Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results. – Narcotics Anonymous

                Tomorrow is the 243rd birthday of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, arguably one of the most enlightened written documents ever written. Although the practice of the principles put forth in this document has been flawed and controversial over the course of this nation’s history, it is here where America’s founding fathers explicitly state that all men (and in the wisdom that 243 years provides, we can extrapolate this to mean all people) are created equal. Furthermore, all people are born with the inalienable right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

One of the many things that makes the Declaration of Independence special is that it acknowledges what yogis have known for millennia. Our freedom does not come from a government or anything outside of ourselves. Life, liberty, and happiness come from within us.

Yoga and liberation.

In yoga there is a concept called moksha. From a yogic perspective, moksha is one of the four aims of life: kama, artha, dharma, and moksha. Kama is our emotional and sensory fulfillment. Artha refers to our wealth and achievement of worldly goals. Dharma is what we contribute to the world and any resulting honor and recognition received. As one of the four aims of life, moksha is transcendence, including transcendence of the first three aims.

Moksha means liberation. Videha Mukti and Jivamukti are the two different types of moksha. Videha Mukti is moksha that occurs after death. Upon realizing their true nature, the Videhamukta incurs no further karma and is released from samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth. Jivamukti is moksha that occurs before death. The Jivanmukta is a living, liberated, and fully enlightened being.

When we identify ourselves with the illusory world, we confuse the truth of who we are with a false sense of self. Insanity is denying reality and believing we are what we are not. The Jivanmukta’s perspective has shifted allowing her to see clearly and restoring her to sanity. As a result, she no longer lives in fear and ignorance. Therefore, the Jivanmukta is able to tap into her unlimited potential. She accesses greater creativity, compassion, and understanding.

If you keep doing what you’ve been doing…

Samsara binds us to the material world; a world yoga tells us is an illusion and quantum physics tells us is a persistent one. One’s rebirth is determined by karma. We don’t have to wait until we die to experience karma. Karma is also the consequences -both positive and negative- for our thoughts, words, and actions right now. Samsara is our tendency to repeat thinking and behavioral patterns that may or may not contribute to our ultimate well-being. Left to our own devices, we will continue these patterns until the consequences become too severe to sustain or we die.

Fortunately, we are not left to our own devices. The universe has a life-giving order that nature and non-human creatures participate in. Humans, however, have the ability to choose whether to operate according to the natural order of the universe or not. Because we have forgotten our true nature and have misidentified reality with the illusion, we often choose not to live in alignment with universal principles. These principles comprise the major themes common to all of the world’s great religions: love, unity, oneness, and transcendence, to name a few.

Seeing things clearly.

Choosing to work against the universe is like choosing to swim upstream.  We are welcome to do it, but our lives work so much better if we don’t. Deep, transformative spiritual practices such as yoga are our ticket from a fear-filled life of struggle and confusion to one of joy and purpose. It isn’t that we all of a sudden have it all figured out and are happy all of the time. However, we are able to navigate the world from a peaceful place that puts us in alignment with our true nature by serving the collective good. Avidya– which means ignorance of our true nature- obscures our ability to see ourselves as we really are. Yoga removes avidya and allows us to foster a fresh perspective the way we see our image clearly after removing the dirty film from a mirror. As our ignorance is removed, moksha is achieved.