Moksha is one of the most important concepts in Hinduism. Also called
Mukti, vimoksha, and vimukti, it is based on the belief in dukkha and samsara and
refers to the freedom from these two notions.
Before one can comprehend moksha, one first needs to understand what
both dukkha and samsara are. To put it simply and succinctly, within the Hindu
faith, dukkha is related to suffering, sorrow, or distress that one unavoidably
experiences in life. This suffering can be in the form of injury, disease, and
ageing, among others. Dukkha or suffering in life cannot be avoided but can be
overcome through personal understanding and enlightenment. On the other hand,
samsara refers to the belief in reincarnation. It pertains to the cyclical
nature of life, where one experiences birth, death, and rebirth. For Hindus,
this is a very important concept and one that is related to the idea of karma.
Hindus believe that the soul passes from one life to the next through
the process of reincarnation, where the next incarnation or form that a soul
takes on is based on one’s own actions or inactions, and the deeds that one
accomplishes throughout his or her life. This, as many know, is commonly
understood and referred to as karma. This concept underscores the belief that
one is directly responsible for the good or bad karma that he or she attains in
life and the consequences of these that will affect one’s future life and the quality of his or her existence. Moksha is then believed to be the end of this
continuous cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, which thereupon leads to the
absence of any further suffering that one would have ultimately experienced
throughout this life cycle.
Moksha comes from the Sanskrit word muc,
which means to be free, to let go, to liberate, or to release. It is a truly
vital concept in the Hindu faith. In fact, it is considered as one of the four main
goals or arthas of human life. The
other three arthas are dharma, which
means living a moral and virtuous life, artha,
which refers to one’s means in life or material security, and kama, which relates to emotional
fulfillment. These four notions are collectively referred to as Purusartha. Among the four arthas,
moksha is said to be the very transcendence and the most paramount of them all.
The concept of Moksha does not solely mean the end of the cycle of
samsara but it means one’s actual liberation and emancipation from it. Moksha
is not only believed by Hindus but it is a concept of freedom and liberation
that also exists within Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and other religious faiths.
In Buddhism, it is often closely associated with the concept of nirvana.
However, many highlight the fact that there are distinct differences between
moksha and nirvana.
Different schools of Hinduism have varying beliefs on whether one can
achieve moksha during one’s current life or only after it. The Samskya and Yoga
schools of Hinduism are among those which assert that moksha can be achieved
during the current life. On the other hand, the Nyaya, Vaisesika, and Mimamsa
schools, among others, contradict this and argue that moksha is only possible
after death. Apart from varying views on when one can achieve moksha, there are
also varying philosophies on how it can actually be achieved.
Some Hindus believe that moksha can be achieved through natural self-discipline.
This type of discipline is said to be so natural and perfect that it is already
sub-conscious and is akin to the practice of dharma. Therefore, the dharma itself,
the act of living a virtuous path, and ethical actions are the means to
attaining moksha. Other schools of Hinduism give emphasis on love and
veneration of God as the means to moksha. It is also claimed that moksha is the
existence of the state of paripurna-brahmanubhava, where one experiences complete harmony and unity with Brahma.
Moksha in Visishtadvaita Philosophy
Whether or not moksha can actually be attained in the present life or
only after death, and whichever precise path one follows in order to reach it,
there is little debate on the belief that moksha refers to the end of samsara,
the spirit’s liberation from it, and the state of perfection. It is described
as a blissful state where there can no longer be any change and certainly no
further reincarnations. It is the ultimate goal of all Hindus to gain knowledge
of one’s true self, attain personal enlightenment, and consequently, achieve moksha.
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