Total Liberation: What Is It And Is It Achievable?

Liberation in Jainism and Buddhism

Comparing the notions of liberation in Buddhism and Jainism reveals structural similarities and differences between the two ideas. Regarding the common points, tirtha in Jainism and bodhi in Buddhism treat liberation as something achieved by exceptional beings, making the believer play an active rather than passive role in seeking liberation. This similarity stems from both religions’ denial of the concept of the creator god that could “grant” liberation in return for serving and complying with rules. Nevertheless, the religions’ differing perspectives on the existence of souls make the Jain liberation more rooted in idealism and attached to a hypothetical space. In Buddhism, nirvāṇa is the liberation from suffering inseparable from existence, and no real or imaginary place is associated with this process. In contrast, the Jain moksha understands liberation as the soul’s ability to break free of karmic bondage, which is something to be attained in another world after physical death.

Personal Understandings of Total Liberation

In my understanding, total liberation should refer to achieving freedom from change and the requirement to continue exploring reality, whether in the material world or any other supposed spiritual dimension. In this context, I see liberation as the soul’s running out of opportunities for exploration, gaining experiences, learning, and encountering anything new. In other words, full liberation is only possible when every situation, piece of information, system, dimension, and way of thinking has already been experienced in various contexts, states, and spaces.

Achievability of Total Liberation

In connection to the abovementioned definition, total liberation does not seem to be something hypothetically achievable as there is no certainty that reality, the universe, and self-awareness are finite. If having no opportunity for learning, reflecting, and experiencing is a prerequisite to actual liberation from existence, reality should be something fixed, not unending, and totally timeless to make room for change limited. However, even the observable universe’s ongoing expansion might suggest that reality is unlikely to be stable and fixed to have any clear point at which exploration opportunities disappear. Also, if the soul’s self-awareness changes with every new piece of information, the realization that there is nothing more to learn could be another point of learning in itself. This could eventually give a new direction to the soul’s self-learning journey, postponing liberation every time the soul approaches the state of omniscience.