Liberation and Enlightenment

Instant Liberation  

What does instant liberation mean?  

From the Hinayana perspective, liberation is a result that one will acquire in the future, like in the next life.  

In both Mahayana and Vajrayana, especially in Dzogchen, liberation is instant. It is not a future achievement. It is the experience of being awakened to reality, being liberated from attachment to suffering, hope and fear. It is the experience of great bliss and ultimate freedom that we find the moment that we let go of the grasping to the kleshas and ego’s identity.  

With the letting go, which is simply clear seeing, there is always a sense of instant liberation. In this case, the spiritual path is not a gradual path. It is an instant path. What does this mean?  

We are not having the thought that Dharma is a gradual process. It is not like going to the gym to build muscle, which is a gradual process, or engaging in a long project. Liberation is always what we experience right now, being liberated from the chains of our own kleshas (defilements). Liberation should be arising the moment we use these techniques. Liberation itself is the technique.  

If one becomes attached to the kleshas of anger or hope or fear, we do not need to take a secondary method to free ourselves. We only need to look at the very source of that klesha, the seeing itself cuts through attachment instantly without spinning off in different directions.  

If we do spin off in different directions, it is like putting a target to the East and shooting the arrow to the West.  

We have to use our Dharma practice as the direct and immediate antidote. Then we can experience instant liberation. That is the ultimate liberation. There is no liberation that is higher when we experience being liberated towards our own inclinations of ego.

Enlightenment Is Not a Gradual Path 

Enlightenment is not a gradual path. We practice meditation and detachment toward kleshas in each moment. We can experience liberation in each moment.  

This is what Dzogchen practice is all about. If we meditate on Dzogchen in the morning, we are enlightened in the morning. If we meditate on Dzogchen in the evening, we are enlightened in the evening, because what we experience with Dzogchen is instant liberation. If we are seeking for liberation somewhere else, we are missing the vital point. In the Mahayana and Dzogchen teachings there is great emphasis on understanding what liberation is, otherwise we look for conceptual liberation, one based on time or space or conditions.  

What is liberation? Are we expecting liberation from another source, or from a pure land, or an achievement we can acquire in the future or the next life? If so, then we are missing the point.  

Liberation is a momentary inner experience, being emancipated from one’s own inner kleshas. Liberation happens spontaneously in this very moment. There is no need to wait. No gradual process. It happens spontaneously when we do the meditation, which is an utter relaxation of our mental fixations.  

And after we are liberated, we go back again and are attached to our emotions and kleshas. In Dzogchen teachings, liberation is not a static or permanent state. Of course there is ultimate Buddhahood, which is permanent, but the liberation we talk about happens in the present moment. We do more practice, more practice, and we have a more continuous experience of liberation.

But, in the beginning we experience liberation, then go back to our old habit. Then we experience liberation again and go back again. Liberation is a momentary experience. That is what we call the mukya. It is an instant, spontaneous experience. It is not a reward or a nirvana experienced in a distant heaven. It is in each of us. We can experience it spontaneously. We do not have to wait for it. There is no cause or condition to liberation. We do not have to cultivate causes for liberation. We do not have to journey or accumulate. The moment we are willing to cut through our own attachments and kleshas we are liberated.  

For example, let’s say we have very powerful karmic tendencies. We may have all these negative karmas we have accumulated through many lifetimes. But when we meditate on Bodhicitta mind, in that moment we experience liberation. It may be long or short, but in that moment we experience liberation.

The great yogi Shabkar gave this powerful analogy: a cave has been dark for countless ages, but the moment someone brings light into the cave, the darkness vanishes. In the same way, no matter how many karmic conditions we have, if we just meditate in the nature of mind and experience ultimate Bodhicitta, it does not have anything to do with our previous karma or conditions—we experience liberation. We need not look for a greater more advanced form of liberation. There is no such thing.  

If we are experiencing hatred or judgment and we are seeking for liberation in the future, that desire doesn’t help us liberate from judgment. But if we practice meditation on love and compassion then we are instantly liberated. That is nirvana too. It is a direct, spontaneous experience.  

When we are able to recognize the nature of mind, that experience is liberation. When we are able to have unconditional love towards all beings, even one moment, that experience is what we call liberation. When we are able to let go of grasping toward a certain state of our klesha (habitual tendencies/defilements), that is liberation, too. Liberation always happens in each of us. When we are able to transcend our fear of death and impermanence, that state of our mind is what we call liberation. When we are attached to something, any object or phenomena, in one moment we say, “I am going to let go of that attachment.” In that moment we experience nirvana. When we are able to open our heart and embrace our lives and all beings without limitation, in a vast and spacious way, that is liberation.  

Liberation does not come without challenges. It is all right if we fall back into our old habits of hope and fear. Every time we cut through attachment there is liberation. The perfect meditation does not have to be always completely perfect. We may think it is a static state of our minds without any more challenges. But actually, the perfect meditation can be associated with passions and habits and so on, because we can apply meditation as a way to cut through attachment. So meditation is the act of practicing liberating oneself by cutting through our grasping to kleshas (tendencies) as being real.

Source: Used with permission from