From what I understand, and by using a mathematical metaphor, everything manifests like: 0, 1, and n.

Krishna, thus, exists in unmanifest form, but manifests as Balarama (Sankarsana), Who then proceeds to create the world of plurality. Yet, when the world is about to end, Sankarsana begins to draw the multiplicity together into a united whole (hence His usage of a plough and His name). Once the entirety of plural existence has been organized into a whole, this whole is then subjected to the Original God (Krishna, the 0), and the souls of the jivas thus exist within Krishna in an unmanifest form for a time (as "seeds").

Sankarsana continues to exist outside of Krishna as Sesa, the sole part of Vishnu that exists outside of Vishnu during the pralaya, hence His name, the "remainder." (It appears that Lakshmi continues to exist outside of Vishnu as well.)

This is the manifest perspective of the whole lila. But it appears to leave no location for a Moksha-ed soul to exist.

Reading some answers and comments from this question: What will happen if all souls inhabiting Earth attain Moksha?

My understanding is that a person who attains Moksha simply exits the entire play and perceives it to be an illusion. The only reality this person sees is Brahman (ultimate non-dual reality). Everything else is Maya, for this person. The question of the existence of other people, the pralaya, the end of the world (the yuga), of birth, and of death, simply ceases to exist.

This must ultimately mean that the appearance/existence of Krishna, of the pralaya, the cycle of yugas, the existence of Sankarsana/Sesa, even the existence of God, must be a complete illusion for someone who only perceives Brahman.

Given these two ideas, I have no choice but to conclude that God only exists in Samsara as Maya, this God-in-Samsara-as-Maya, appears as Krishna (the highest form of God). Krishna of course, appears with His expansions, Balarama and Radha, and Whoever else.

But for a Moksha-ed person, the entirety of the manifestation, including the apparent-manifestation of God is also transcended, leaving apparently, nothing.

So is theism in conflict with liberation?

It seems so from this perspective.

  • i think already there is a similar question. – Rakesh Joshi Apr 4 '17 at 2:32

This is a very interesting question for me, since I never thought about moksha in this direction.

Types of moksha

The way I understand moksha, or liberation from the cycle of death, is that one transcends the material creation and moves or returns (based on how you understand things) to the spiritual world. Further, there are multiple forms of moksha, with 5 main categories - sayujya (becoming one with Brahman; the commonly perceived notion of moksha), samipya (being close to God), salokya (being on the same planed as God), sarsti (having the same opulence as God) and sarupya (having a similar appearance as God), with God referring to the personal form, Visnu, in these categories.

Pralaya unique to material world

Pralaya is a phenomenon exclusive to the material creation, while spiritual planets (Vaikuntha planets, part of Kailash, etc.) are located in spiritual sky/world, and both are completely separate from each other. One who has Sayujya moksha/mukti, merges with Brahman and loses their active consciousness, thus being unable to observe anything. For all the other cases, they do not experience pralaya either, because they are already in a different part of the 'world'.

It may also be worth noting that there are multiple levels of 'pralaya' or destruction, with one happening at the end of each 4-yuga-cycle (divya/maha yuga), another happening during every night of Lord Brahma, and a final one happening at the end of Brahma's lifespan. The material world is destroyed to different extents during each of these.

God in Samsara (not) as Maya

In Bhagavad Gita, Krishna describes Himself as beyond the material modes of nature:

When one properly sees that in all activities no other performer is at work than these modes of nature and he knows the Supreme Lord, who is transcendental to all these modes, he attains My spiritual nature. (14.19)

He also says:

It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kuntī, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father. (14.4)

Material nature consists of three modes – goodness, passion and ignorance. When the eternal living entity comes in contact with nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, he becomes conditioned by these modes. (14.5)

(Also look at Sri Isopanisad, verse 8) All of this leads to the generally accepted conclusion (especially by Vaishnava scholars) that when Krishna or Ram or Their expansions/associates such as Lakshman, Radha, etc. appear or manifest in this world, they appear in their self-same form, without taking a physical, material body. They remain transcendental to and unaffected by the modes of nature that affect all other ordinary living entities. This seems conclusive to me, but I can provide further elaboration if needed.

  • Okay interesting, I'm aware of all that samipya, sayujya, sarsti stuff because I sometimes read ISKCONic materials. From what I understand, this is a standard dualistic view (from Madhvacharya), which allows for theism. Madhva seemed to believe God existed, the world was real, and that there were different kinds and different levels of liberation (not everyone who became liberated experienced the same level of bliss). He also thought certain souls were destined to never be liberated. – James Yen Apr 5 '17 at 19:46
  • Madhva also seems to believe that souls remain distinct and inferior to God, even after liberation. This sounds like a standard Abrahamic religion (Islam, Christianity, etc.). – James Yen Apr 5 '17 at 19:48
  • The view that I present in my question more or less represents Shankara Vedanta, in that even the appearance of God, the person, the universe, and everything else is "transcended," and revealed to be maya. Thus, to a person that realizes Brahman, birth, death, God, and the end of a yuga, all cease to exist. – James Yen Apr 5 '17 at 19:49
  • This isn't a novel doctrine, however, since Shankara himself presents it as the distinction between Brahman and Ishvara. So basically I'm spouting Shankara Vedanta whereas you are spouting Madhva Vedanta. Interesting! – James Yen Apr 5 '17 at 19:50
  • A lot of this information I'm spitting is sourced from: A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy by Chandradhar Sharma, if you would care to read more about it. Thanks for your answer. – James Yen Apr 5 '17 at 19:51

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