Moksha is impermanent.
Caution: There is probably no Astika darshana that says that Moksha is impermanent, to the best of my knowledge. All darshanas believe that moksha is permanent. None of the Acharyas quoted below say that moksha is impermanent. However, their views will be quoted to support the idea that moksha is impermanent.
Point 1. Brahman alone is subject to ignorance. Ignorance affects brahman and no one else, because there is no one else apart from brahman.
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10 (Quoting only the first part of the passage)
ब्रह्म वा इदमग्र आसीत्, तदात्मानमेवावेत्, अहम् ब्रह्मास्मीति । तस्मात्तत्सर्वमभवत्…..
10. This (self) was indeed brahman in the beginning. It knew only I(?) as. ‘I am Brahmaṇ.’ Therefore It became all…….
Adi Shankara, while commenting on this verse, makes an interesting point.
Objection: We do not say that there is no superimposition on Brahman of attributes not belonging to It, as in the case of a mother-of-pearl, but that Brahman is not the cause of the superimposition of these attributes on Itself, nor the author of ignorance.
Reply: Let it be so. Brahman is not the author of ignorance nor subject to error. But it is not admitted that there is any other conscious entity but Brahman which is the author of ignorance or subject to error. Witness such Śruti texts as, ‘There is no ether knower but Him’ (III. vii. 23), ‘There is no other knower but This' (III. viii. 11), ‘Thou art That’ (Ch. VI. viii. 7), ‘It knew only Itself as, “I am Brahman”’ (this text), and ‘He (who worships another god thinking), “He is one, and I am another,” does not know’ (Ibid.). And the Smṛtis: ‘(Living) the same in all beings’ (G. XIII. 27), ‘I am the self, O Arjuna (dwelling in the minds of all beings)’ (G. X. 20), and ‘(Wise men are even-minded) to a dog as well as a Caṇḍāla’ (G. V. 18). And the Vedic Mantras: ‘He who (sees) all beings (in himself)’ (Iś. 6), and ‘When all beings (have become his self)’ (Iś. 7).
However, it is not really possible that -
- Somebody (some conscious entity) is subject to error or ignorance
- That somebody is not brahman
- That somebody is not someone other than brahman (because brahman is the only conscious entity)
But as the Upanishad says here, the self was brahman indeed, even in the beginning. Therefore, it must be the case that brahman alone is subjected to ignorance. As to why Shankara holds #1,#2, and #3 simultaneously, is beyond my explaining capacity. Perhaps, Shankara is more interested in the practical aspects of removing ignorance, rather than dwelling too much on abstract theory. This conclusion can also be obtained by looking at some of his own words in Brahmasutra bhashya.
Shankara’s Brahmasutra bhashya 4.1.3
And should you ask who then is characterised by the absence of true knowledge, we reply: You yourself who ask this question!--And if you retort, 'But I am the Lord as declared by scripture,' we reply, 'Very well, if you have arrived at that knowledge, then there is nobody who does not possess such knowledge.'
In the above, as to the question of who is one lacking true knowledge (or who is the one being subject to ignorance), Shankara gives only a practical answer rather than a philosophically exact answer.
Gaudapada, another advaitin, who is considered as paramaguru of Shankara, is more direct in attributing ignorance to brahman.
Mandukya karika 2.19:
प्राणादिभिरनन्तैश्च भावैरेतैर्विकल्पितः ।
मायैषा तस्य देवस्य यया संमोहितः स्वयम् ॥ १९ ॥
- The Ātman is imagined as Prāṇa and other endless objects. This is due to Māyā (ignorance) of the luminous (Ātman itself) by which It is (as it were) deluded.
The “as it were” is supplied by the commentator Shankara (or whoever wrote the commentary). Interestingly, in this context, Shankara quotes Krishna’s statement in the Bhagavad Gita that his Maya is difficult to get over!
Vimuktatman, another advaitin, in his work called Ishtasiddhi, is also more direct in stating that brahman is subject to ignorance.
For quotations from Ishtasiddhi (IS) of Vimuktatman, the Sanskrit verses can be seen here and the translations are taken from Karl-Potter’s work here.
If ignorance is not accepted in Brahman there can be no Brahman-knowledge as a means to
liberation, since bondage is not due to Brahman’s delusion.
Thus, for one who wants to destroy bondage-which is created by ignorance-by knowledge, ignorance is to be accepted for Brahman and not for things superimposed on It.
Madhusudhana Saraswati, another advaitin, also implies the same thing in his Mangala sloka to advaita-siddhi (he uses the word Vishnu instead of brahman)
मायाकल्पितमातृतामुखमृशाद्वैतप्रपञ्चाश्रय: सत्यज्ञानसुखात्मक:श्रुतिशिखोत्थाखण्डधीगोचर: |
मिथ्याबन्धविधूननेन परमानन्दैकतानात्मकं मोक्षं प्राप्त इव स्वयं विजयते विष्णुर्विकल्पोज्झित: ||
Translation by K Maheshwaran Nair –
Vishnu, who is truth, consciousness and bliss, who is the substratum for the illusory world of duality such as pramAtRtva caused by mAyA, who is to be realized by impartite knowledge derived from the mahAvAkyas, excels on his own as if having attained sole supreme blissful emancipation as a result of severing the false bondage and the vikalpas thereof.
So it is Vishnu (brahman) alone who was under false bondage and Vishnu (brahman) alone who attains liberation.
Point 2. Shruti is not valid in the state of liberation (same with Smriti)
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3.22 states that in the states of deep sleep and liberation, the vedas are not vedas.
अत्र पितापिता भवति, मातामाता, लोका अलोकाः, देवा अदेवाः, वेदा अवेदाः । ….
- In this state a father is no father, a mother no mother, the worlds no worlds, the gods no gods, the Vedas no Vedas.…
Shankara elaborates on this in his Brahmasutra bhashya.
Shankara’s Brahmasutra bhashya 4.1.3
On the other hand texts such as 'But when the Self only has become all this, how should he see another?' &c., teach that as soon as true knowledge springs up, perception, &c., are no longer valid.--Nor do we mind your objecting that if perception, &c., cease to be valid, scripture itself ceases to be so; for this conclusion is just what we assume. For on the ground of the text, 'Then a father is not a father' up to 'Then the Vedas are not Vedas' (Bri. Up. IV, 3, 22), we ourselves assume that when knowledge springs up scripture ceases to be valid.
Brahman alone is subject to ignorance and brahman alone gets liberated (from point 1). In the state of liberation, there is no Shruti or Smriti to guarantee that brahman continues to be permanently liberated, because scriptures are not valid in that state of liberation (from point 2). Since brahman was subject to ignorance once (before liberation), there is no reason why brahman cannot be subject to ignorance again. There is no guarantee that ignorance, even though destroyed once, cannot spring up again. In fact, every time a person (brahman) goes to deep sleep, the person (brahman) is getting temporarily liberated, as shown in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, section 4.3, so it must not be a surprise that moksha is impermanent, as a person (brahman) is anyway achieving temporary moksha in deep sleep. Moreover, as shown in this answer, brahman is not really completely satisfied always (and hence the reason for creation), so there is no guarantee that brahman is always completely free from desires either.
Hence, moksha is impermanent. Or, there is no guarantee that moksha is permanent.
Doubt: What about all the hundreds of Shruti and Smriti statements that say that brahman is free from ignorance and that liberation is permanent?
Answer: These statements can be understood as arthavAda or eulogy or praise of brahman and liberation, in order to motivate the sAdhaka to seek liberation.
Doubt: What is the advantage of gaining liberation if it is impermanent?
Answer: Liberation, though impermanent, is far better than current state. Just as a bird that is restrained in a cage, would yearn for freedom, even though ultimately both states (cage and freedom) are in the realm of suffering for the bird.