By mere knowledge that I—the letter with which I refer to myself ordinarily in mundane day-to-day conversations—am a liberated singular being, without a second force to contend, makes me a jivan mukta purusha.
What are the characteristics and qualities of a jivan mukta? The Tattwa Bodha by Sri Adisankaracharyaji gives a clear definition to serve as a guideline for our understanding. We often function with the thought that we are this body. That is the reason we say I am thin, I am fat, I am tall or short. Then we have a certain thought that we are either a man or woman. That knowledge does not fail us and we wake up with it every morning, without a doubt. Not a moment we forget this. We also identify ourselves with our specific caste—a Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. We don’t go to sleep one day being a Kshatriya and wake up being a Vaishya or a Brahmana.
These four names need a little clarification as they are shrouded in much mystery and confusion. A Brahmana is one who is basically a thinker and spends his time in learning, teaching and praying. A Kshatriya is a protector and fierce warrior. A Vaishya is one who does trade, business, farming and animal husbandry. A Shudra is one who works hard and labours putting his full physical energy in the activity at hand.
This is a general classification of mankind and not particular only to India. In every part of the world, community and culture, we have these four groups. There is no country on the planet which does not have people who plan and think, people who execute, people who trade and those who serve.
Whatever is the nature of our job, we have a very clear identity with it. A doctor does not forget he is a doctor and an engineer does not think that he is a lawyer. In the same way, with the same strong conviction, the liberated being called the jivan mukta has no doubt in his understanding that he is the all-pervading supreme consciousness. He knows for sure that he is thoroughly unattached to any quality, name, trade, position or relationship.
He knows very clearly and uninterruptedly that he is the one existence, his true nature is consciousness and that consciousness alone is the source of all bliss. That consciousness expresses through himself as the light of knowledge. That consciousness, which is himself, is present in all beings of the nature of conscious space. All this he knows not with a shaky feeling of doubt, but as a clear knowledge like knowing one’s name and gender. The knowledge is certain and interior to his personality. Such is the nature of a jivan mukta.