Within Indian religions, moksha (Sanskrit: मोक्ष mokṣa) or mukti (Sanskrit: मुक्ति), literally "release" (both from a root muc "to let loose, let go"), is the liberation from samsara and the concomitant suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and reincarnation or rebirth.
It is highly probable that the concept of moksha was first developed in India by Aryan people whose spiritual ideas greatly influenced later Indian religious thought. Buddhism and Jainism are continuations of this tradition, and the early Upanishadic movement was influenced by it. Reincarnation was likely adopted from this religious culture by Brahmin orthodoxy. Brahmins wrote the earliest recorded scriptures containing these ideas in the early Upanishads.
There are three major views on moksha from traditional Vedanta philosophy.
According to Advaita Vedanta, the attainment of liberation coincides with the realization of the unreality of 'personal self in the psyche' [ego] and the simultaneous revelation of the 'Impersonal Self' as the ever-existent Truth Brahman, the source of all spiritual and phenomenal existence. The Neti Neti ("not this alone, not that alone") method of teaching is adopted. Between sentient Awareness and insentient matter is an illusion formed in the mind. Moksha is seen as a final release from this illusion when one's worldly conception of self is erased and there takes place a loosening of the shackle of experiential duality, accompanied by the realization of one's own fundamental nature: sat (true being), cit (pure consciousness), and ananda, an experience which is ineffable and beyond sensation (see satcitananda). Advaita holds that Atman, Brahman, and Paramatman are all one and the same - the formless Nirguna Brahman which is beyond the being/non-being distinction, tangibility, and comprehension.
In Dvaita (dualism) and Vishistadvaita (qualified monism) schools of Vaishnava traditions, moksha is defined as the loving, eternal union with God (Ishvara) and considered the highest perfection of existence. The bhakta (devotee) attains the abode of the Supreme Lord in a perfected state but maintains his or her individual identity, with a spiritual form, personality, tastes, pastimes, and so on.
In Hinduism, atma-jnana (self-realization) is the key to obtaining moksha. The Hindu is one who practices one or more forms of Yoga - Bhakti, Karma, Jnana, Raja - knowing that God is unlimited and exists in many different forms, both personal and impersonal.
There are believed to be four Yogas (disciplines) or margas (paths) for the attainment of moksha. These are: working for the Supreme (Karma Yoga), realizing the Supreme (Jnana Yoga), meditating on the Supreme (Raja Yoga) and serving the Supreme in loving devotion (Bhakti Yoga). Different schools of Hinduism place varying emphasis on one path or other, some of the most famous being the tantric and yogic practices developed in Hinduism.
Vedanta approaches are split between strict non-duality (advaita), non-duality with qualifications (such as vishishtadvaita), and duality (dvaita). The central means to moksha advocated in these three branches vary.
- Advaita Vedanta emphasizes Jnana Yoga as the ultimate means of achieving moksha, and other yogas (such as Bhakti Yoga) are means to the knowledge, by which moksha is achieved. It focuses on the knowledge of Brahman provided by traditional vedanta literature and the teachings of its founder, Adi Shankara. Through discernment of the real and the unreal, the sadhak (practitioner) would unravel the maya and come to an understanding that the observable world is unreal and impermanent, and that consciousness is the only true existence. This intellectual understanding was moksha, this was atman and Brahman realized as the substance and void of existential duality. The impersonalist schools of Hinduism also worship various deities, but only as a means of coming to this understanding - both the worshiped and worshiper lose their individual identities.
- Non-dualist schools sees God as the most worshippable object of love, for example, a personified monotheistic conception of Shiva or Vishnu. Unlike Abrahamic traditions, Advaita/Hinduism does not prevent worship of other aspects of God, as they are all seen as rays from a single source. The concept is essentially of devotional service in love, since the ideal nature of being is seen as that of harmony, euphony, its manifest essence being love. By immersing oneself in the love of God, one's karmas (good or bad, regardless) slough off, one's illusions about beings decay and 'truth' is soon known and lived. Both the worshiped and worshiper gradually lose their illusory sense of separation and only One beyond all names remains.
Paradise (svarga) is believed to be a place of temporal attractions to be avoided by the seeker to pursue the ultimate goal of union / yoking with God through Yoga. In fact, even acquiring intermediate spiritual powers (siddhis) is to be avoided as they can turn out to be stumbling blocks in the path towards ultimate liberation, mukti. The Bhagavad Gita says that it is impossible to get out of Moksha once achieved. The Blessed Lord states:
"Because you trust me, Arjuna, I will tell you what wisdom is, the secret of life: Know it and be free of suffering forever."—Bhagavad Gita, chapter 9, verse 1
In Buddhism the concept of liberation is Nirvana (Mahaparinirmana). It is referred to as "the highest happiness" and is the goal of the Theravada-Buddhist path, while in the Mahayana it is seen as a secondary effect of becoming a fully enlightened Buddha (Samyaksambuddha).
In Jainism, moksa and nirvana are one and the same. When a soul (atman) achieves moksa, it is released from the cycle of births and deaths, and achieves its pure self. It then becomes a siddha (literally means one who has accomplished his ultimate objective). Attaining Moksa requires annihilation of all karmas, good and bad, because if karma is left, it must bear fruit.
The Sikh concept of mukti (moksha) is essentially that of jivan mukti, the one attainable in one’s lifetime itself. Sikhism rejects the idea of considering renunciation as the vesture of a jivan mukta. Contrast with it, for example, the Jain view according to which “The liberated persons… have to lead a mendicant’s life, for, otherwise, they cannot keep themselves free from karma” (G. N. Joshi: Atman and Mokhsa. Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, 1965, p. 260).
Jivan mukti itself brings one to the brink of videha mukti (incorporeal emancipation) which is freedom not from the present body, but from any corporeal state hereafter. It spells for the mukta a final cessation of the weals and woes of the cycle of birth-death-birth (janam-maran). This ultimate mukti is a continuation of jivan mukti, going on after the shedding away of the corporeal frame to the final absorption into the One Absolute—the blending of light with Light (joti jot samana).
The Sikh mukti is positive concept in two important ways. First it stands for the realization of the ultimate Reality, a real enlightenment (jnana). The mukta is not just free from this or that, he is the master of sense and self, fearless (nirbhai) and devoid of rancor (nirvair), upright yet humble, treating all creatures as if they were he himself, wanting nothing, clinging to nothing.
In Sikhism, one rises from the life of do’s and don'ts to that of perfection — a state of "at-one-ment" with the All-self. Secondly, the mukta is not just a friend for all, he even strives for their freedom as well. He no longer lives for himself, he lives for others.
- ^ "This confirms that the doctrine of transmigration is non-aryan and was accepted by non-vedics like Ajivikism, Jainism and Buddhism. The Indo-aryans have borrowed the theory of re-birth after coming in contact with the aboriginal inhabitants of India. Certainly Jainism and non-vedics [..] accepted the doctrine of rebirth as supreme postulate or article of faith." Masih, page 37.}}
- ^ Karel Werner, The Longhaired Sage in The Yogi and the Mystic. Karel Werner, ed., Curzon Press, 1989, page 34. "Rahurkar speaks of them as belonging to two distinct 'cultural strands' ... Wayman also found evidence for two distinct approaches to the spiritual dimension in ancient India and calls them the traditions of 'truth and silence.' He traces them particularly in the older Upanishads, in early Buddhism, and in some later literature."
- ^ Gavin D. Flood (1996), An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge University - Press : UK ISBN 0521438780 - “The origin and doctrine of Karma and Sansara are obscure. These concepts were certainly circulating amongst sramanas, and Jainism and Buddhism developed specific and sophisticated ideas about the process of transmigration. It is very possible that the karmas and reincarnation entered the mainstream brahaminical thought from the sramana or the renouncer traditions.” Page 86.
- ^ Padmanabh S. Jaini 2001 “Collected Paper on Buddhist Studies” Motilal Banarsidass Publ 576 pages ISBN 8120817761: "Yajnavalkya’s reluctance and manner in expounding the doctrine of karma in the assembly of Janaka (a reluctance not shown on any other occasion) can perhaps be explained by the assumption that it was, like that of the transmigration of soul, of non-brahmanical origin. In view of the fact that this doctrine is emblazoned on almost every page of sramana scriptures, it is highly probable that it was derived from them." Page 51.
- ^ Govind Chandra Pande, (1994) Life and Thought of Sankaracarya, Motilal Banarsidass ISBN 8120811046 : Early Upanishad thinkers like Yajnavalkya were acquainted with the sramanic thinking and tried to incorporate these ideals of Karma, Samsara and Moksa into the vedic thought implying a disparagement of the vedic ritualism and recognising the mendicancy as an ideal. Page 135.
- ^ A History of Yoga By Vivian Worthington 1982 Routledge ISBN 071009258X - "The Upanishads were like a breath of fresh air blowing through the stuffy corridors of power of the vedic brahminism. They were noticed by the Brahmin establishment because the yogis did not owe allegiance to any established religion or mode of thought.. So although, the Upanishads came to be noticed by Brahmin establishment, they were very largely saying what may well have been current among other sramanic groups at that time. It can be said that this atheistic doctrine was evidently very acceptable to the authors of Upanishads, who made use of many of its concepts." Page 27.
- ^ A History of Yoga By Vivian Worthington 1982 Routledge ISBN 071009258X: "The idea of re-incarnation, so central to the older sramanic creeds is still new to many people throughout the world. The Aryans of the Vedic age knew nothing of it. When the Brahmins began to accept it, they declared it as a secret doctrine. […] It will be seen from this short account of Jains, that they had fully developed the ideas of karma and reincarnation very early in history. The earliest Upanishads were probably strongly influenced by their teachings. Jainism the religion, Samkhya the philosophy and yoga the way to self discipline and enlightenment dominated the spiritual life of Indian during the Dravidian times. They were to be overshadowed for over thousand years by the lower form of religion that was foisted on the local inhabitants by the invading Aryans, but in the end it was Sramanic disciplines that triumphed. They did so by surviving in their own right and by their ideas being fully adopted by the Brahmins who steadily modified their own vedic religion." Page 35.
- ^ "The sudden appearance of this theory [of karma] in a full-fledged form is likely to be due, as already pointed out, to an impact of the wandering muni-and-shramana-cult, coming down from the pre-Vedic non-Aryan time." Kashi Nath Upadhyaya, Early Buddhism and the Bhagavadgita. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1998, page 76.
- ^ Brodd, Jefferey (2003). World Religions. Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press. ISBN 978-0-88489-725-5.
- ^ Anantanand Rambachan, The limits of scripture: Vivekananda's reinterpretation of the Vedas. University of Hawaii Press, 1994, pages 125, 124: .
- ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (2000). Collected Papers on Jaina Studies. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. ISBN 81-208-1691-9. : "Moksa and Nirvana are synonymous in Jainism". p.168
- ^ Michael Carrithers, Caroline Humphrey (1991) The Assembly of listeners: Jains in society Cambridge University Press. ISBN-0521365058: "Nirvana: A synonym for liberation, release, moksa." p.297
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