without any fear of bondage. Sankaracharya, following Gita, said that work fetters a man only when it is performed with attachment. But the individual, who has attained perfect knowledge and perfect bliss, is entirely free from attachment. He laid great emphasis on disinterested activity. Selfless service is necessary for the good of those, who are still in bondage and as such have not realized the true ture of the soul.
Radhakrishn was highly impressed by the concept of ‘jivanmukta’, as upheld by the Indian philosophers. The individual, with his philosophy of ‘Niskama Karma’, as recommended by the Gita, can attain ‘moksa’ or liberation even when he is living—and after his death be attains “Videha mukti”, as a tural consequence. Radhakrishn explains this kind of salvation in a slightly modified form. The liberated individual is the “jivan mukta”—and is not at all affected by the world or its events—and he remains totally disinterested and selfless, working only for the good of others. Indian philosophy, specially Vedanta, also describes the ‘jivan mukta’ in the same way. But in one respect Radhakrishn’s view is slightly different from that of the traditiol Indian philosophers. The ancient Indian thinkers were of the opinion that the ‘jivanmukta’ becomes ‘Videhamukta’, after his death, that is, as soon as he is free from the bondage of the body. Such a liberated soul never comes back to the earth—and becomes entirely free from the cycle of birth and death. But Radhakrishn does not adhere to this view. He says that the liberated soul has to come back to this earth for the good of others. The individual’s task is not complete after attaining liberation, since he has to make efforts for the liberation of others. Individual salvation is not the ultimate destiny of the finite souls. Therefore it is not necessary for the liberated soul to be entirely free from the world. He has to come back to this earth again and again, donning diverse bodies, to work for the good of others in a detached manner—without any feeling of egoism and selfish desires. Such a disinterested individual remains in perfect bliss, even though he is actively engaged in the service of humanity.
But a problem arises in this connection. According to Radhakrishn’s theory, even after realizing the unity of ‘jivatma’ and Paramatma’, the individual retains his individuality. This problem has baffled the philosophers. Does the liberated individual lose his individuality in the Supreme Being—or does he retain his individuality?
Radhakrishn’s answer to this questin is not categorical. He says, “There is no question in my scheme of the individual being included in or absorbed by the Divine”. It is obvious that after attaining liberation, the individual does not lose the separate identity. Using the Upanisadic alogy of the river and the sea, Radhakrishn says that although the river appears to be lost in the sea, the river and the sea do not become identical with each other. That is to say that even after realizing the Supreme Being, the liberated soul retains its individuality. As a proof of this, Radhakrishn says, that though the liberated individual realizes his divinity and becomes one with the Reality, the Supreme Being does not become an individual. The individual, after attaining ‘moksa’, does not become free from the cosmic process, till all others attain their salvation. It seems clear that in Radhakrishn’s view, every individual lives for the good of others. The world-process will reach its fil goal, when every individual will realize Divinity, which is within himself. Therefore, “the ultimate human destiny is not individual redemption, but universal redemption—Sarvamukti”, as Radhakrishn calls it.
But the question still remains—will the individual retain his individuality after everybody becomes liberated? For Radhakrishn the question is irrelevant, since the problem of man and his destiny remains relevant, only in connection with the cosmic process. The creation of the universe is the actualization of one of the infinite possibilities of the Supreme Being—and with ‘sarvamukti’, the purpose of creation will be accomplished. That will bring the cosmic process to an end. When all the individuals become liberated, the time-process will be transcended and the ultimate human destiny is the end of time. As Radhakrishn remarks, “We need not assume that the cosmic process is an end-in-itself. When its end is reached, when the drama is played, the curtain is drawn, and possibly some other plot may commence”.