Moksha in English means salvation. Hindus believe in the doctrine of karma. According to this doctrine, there are four aims in life, namely dharma (duty), Artha (wealth), kama (desire), and moksha (salvation). Each is equally important. But moksha is the ultimate ideal of human life (purushartha).
If one attains Moksha, one is set free from the eternal cycle of birth and rebirth. It is therefore imperative for all human beings to try and achieve moksha.
Good deeds, pious feelings, and living your life according to the ideals of dharma can help you attain moksha. This article delves deep into the concept of moksha as expressed in Hindu philosophy and explicates how to attain it.
What is Moksha?
It is in the Vedas itself that we come to hear about moksha, meaning salvation. The concept of Moksha emerges from the concept of purushartha.
Purush here refers to the primal man, who is the source of the universe. Scholars believe that this purush is not gender-specific and can include both men and women.
Artha means the purpose or aim of life. Therefore purushartha refers to the aims in life. We all must design our lives in such a way that we fulfill our purushartha. The better we fulfill our aims of life, the higher are the chances of attaining moksha.
Attaining Moksha or salvation is important for liberating the soul from the eternal cycle of birth and rebirth. Since our soul is eternal and never dies, it simply passes on to another body.
The Bhagavad Gita states that just like a man sheds off its old clothes and wears new ones, so does the soul. It simply casts off an old body and enters a new one. This continues until one is liberated from the cycle of birth and rebirth and attains moksha.
What is Moksha in Hinduism?
The concept of moksha is closely intertwined with the concept of the soul and the theory of karma. To understand moksha in Hinduism, we must understand the concept of the soul well.
The concept of the soul is present in several other religions in the world, apart from Hinduism. However, the concept of soul significantly differs from one tradition to another.
In Judaism and Christianity, only human beings have immortal souls. Animals and other creatures don’t. In Hinduism, however, the soul is everywhere. From the tiniest of the insects to the largest of the mammals, the soul is omnipresent.
Further, Hinduism believes that soul transmigrates. In other words, the soul travels from one body to another. The soul cannot be killed, burnt, or wounded. It is neither born nor does it die. It simply travels from one body to another.
The transmigration of the soul is also associated with the concept of moksha closely. Transmigration of the soul is common to many philosophies around the world.
In several tribal cultures, the soul is believed to migrate from one body to another. The souls of ancestors are believed to be reincarnated in the forms of infants or even animals.
The condition of the soul and the quality of the rebirth is determined by the cumulative total of your past karma (deeds).
If your good deeds outweigh your bad ones, then the soul is liberated from the eternal cycle of birth and rebirth. This liberation or salvation is called moksha.
What are the other names of Moksha?
Since the concept of Moksha is common to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, it is known by various names such as vimoksha, vimukti and mukti.
In Buddhism, more emphasis is placed on enlightenment (nirvana) rather than salvation (moksha). Salvation is the responsibility of the individual soul.
Unlike Christianity, where Jesus is the saviour who helps your soul to achieve salvation, in Buddhism, salvation is achieved through self-restraint and discipline, along with meditation.
Moksha or mokkha (as it is called in Prakrit, the language of Jain texts) is the ultimate aim of human life. In fact, as per Jainism, it is the only aim of human life worth having.
All other aims are subservient to it. Once the soul achieves nirvana (salvation), it attains its true and pristine nature of bliss. One is released from the cycle of birth and rebirth of samsara or the material world. A liberated soul is called Siddha.
In Sikhism, the concept of salvation is known as Mukti. However, it is not as important as the devotion one has towards God. Guru Granth Sahib, the canonical text of the Sikhs, states, “I desire neither worldly power, nor liberation, I desire nothing except for seeing the Lord.”
Guru Nanak, the most important of the Sikh preachers and the founder of the Sikh religion, recommends Naam Simran (vocal singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib) as the way to achieve nirvana.
The concept of salvation in Christianity is complex, as various denominations within the Christian community understand it differently. In Christianity, salvation is also known as redemption or liberation.
In Christianity, not just the question of salvation, but how one partakes in this quest of salvation, through faith, baptism, and obedience to Christian doctrines, is also important.
Like Christianity, Judaism’s concept of salvation is closely related to redemption. It is a saving from the state or the conditions that destroy the value of human life.
Salvation is achieved through a union with God. God as the source of salvation is the ultimate repository of the liberation of the human soul.
Uniquely in Taoism, the concept of salvation exists through a negation. It believes that there is nothing in this world from which you need to be saved.
Unlike other religions, which sees the human world as a source of misery, from which one needs saving, Taoism believes in achieving perfect harmony with the universe in which one is living. If one achieves that, then perfect happiness is attained.
In Islam, the concept of salvation is much simpler than other religions. Salvation simply means the ability to enter paradise. Those who die disbelieving in God do not attain salvation. However, those who believe in one true God (Allah) and his message (Islam) attain Paradise (Jannat).
What are the two stages of Moksha?
The Vedantic school of philosophy divides moksha into two stages: Jivanmukti (liberation in this life) and videhamukti (liberation after death).
In Advaita Vedanta philosophy, a jivanmukta has attained a deep realisation of his sense of self and that of the universe.
Therefore, a jivanmukta is also called Atma Jnani (one who possesses the knowledge of his self) and Brahma Jnani (one who has attained the sense of the universe). At the end of their lives, jivanmuktas attain paramukti (final liberation).
When a Jivanmukta person teaches about the knowledge of self and the universe to others, then he is called Avadhuta. Some Avadhutas achieve the title of Paramhamsa (enlightened).
On the other hand, this Jivanmukti is different from the concept of Videhamukti (literally meaning liberation from the body or liberation after death).
This means that the soul has been freed from samsara or the cycle of birth and rebirth and attained moksha or liberation.
Both the Vedantic and the Yoga philosophical schools of Hindusim discuss the concept of liberation through these two stages of jivanmukti and videhamukti.
How do you get to Moksha?
First, you must try to detach yourself from the desires, anger, fears, and frustration of this world. This is how you can achieve liberation in this life. This paves the way for liberation from the eternal cycle of birth and rebirth in the afterlife or after death.
According to Vedantic philosophy, it is possible to achieve liberation in this life itself. One does not need to leave this world.
All one needs to do is to free oneself from the negativity of the world and acquire true knowledge of the soul (atma) and the universe (brahma).
On the other hand, there is liberation after death. This is called videhamukti or liberation after death. The soul finally frees itself from the pain and suffering and experiences infinite bliss, knowledge, and power.
A person who is jivanmukta, experiences liberation both during lifetime and after death. Therefore, he becomes Paramukta. While jivanmukta has the body, paramukta and videhamukta are without the body.
What happens when you achieve Moksha?
Achieving Moksha means detaching yourself from the materiality of existence and achieving divine bliss.
Once you achieve moksha, you find unity with the Supreme Being and free yourself from the cycle of birth and rebirth. You lose the sense of your ego and gain realization of the divine self.
Hindu philosophy believes that samsara is the source of bondage and misery. The quality of your present life is based on your past-life karma. You will reap as you sow.
Good deeds, charity, living your life according to the rules of dharma is supremely important. This ensures that your next life would be easy-going.
However, the aim in human life is always to achieve moksha or salvation, so that you can free yourself from the misery of birth and rebirth. Once you achieve moksha, you break the cycle of birth and rebirth and attain true knowledge of the self and divine bliss.
After attaining moksha, the soul loses its impermanent, gender-linked body and enters Vaikuntha or Moksha Loka or the liberated world. This is the ultimate realm of Lord Vishnu.
Vaishnava texts define the Moksha Loka or the liberated space as the highest region beyond darkness and the cycle of birth and rebirth.
In Vaikuntha, Lord Vishnu resides with his consort Lakshmi or Sri. This is the place of ultimate bliss and Vaishnava texts define Vaikuntha in glowing terms, where residents in their divine bodies float around.
No soul ever returns once it reaches Vaikuntha or attains Moksha. It is impossible to physically travel to Vaikuntha. One can only travel to Vaikuntha or the Moksha land through the liberation of the spirit.
Is Moksha a Nirvana?
While Moksha as a philosophy is common to Hinduism, Nirvana, on the other hand, is common to Buddhism. Both of them mean the salvation or liberation of achieving a state of enlightenment.
However, there are subtle differences between the two. Nirvana or enlightenment is also called Nibbana in Pali, the language of the Buddhist texts.
Nirvana is the ultimate aim of human life in Buddhism. It comes from the core philosophy of Buddhism, which is based on the fourfold truths. There is dukkha or misery in this world.
These miseries have causes. But there can be liberation from these dukkas. Following a path of righteousness leads to a cessation of dukka and helps you attain liberation or Nirvana.
The noble eight-fold path of Buddhism includes the right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration, and right mindfulness.
Therefore, in Buddhism, Nirvana has more to do with attaining enlightenment or the right kind of knowledge than simply liberation of the soul.
However, the liberation of the soul entirely depends on the believers. A person can achieve Nirvana through self-discipline and practicing the noble eightfold path.
This article explicated ‘Moksha’ meaning and took a detailed look at how to achieve Moksha or how to attain Moksha. We began by asking, what is Moksha?
Moksha in English, we saw, means salvation or liberation of the soul. Moksha is a central concept of Hinduism, which refers to the freedom the soul achieves when it is finally liberated from the cycle of life and death.
In Hinduism, Moksha can be achieved through good karma. When your good deeds or karma outweigh your bad ones, your soul is finally liberated and experiences eternal joy and knowledge of the divine.
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From lifestyle management to dedicated forums for girls and youth, ISKCON Dwarka’s long list of activities has helped people immensely to find the true meaning of their lives.