Moksha in the Hindu Tradition

The idea of moksha has become unique to Indian thought and culture, but still remains somewhat difficult to comprehend through the methods of western analytical philosophy. The misconception that moksha implies an escape from reality is a common one. This happens if we are working within a predominantly Christian lexis. The Vedas and the Upanishads make us understand that as long as we live in this world we must be guided by our dharma, which is a moral principle of the universe, but once we discharge our dharma we should seek the celestial world where moksha becomes the guiding star. 

The Sanskrit word moksha is perhaps central to Hindu philosophy. It can be roughly translated as salvation but it does not really imply that. Moksha has far greater complexity than the word salvation connotes. Also moksha differs from the tantric notion of amritatva (tasting the nectar of life) or spanda (primordial vibration) by uniting with the shakti of Shiva. It would be better to see moksha as mukti or release from our worldly consciousness and an entry into a state of higher consciousness.

Moksha implies liberation from rebirth in this samsara (world life cycle) and a union of the atma (individual soul) with the Brahman (world soul). This union, however, is not easy as the individual soul, filled with desire, incessantly reincarnates itself through rebirths. Even if residual desire remains, moksha is difficult to attain.

It is generally believed that moksha can be apprehended through the practice of yoga. The practice of any one of the four yogas or disciplines, namely the karma yoga, jnana yoga, raja yoga and the Bhakti yoga, can help us to realize moksha. Both Advaita Vedanta and Bhakti traditions emphasize the principle of non-duality (non- separation of individual and reality) and personified worship (god as love) respectively. One can overcome karma by realizing the self through a nirvikalpa samadhi and attain mukti (freedom) from rebirth. It is also possible to attain moksha through bhakti or love of the manifestations of Shiva, Vishnu or Ganga. If a person can attain moksha he can liberate himself from worldly sorrow and enjoy a state of high consciousness or supreme bliss. In this state he can transcend earthly phenomena and understand empirical reality such as the concept of time, space, matter, energy or karma. He can then see all these concepts as maya or illusion. The state of supreme bliss also leads to a state of nirvana where it is possible to destroy the ego or naam-roopa and reveal one's true identity. moksha is therefore not a soteriological goal and cannot be equated to the concept of salvation as represented in Greek myths or Christian theology, but dissolution of the ego where even the final goal is annihilated.

It is believed that non-Aryans first introduced the concept of moksha in the Indian tradition and this concept was incorporated in the Upanishadic traditions of caste Brahmins. The desire for moksha arises from a belief that individual self is not our body or senses (neti-neti) or any other dichotomy, not this-not that but beyond mental constructs. Our own true nature is pure consciousness. It helps us to realize true bliss (satchitananda) that functions beyond sensations, beyond the categories of heaven and earth or life and death.

Most world negating ideas make us believe that heaven affords a better place than earth for human beings to enjoy the intellectual and sensual delights. Though these delights may be more refined in heaven than earth, they nevertheless are not eternal. The pursuance of sensual delights soon tires the spirit and lead to enervation. In Indian mythology heaven is not seen as a static place. It is a world filled with evil designs of rarified beings, jealousies of gods, fights of demons, and temperamental likes and dislikes (roga dvesha). A wise and discerning person would eschew the delights of heaven and instead seek emancipation from both heaven and earth alike.

The concept of moksha, therefore, brings us squarely to the twin realities of birth and death. The desire not to be born and the desire to seek death are perhaps difficult to comprehend in a world dominated by the myth of total physical gratification in the here and now. Death is the ubiquitous reality but perhaps the most difficult to understand. All religions, all philosophies, sooner or later, must tackle the issue of death and hereafter. moksha helps to free us from the fear of death and takes us into a world beyond categories.

The logic runs quite simply. Unless we perform our worldly duties (dharma), acquire material wealth (artha) and realize desire (kama) we cannot move to the final goal that is salvation or moksha. Hinduism does not advocate a life of austerities but one of fulfillment and then final transcendence. Moksha like Hinduism is not just a belief or a concept but a way of life.   


More by :  Mukesh Williams

Top | Culture

Views: 3472      Comments: 1

Comment A very lucid analysis of a difficult subject. Thanks for sharing.

anil prasad
15-Sep-2012 23:51 PM

Name *

Email ID

Comment *
Verification Code*

Can't read? Reload

Please fill the above code for verification.