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In 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, the cycle of death and rebirth or reincarnation and all of the suffering and limitation of worldly existence. In Hindu philosophy, it is seen as a transcendence of phenomenal being, a state of higher consciousness, in which matter, energy, time, space, causation (karma) and the other features of empirical reality are understood as maya.

Liberation is experienced in this very life as a dissolution of the sense of self as an egoistic personality by which the underlying, eternal, pure spirit is uncovered. This desireless state concludes the yogic path through which conditioned mentality-materiality or nama-roopa (lit. name-form) has been dissolved uncovering one's eternal identity prior to the mind/spirit's identification with material form. Liberation is achieved by (and accompanied with) the complete stilling of all passions — a state of being known as Nirvana. Advaita Vedantist thought differs slightly from the Buddhist reading of liberation.


It is highly probable that the concept of moksha (along with karma, reincarnation, and samsara) was first developed in India by non-Aryan people outside of the caste system 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 first recorded scriptures containing these ideas in the early Upanishads.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

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According to a branch of Hindu philosophy known as Advaita Vedanta, for liberation, the individual soul or Atman is to be realized as one with the divine ground of all being, Brahman – the source of all spiritual and phenomenal existence. The self is not the body is stressed upon. The "not this, not that" (Neti Neti) method of teaching is adopted. Moksha is seen as a final release from one's worldly conception of self, the loosening of the shackle of experiential duality and a realization of one's own fundamental nature which is true being, pure consciousness and bliss (satcitananda) an experience which is ineffable and beyond sensation.[8] Advaita holds that Atman, Brahman, and Paramatman are all one and the same - the formless, attribute less Nirguna Brahman which is beyond being and non-being, beyond any sense of tangibility and comprehension.

Vaishnava sects follow one of Shuddhadvaita, Vishistadvaita, Dvaitadvaita, Dvaita, or Acintya Bheda Abheda philosophies which are all very detailed. All of them hold that the Advaita identification of Atman with Brahman results into self-realization or a state of Nirvana, but does not lead to God-realization and ultimate liberation, Moksha. All schools except Advaita see Bhakti Yoga as the highest path for Moksha. After liberation through union with God (Yoga), a soul enjoys an equal amount of Bliss as God, but individual souls do not achieve equivalence with Brahman in terms of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. In fact, all the above schools reject the Advaita notion of Jivanmukta (liberated while living) as an oxymoron, with the observation that one can be either living or liberated, but not both simultaneously.

Thus in Vaishnavism, one of the largest branches of Hinduism, Moksha involves forsaking material attractions and establishing one's existence towards loving devotional service of Vishnu (Bhagavan or God); also known by many other names such as Krishna, Rama, Narayana, etc.). The Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita emphasize and the latter even eulogizes the devotional path as the best for achieving Moksha, through practice of Bhakti Yoga and Prapatti (surrender to God). On the other hand, works of the non-dualistic Hindu school, Advaita Vedanta or Brahmavada has a doctrinal position similar to Buddhism, but the founder has provided commentaries on the Upanishads in order to establish the absolute position.

* In Dvaita (dualist monism) 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 Advaita philosophy, the ultimate truth is not a singular Godhead, per se, but rather is oneness without form or being, something that essentially is without manifestation, personality, or activity. Moksha is union with this oneness. The concepts of impersonal Moksha and Buddhist Nirvana are comparable. Indeed, there is much overlap in their views of higher consciousness and attainment of enlightenment.

In Nastik religions such as Jainism and Buddhism, Moksha is a union with all that is, regardless of whether there is a God or not. After Nirvana, one obtains Moksha. The Nirvana of Hinduism is Brahma-Nirvana meaning that it will lead to God.

[edit] Means to achieve Moksha

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. Today, the two major schools of thought are Advaita Vedanta and Bhakti branches.

1. Bhakti sees God as the most worshippable object of love, for example, a personified monotheistic conception of Shiva or Vishnu. Unlike Abrahamic traditions, Smartha 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 loose their illusory sense of separation and only One beyond all names remains.
2. Vedanta finds itself split threefold, though the dualist and modified non-dualist schools are primarily associated with the foregoing thought of Bhakti. The most famous today is Advaita Vedanta, a non-dual (i.e. no separation between the individual and reality/God/etc.) perspective which often played the role of Hindu foil to contemporary Buddhist philosophy. In general, it focused on intense meditation and moral realignment, its bedrock being the Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and the teachings of its putative founder, Adi Shankara. Through discernment of the real and the unreal, as a peeling of the layers of an onion, the sadhak (practitioner) would unravel the maya (illusion) of being and the cosmos to find nothing within, a nothingness which was paradoxically being, and transcendentally beyond both such inadequate descriptions. This 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 with the idea that such worship is ultimately abandoned - both the worshiped and worshiper lose their individual identities.

One must achieve Moksha on his or her own under the guidance of a Guru. A Guru or a Siddha inspires but does not intervene.

[edit] Components of Moksha

In the state of Moksha or Mukti, lies ultimate peace (Shanti), ultimate knowledge (Videh), and ultimate enlightenment (Kaivalya). Paradise (Swarga) is believed to be a place of temporal attractions to be avoided by the seeker in order to pursue the ultimate goal of yoking up 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.

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[edit] Buddhism

Main article: Nirvana

In Buddhism the concept of liberation is Nirvana. It is referred to as "the highest happiness" and is the goal of the Buddhist path.

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Main article: Moksa (Jainism)

In Jainism, Moksa and Nirvana (Jainism) are not the same. Nirvana is when the soul is passed from one body to another. 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).

In Jainism, attaining Moksa requires annihilation of all karmas, good and bad; because if karma is left, it must bear fruit.