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We know that there can be several stages before achieving liberation. At some stage (say pre-liberation), nearer to the liberation, sadhaka may attain knowledge of her previous lives and concludes that all this physical world is an illusion and she has been stuck in her own imagination.

There will be so much agony the sadhaka passes through. It can only be experienced. After passing that stage, the sadhaka can overcome such agony and starts living happily in illusion by achieving liberation.

But, coming to the agony during pre-liberation stage, I know very less people from our scriptures suffering such agony. One of them is Jada Bharatha. Due to his passion towards a deer, he attains the body of a deer and suffers a lot.

Although in the body of a deer, Bharata Mahārāja, due to his rigid devotional service in his past life, could understand the cause of his birth in that body. Considering his past and present life, he constantly repented his activities, speaking in the following way. In the body of a deer, Bharata Mahārāja began to lament: What misfortune! I have fallen from the path of the self-realized. I gave up my real sons, wife and home to advance in spiritual life, and I took shelter in a solitary holy place in the forest. I became self-controlled and self-realized, and I engaged constantly in devotional service, hearing, thinking, chanting, worshiping and remembering the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vāsudeva. I was successful in my attempt, so much so that my mind was always absorbed in devotional service. However, due to my personal foolishness, my mind again became attached—this time to a deer. Now I have obtained the body of a deer and have fallen far from my devotional practices.Although Bharata Mahārāja received the body of a deer, by constant repentance he became completely detached from all material things. He did not disclose these things to anyone, but he left his mother deer in a place known as Kālañjara Mountain, where he was born. He again went to the forest of Śālagrāma and to the āśrama of Pulastya and Pulaha.

[28-30, Chapter 8: A Description of the Character of Bharata Mahārāja, Canto 5: The Creative Impetus, Srimad-Bhagavatam]

I bolded the parts that show his agony in such stage.

Are there any similar statements that shows the agony of the sadhakas at their pre-liberation stage, not just due to their indirect knowledge, but due to their own experience?

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  • I think there are different paths of liberation. Here person has realized his mistake and repents. But there would be many more paths, like vidya or prem or bhakti or karma. Instead of putting it as pain or pleasure, i think what's more important is losing distinction between the two gradually. At which point the question becomes moot
    – sbharti
    Jun 30 at 2:56
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Although many sadhakas go through what you describe, what you describe is auxiliary to achieving liberation - and not the means to achieving liberation. The direct cause of liberation is the direct knowledge of the Reality. Sri Vidyaranya Swami writes in his Pancadasi Chapter VI (Swami Swahananda translator):

  1. Of all the three virtues the most essential is the knowledge of Reality as it is the direct cause of liberation. The other two, detachment and withdrawal, are necessary auxiliaries to knowledge.

and in

  1. On the other hand by the complete knowledge of the Reality a man is sure to have liberation, even though his detachment and withdrawal are wanting. But then his visible sufferings will not come to an end owing to his fructifying Karma.

Svetasvatara Upanishad 3.8 says (Swami Nikhilananda translator):

I know the great Purusha, who is luminious, like the sun, and beyond darkness. Only by knowing Him does one pass over death, there is no other way to the Supreme Goal. [see also verse VI.15]

In Uddhava Gita VI.3, Sri Krishna says (Swami Madhavananda translator):

Know knowledge and ignorance to be My powers, O Uddhava, which are (respectively) the cause of liberation and bondage of beings; they are primordial and created by My Maya.

See also B. Gita 4.36 9.32, 18.62, 18.66. Liberation is granted by the Lord alone - by the grace of God. Some attain it after much suffering but other are granted liberation without suffering. It is not something automatic to be gained by much austerities.

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