Jivan-mukta or a person on a liberated platform is seen with different understanding from the standpoint of each of Ashtanga Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. A person who stands liberated even while being functional in the body can only be a devotee, not a person from the Ashtanga or Jnana Yoga marga. One needs to understand the meaning of bondage so that one is able to decipher the meaning of liberation from that. Bondage means one who is afflicted by the 3 modes of material nature namely by the mode of goodness, passion and ignorance respectively. This mode of material nature is “prakriti” hence external. In the true sense one’s internal nature is composed of swarupa and in the truest of sense, a living entity is not bound by “swarupa” or internal nature. However because of external influences, one’s identification with things external causes disturbance in the internal nature and thus a temporary condition of bondage arises.
Improper or incomplete knowledge is the root cause of Ignorance and bondage is caused by such ignorance only. One is relieved immediately of ignorance when one takes up to devotional activities with a devotional mentality. Devotional life truly begins with sraddha, which is having trust in the words of the Shastras and the words of the Guru. When one accepts Guru and takes Deeksha, one is introduced to Guru-seva or serving Guru discounting all of one’s own interests and inclinations. Guru-Seva is a like a sword that cuts asunder the knots of bondage. This simply means that one soon realizes that all this bondage which binds one to family, place of work, dependence on money, insecurity and all such things never existed. This is because there is an ultimate realization of the Lord controlling all these aspects. The Lord is the benefactor of especially one who is truly surrendered. All of such a surrendered jeeva’s needs are the worry of the Lord, the jeeva simply need not worry and hence the liberated state is experienced by a perfectly surrendered jeeva. One will realize that it was simply one’s imagination of one’s bondage that caused the actual bondage. In reality bondage is just a mirage that never existed. Such a person is liberated. In a liberated stage, the person completely understands one mind and does not comply with the whims and fancies of the otherwise contaminated mind. One who has turned inward makes the mind an object of study; one can easily understand the movement of mind whether it is on the path of pleasing the senses or on the path of dedicated service to the Lord. A Jivan-mukta is only interested in obeying Guru, rendering unadulterated service, does not identify oneself with selfish desires, even though he still remains fully operational in the body. Liberation is not freedom from pain of the body, it is not that one becomes hard-hearted or does not have feelings once liberated. Liberation or Bondage is just a matter of consciousness. Being liberated does not give one any mystical powers as those following other forms of Yoga believe. Liberation simply is synonymous with Uttama Bhakti. Liberation indicates that the motive is to only serve Guru and Bhagawan with not the least interest in sense pleasure. For one who is liberated it means that one is now totally dependent on Bhagawan, that his consciousness is transfixed with Bhagawan.
One who surrenders properly to a Guru is immediately liberated, because he is no longer subject to the cause of Avidya or ignorance. In the example of Sri Parikshit Maharaj drinking the nectar of Bhagavatham from the Lotus mouth of Sri Sukadeva Goswami, Parikshit Maharaj had no care for day or night and was not bothered about thirst or hunger. He was the same one who could not control his thirst and lay a dead snake around the neck of a Rishi who failed to offer respects to the king on account of being absorbed in meditation. As soon as Parikshit surrendered to Sri Sukadeva the pangs of material nature could not disturb him.