Moksa (Jainism)

Moksa (Jainism)
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Mokṣa (Sanskrit: मोक्ष, liberation) or Mokkha (Prakrit : मोक्ख ) means liberation, salvation or emancipation of soul. It is a blissful state of existence of a soul, completely free from the karmic bondage, free from samsara, the cycle of birth and death. A liberated soul is said to have attained its true and pristine nature of infinite bliss, infinite knowledge and infinite perception. Such a soul is called siddha or paramatman and considered as supreme soul or God. In Jainism, it is the highest and the noblest objective that a soul should strive to achieve. It fact, it is the only objective that a person should have; other objectives are contrary to the true nature of soul. With right faith, knowledge and efforts all souls can attain this state. That is why, Jainism is also known as mokṣamārga or the “path to liberation”.


The concept

The concept of mokṣa, presupposes an existence of infinite eternal souls, who alone are doer, enjoyer and responsible for their action. Thus, all souls are entangled in the mundane worldly activities, bound to karmas since beginningless time and transmigrating and reincarnating from one existence to another. According to Jainism, all souls can bring an end to this repeated cycle of births and deaths and attain liberation, that is mokṣa.

Description in Jain texts

Samaṇ Suttaṁ[1] contains the following description of Nirvāṇa -

  • Where there is neither pain nor pleasure, neither suffering nor obstacle, neither birth nor death, there is emancipation.(617)
  • Where there are neither sense organs, nor surprise, nor sleep, nor thirst, nor hunger, there is emancipation.(618)
  • Where there is neither Karma, nor quasi-Karma nor the worry, nor any type of thinking which is technically called Artta, Raudra, Dharma and Sukla, there is Nirvāṇa. (619)

Uttaradhyana Sutra[2] provides an account of Gautama explaining the meaning of mokṣa to Kesi, a disciple of Parsva.

There is a safe place in view of all, but difficult of approach, where there is no old age nor death, no pain nor disease. It is what is called Nirvâna, or freedom from pain, or perfection, which is in view of all; it is the safe, happy, and quiet place which the great sages reach. That is the eternal place, in view of all, but difficult of approach. Those sages who reach it are free from sorrows, they have put an end to the stream of existence. (81-4)


Mahavira's Nirvana or Moksa depicted in Kalpasutra. Note the crescent shaped Siddhashila.
Depiction of Siddha Shila as per Jain cosmology wihich is abode of infinite Siddhas.

However, from the point of view of potentiality of mokṣa, Jain texts bifurcates the souls in two categories–bhavya and abhavya. Bhavya souls are those souls who have faith in mokṣa and hence will make some efforts to achieve liberation. This potentiality or quality is called bhavyata.[3] However, bhavyata itself does not guarantee mokṣa, as the soul needs to expend necessary efforts to attain it. On the other hand abhavya souls are those souls who cannot attain liberation as they do not have faith in mokṣa and hence never make any efforts to attain it.

The concept of individuality

Jainism upholds the concept of individuality of souls, even after liberation. There are infinite living beings who have attained moksa and infinite living who have not attained mokṣa, The soul continues to maintain distinct individuality even after mokṣa. Hence, there are infinite siddhas or liberated beings existing in eternal infinite bliss.


According to Jain cosmology, Siddhasila is the place where all the siddhas i.e. the liberated beings reside. It is at the apex of the universe.

Human Birth

Moksa or liberation can be attained only in the human birth. Even the demi-gods and heavenly beings have to re-incarnate as humans and practice right faith, knowledge and conduct to achieve liberation. According to Jainism, human birth is quite rare and invaluable and hence one should make wise choices.

Milestones towards mokṣa

Image of a Siddha: the soul who attains Moksa; although the Siddhas (the liberated beings) are formless and without a body, this is how the Jain temples often depict the Siddhas.

A soul is bound by the karmas since beginningless time. The first step to achieve mokṣa is to inculcate Samyaktva or rational faith or perception.


According to Jainism, Samyak darsana (Rational Perception), Samyak Jnana (Rational Knowledge) and Samyak Caritra (Rational Conduct) collectively also known as Ratnatraya or the three Jewels of Jainism constitute true Dharma. According to Umasvati, Samyak Darsana, Jnana Caritra together constitutes mokṣamarga or the path to liberation. [4]

Samyak Darsana or rational perception is the rational faith in the true nature of every substance of the universe. [5]

Samyak Jnana or rational knowledge is the right knowledge of true and relevant knowledge of the reality, the tattvas. It incorporates the two principles of Anekantvada or non-absolutism and Syadvada or relativity of truth. Right knowledge must be free from three main defects: doubt, delusion, and indefiniteness

Samyak Caritra or rational conduct is the natural conduct of a (soul) living being. It consists in following austerities, engaging in right activities and observance of vows, carefulness and controls. [6] Once a soul secures samyaktva, mokṣa is assured within a few lifetimes.

Kevala Jnana

Kevala Jñāna, the highest form of transcendental knowledge that a samyakdristi soul can attain, also means “absolute knowledge”, “Enlightement” and “Omniscience” . Kevala is the state of isolation of the jīva from the ajīva attained through ascetic practices which burn off one's karmic residues, releasing one from bondage to the cycle of death and rebirth. Kevala Jñāna, thus means infinite knowledge of self and non-self, attained by a soul after annihilation of the all ghātiyā karmas. Such is person who has attained Kevala Jñāna is called a Kevali. He is also known as Jina (the victor) or Arhat (the worthy one) and worshipped as a god by the Jains. The soul who has reached this stage achieves mokṣa at the end of his life span, after annihilation of the aghātiyā karmas.


Nirvāṇa means final release from the karmic bondage. When an enlightened human, such as, an Arhat or a Tirthankara extinguishes his remaining aghatiya karmas and thus ends his worldly existence, it is called nirvāṇa. Technically, the death of an Arhat is called nirvāṇa of Arhat, as he has ended his wordly existence and attained liberation. Moksa, that is to say, liberation follows nirvāṇa. However, the terms moksa and nirvana are often used interchangeably in the Jain texts.[7][8] An Arhat becomes a siddha, the liberated one, after attaining nirvana.

See also


  1. ^ Varni, Jinendra; Ed. Prof. Sagarmal Jain, Translated Justice T.K. Tukol and Dr. K.K. Dixit (1993). Samaṇ Suttaṁ. New Delhi: Bhagwan Mahavir memorial Samiti. 
  2. ^ Jacobi, Hermann; Ed. F. Max Müller (1895). Uttaradhyayana Sutra, Jain Sutras Part II, Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 45. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. 
  3. ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (2000). "Chapter 5. Bhavyata and Abhavyata : A Jaina Doctrine of 'Predestination'". Collected Papers on Jaina Studies. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. ISBN 81-208-1691-9. 
  4. ^ Kuhn, Hermann (2001). Karma, The Mechanism : Create Your Own Fate. Wunstorf, Germany: Crosswind Publishing. ISBN 3-9806211-4-6. 
  5. ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (1998). The Jaina Path of Purification. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-1578-5. 
  6. ^ *Varni, Jinendra; Ed. Prof. Sagarmal Jain, Translated Justice T.K. Tukol and Dr. K.K. Dixit (1993). Samaṇ Suttaṁ. New Delhi: Bhagwan Mahavir memorial Samiti.  Verse 262 - 4
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ 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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