The belief underlying the concept of mukti is that soul encaged in the body is separated from its source – paramatma and longs for reunion with it. The root cause of this alienation is said to be avidya [ignorance] in Vedantic thought and trsna [desire], the cause of suffering, in Buddhism. Release from these is considered possible at death.

Advaita School believes that human soul is free because humans are already liberated but are not aware of that natural state. That soul which has had this realization is called jivanmukta – liberated while alive. If so blessed a person displays state of being without desire, Anichha, and has knowledge of the Self firmly internalized within.

Gurus say the body constitutes no barrier for that is where the divine resides and hold haumai as the cause of ignorance, craving and suffering. Guru says that a person in whose mind naam abides is Jivan Mukta. He becoming Gurmukh merges into the True Lord. Only that person in this world who conquers his bondage of haumai becomes muktha. Rare is that wise person in the world, who practices this – jeevan mukath man naam vasaaeae  guramukh hoe th sach samaaeae  jag ba(n)dhee mukathae ho maaree  jag giaanee viralaa aachaaree  – Asa M I, p. 412

Subduing haumai involves total acceptance of divine will. A person who, in his aatham [inner self] loves the will of Prabh is to be known as jivan mukta. He is in eternal bliss for he is not separated from Prabh. To him, joy is the same as sorrow; gold, the same as dust; ambrosial nectar, the same as bitter poison; honor, the same as dishonor; beggar, the same as the king. Whatever God ordains, that is his way. O Nanak, that being is known as Jivan Mukta – prabh kee aagiaa aatham hithaavai ||jeevan mukath sooo kehaavai ||thaisaa harakh thaisaa ous sog ||sadhaa ana(n)dh theh nehee bioug ||thaisaa suvaran thaisee ous maattee ||thaisaa a(n)mrith thaisee bikh khaattee ||thaisaa maan thaisaa abhimaan ||thaisaa ra(n)k thaisaa raajaan ||jo varathaaeae saaee jugath ||naanak ouhu purakh keheeai jeevan mukath – Gauri Sukhmani M V, p. 275.

State of jeevan mukat is deep within: contemplating Shabad we become Nirankaari. When we awaken to Gurmat, evil-mindedness goes away. Remaining lovingly focused on divine all the time, one attains to the inner state of Jivan Mukta – sabadh beechaar bheae nira(n)kaaree || guramath jaagae dhuramath parehaaree ||anadhin jaag rehae liv laaee ||jeevan mukath gath a(n)thar paaee – Ramkali M I, p. 904.  

Thus the one who helps others connect with the Sabd is jivan mukta. He lives a truthful way of life and finds true peace. He who subdues his mind is known jivat mar – dead while yet alive. By divine grace, one realizes the gracious Akal Purkh – Jīvan mukaṯ jā sabaḏ suṇāe Sacẖī rahaṯ sacẖā sukẖ pāe. Man māre jīvaṯ mar jāṇ. Nānak naḏrī naḏar pacẖẖāṇ – Parbhati M I, p. 1343


A variant of the term jivan-mukti in gurbani is dying-in-life (jivat marna). It is subduing the mind, dying to the life of haumai, and entering into a life of contemplation, altruism and love of the Divine.

To see without eyes; to hear without ears; to walk without feet; to work without hands;

to speak without a tongue is jeevat marna – being dead in life. O Nanak, to merge with your Lord and Master, recognize his hukam [nirgun is sans eyes, ears, hands, feet, tongue] – akhee baajhahu vaekhanaa vin ka(n)naa sunanaa   pairaa baajhahu chalanaa vin hathhaa karanaa   jeebhai baajhahu bolanaa eio jeevath maranaa   naanak hukam pashhaan kai tho khasamai milanaa – Slok M II, p. 139.

Guru Angad elucidates the metaphor of walking sans feet and working sans hand by asking: how can a lame, armless and blind person run to embrace the Lord who is not seen, heard or known nor whose subtle essence is obtained? His answer is: Let the fear of God be your feet, and let his love be your hands and let his understanding be your eyes. Nanak says in this way, O wise soul-bride, you shall be united with your husband Lord –   dhisai suneeai jaaneeai saao n paaeiaa jaae  ruhalaa ttu(n)ddaa a(n)dhhulaa kio gal lagai dhhaae  bhai kae charan kar bhaav kae loein surath karaee  naanak kehai siaaneeeae eiv ka(n)th milaavaa hoe – M II, p. 139

Serving the True Guru, the mind becomes immaculate and pure; haumai and corruption are discarded. So abandon your selfishness, and remain dead while yet alive by contemplating on Guru’s Sabd- Saṯgur sėv man nirmalā haumai ṯaj vikār. Āp cẖẖod jīvaṯ marai gur kai sabaḏ vīcẖār – Sri Raag, M III, P. 34-10

One who receives divine mercy, turns to seva and by Guru’s grace attains to the state of dead while yet alive. He chants true Naam night and day and this way and crosses over treacherous world-ocean- Karam hovai ṯāʼn sėvā karai. Gur parsādī jīvaṯ marai. Anḏin sācẖ nām ucẖrai. In biḏẖ parāṇī ḏuṯar ṯarai – Basant M III, P. 1172-6

Kabir also says: One, who remains dead while yet alive [jivat marai], he merges into the sunn of the Absolute Akal Purkh and will live even after death.. Remaining pure in the midst of impurity [dead to vices in life], he will never again fall into the terrifying world-ocean – Jīvaṯ marai marai fun jīvai aisė sunn samāiā Anjan māhi niranjan rahīai bahuṛ na bẖavjal pāiā – Gauri Kabir, p. 332-16

Those who remain dead [to self] in life are saved, and save others as well. Celebrate victory of the Lord; taking to his sanctuary, the supreme status is obtained – jeevath maranaa thaarae tharanaa  jai jagadhees param gath saranaa  – Asa M I, p. 413. This is akin to the mindset of sewak, akal purakh ki fauj, proclaining wahiguru ji ki fateh!


In Ramkali ki Var, Pauree 4, Guru Amar Das quotes a Kabir slok [also appears as Slok Kabir, p. 1366/33], where Kabir says: Kabeer, such is the touchstone of Raam; the false cannot even come close to it. He alone passes this divine test, who remains dead while yet alive – Kabeer Kasouttee Raam Kee Jhoothaa Ttikai N Koe Raam Kasouttee So Sehai Jo Marajeevaa Hoe – Slok Kabir, p. 948

In the next two verses Guru Amar Das goes into the concept jeevan mukath saying – Kio Kar Eihu Man Maareeai Kio Kar Mirathak Hoe  Kehiaa Sabadh N Maanee Houmai Shhaddai N Koe  Gur Parasaadhee Houmai Shhuttai Jeevan Mukath So Hoe  Naanak Jis No Bakhasae This Milai This Bighan N Laagai Koe – How can this mind be conquered and how can it be made dead because nobody follows what shabad says and nobody sheds houmai. If by Guru’s grace houmai is eradicated, one becomes Jivan Mukta. O Nanak, the one upon whom Lord is merciful gets united with Him, and no obstacles block his way – M III, p. 948. State of jeevan mukt is identical to an abiding state of gobind milan.

In the next shabad the Guru goes on to say: Jeevath Maranaa Sabh Ko Kehai Jeevan Mukath Kio Hoe – that everyone can say that they are in state of jeevat marnaa and questions as to how can they be jeevan mukat? His answer is – Bhai Kaa Sanjam Jae Karae Dhaaroo Bhaao Laaeaee  Anadhin Gun Gaavai Sukh Sehajae Bikh Bhavajal Naam Tharaee  Naanak Guramukh Paaeeai Jaa Ko Nadhar Karaee – that if it is evident from a person’s life that: he is guided by fear of God [that will restrain his evil propensities] and applies love of God as medicine. Night and day, subsumed in praises of the Lord, through Naam he crosses over the poisonous, terrifying world-ocean in comfort and poise. O Nanak those blessed with his glance of grace find Gurmukh [guru] – Ramkali M III, p. 948

Naam is key: searching, searching, I drank in the ambrosial nectar [of naam], surrendered my mind to the true Guru and adopted the way of tolerance. Everyone calls himself true and genuine but through the four ages the one depending upon jewel of naam alone has been known as true. Those only eating and drinking, die without knowing [the mysteries of the divine]. The one who grasps shabad [his haumai] dies instantly. By Guru’s grace he realizes naam, his consciousness becomes permanently stable, and his mind accepts death – – – Gurmukh dies [visrai], and lives [aakhaan jeevaan] with naam – Khojath Khojath Anmrith Peeaa  Khimaa Gehee Man Sathagur Dheeaa  Kharaa Kharaa Aakhai Sabh Koe  Kharaa Rathan Jug Chaarae Hoe  Khaath Peeanth Mooeae Nehee Jaaniaa  Khin Mehi Mooeae Jaa Sabadh Pashhaaniaa  Asathhir Cheeth Maran Man Maaniaa  Gur Kirapaa Thae Naam Pashhaaniaa —- – Guramukh Maran Jeevan Prabh Naal – Ramkali M I, Dakhni Oankaar, p. 932.  Again in another verse Guru Nanak says: make this body the field, plant the seed of good actions and water it with Naam. This will awaken your mind, the farmer, to Akal Purkh and you shall attain the state of nirvana – Ih ṯan ḏẖarṯī bīj karmā karo salil āpāo sāringpāṇī. Man kirsāṇ har riḏai jammāė lai io pāvas paḏ nirbāṇī – Asa M I, p. 23-15


Those who recognize the self become Jivan-mukta, Recognizing self is possible only if homai is subdued and veil of maya pierced – aap pashhaanai man niramal hoe ||jeevan mukath har paavai soe — dhoojai bhaae n saeviaa jaae ||houmai maaeiaa mehaa bikh khaae  – Gauri Guareri M III, p. 161.

Those humble beings who remain mar jeevai, drink the ambrosial nectar of Guru’s teachings, and their minds embrace divine love. Their minds love Har and the Guru is merciful to them. They are Jivan Mukta and are at peace – jo jan mar jeevae thinh a(n)mrith peevae man laagaa guramath bhaao jeeo ||man har har bhaao gur karae pasaao jeevan mukath sukh hoee – Asa M IV, p. 447

Guru Nanak explains that our sense of attachment is strong and by serving the Guru we attain to nirmalta – inner cleansing. Subduing homai helps us learn jap, tap, sanjam. The state of jivan mukta is obtained by listening to sabad and peace by truthful living – maaeiaa mohi sagal jag shhaaeiaa ||kaaman dhaekh kaam lobhaaeiaa ||suth ka(n)chan sio haeth vadhhaaeiaa ||sabh kishh apanaa eik raam paraaeiaa — sathigur saevae bharam chukaaeae ||anadhin jaagai sach liv laaeae ||eaeko jaanai avar n koe ||sukhadhaathaa saevae niramal hoe — saevaa surath sabadh veechaar ||jap thap sa(n)jam houmai maar ||jeevan mukath jaa sabadh sunaaeae ||sachee rehath sachaa sukh paaeae – Parbhati M I, p. 1342. Listening here obviously implies, internalization and living by shabad.

The Sikh concept of jivan mukti is attainable in one’s lifetime and spells cessation of cycle of birth and death. The mukta attains to be a master of sense and self, fearless, devoid of rancor, upright, humble, wanting nothing, clinging to nothing,  at one with all – no longer living for himself, he lives for others – the same as a gurmukh, brahm giani, khalsa, et al.


Reference:Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, Patiala – Jivan Mukta

Nirmal Singh

Camp, New Delhi

Edited 2 June, 2013

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