What is Liberation?

"What is Liberation?" written in dark text on a white background. At the bottom is a logo that reads, "From The Hearth."
Image Description: A graphic that reads, "What is Liberation?" written in dark brown text on a white background. At the bottom and centered is a logo that reads, "From The Hearth." On the top left and bottom right corners are wavy, dark brown lines as a frame.

The Sanskrit word for liberation in Yoga is kaivalya which can also be translated as ‘aloneness’ or ‘isolation.’

This isolation is not to be conflated with the social/physical distancing phenomenon that we have come to know during these pandemic times.

Rather, isolation/aloneness/liberation is referring to how much of your life can be explained as a function of your choices.

 

To understand this more fully, it is helpful to know that Yoga is dualistic; it posits that there are two distinct explanatory principles: the realm of Nature and the realm of persons. This is the contrast between the realm of causality (influence from the outside) and responsibility (influence from the inside).

Reaching a state of kaivalya is reaching the point where self-responsibility and choice become the primary explanations of your life; natural explanations from the outside no longer play a role in your narrative.

In this way, you are isolated.

In this way, you are liberated (YS II.25).

A diagram showing the metaphysical underpinnings of Yoga philosophy. In the beginning you can see the dualism: the two streams of Puruṣa (no evolutes) and Prakṛti.

Puruṣa and Prakṛti are the two distinct explanatory principles of your life.

You are always at a point on this continuum; either your life is a function of your choices (responsibility) or it isn’t (causality). The varying amounts that these explanations show up throughout your different experiences determines your position on the continuum.

Yoga is the control of the moral character of thought (YS I.2). Hence, Yoga is an inside job.

It is The One Person Revolution: you don’t need anyone else to be practicing in order for your practice to be meaningful.

When you commit to bringing more of what you experience within the realm of your choosing, you undergo an internal transformation. And as a byproduct of this internal transformation, your external environment changes for the better.

find out more about what yoga really is here

This is Yoga’s contribution to moral philosophy: the right choice brings about the good outcome.

That can be contrasted with other ethical theories such as

  • Virtue Ethics: the good character brings about the right choice (i.e. theism), or
  • Consequentialism: the good outcome justifies the right choice (i.e. Buddhism).

 

Yoga is unique in its sole focus on the right: the more your life is a function of right choosing, the more liberated you are.

 

This forms a direct and critical response to the Western Tradition of thought under which we have been taught to yield to authority – to explain our lives by way of what someone else told us to do.

The Western Tradition is one of disempowerment.

Yoga invites you instead be devoted to Sovereignty.

Devotion to Sovereignty looks like devotion to (a) unconservativism – pushing against your inherited limitations (tapas) – and (b) self-governance – exercising self-discovery and a setting of your own agenda (svādhyāya) (YS II.1).

In the Yoga Sūtra, you are provided with a procedure for practicing this devotion. The instructions are right there, ready for you.

 

You do have to figure this out for yourself, but you don’t have to figure it out alone.

Want to practice with me? Check out the events calendar here!

In love and liberation,

Tara

 

This post is influenced by the work of:

Yoga Philosophy

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What is Liberation? – From The Hearth