Four Qualifications for the Path to the Goal of Liberation

Goal-setting is a widely-recommended strategy for effective working and achieving success and happiness. Having a goal means:

  • being clear about what one wants;
  • not being put off by distractions and set-backs;
  • developing relevant skills and personal qualities;
  • keeping it in mind as the top priority.

Goal-setting is no doubt an effective way of getting things done. Whether it leads to lasting happiness or not depends on the chosen objective.

The importance of having a goal is not an exclusively modern or secular idea. The Crest Jewel of Discerning Wisdom (Viveka Chudamani), and Direct Experience of Reality (Aparokshanubhuti) are two classic texts on non-duality, composed centuries ago, which both begin by saying that four ‘qualifications’ or ‘forms of readiness’ are necessary for a seeker of inner illumination, and all four relate to the highest goal of life. They are:

  • discernment of what is lasting and valuable (in Sanskrit, viveka);
  • relative indifference to everything else (vairagya);
  • inner resources beginning with mental calm (shama);
  • burning desire for liberation from suffering (mumukshuta).

Both these texts were once believed to have been written by Shri Shankara, the great philosopher-sage who formulated the non-dual teachings as we know them. They are now generally considered to be restatements of Shankara’s teachings by followers who had reached the summit of wisdom, which means these writings are of proven practical value.

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This article is from the Winter 2022 issue of Self-Knowledge Journal.