moksha (Sanskrit: मोक्ष mokṣa, "liberation") or mukti (Sanskrit: मुक्ति, "release") is liberation from samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth or reincarnation and all of the suffering and limitation of worldly existence. It is a state of absolute freedom, peace and bliss, attained through Self-Realization. This is the supreme goal of human endeavor, the other three being, dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth and power) and kama (sense-pleasure). It is seen as a transcendence of phenomenal being, a state of higher consciousness, in which matter, energy, time, space, karma (causation) and the other features of empirical reality are understood as maya.
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 satchidānanda (bliss) an experience which is ineffable and beyond sensation. According to Advaita Vedanta, at liberation the individual atman (or the Self) is realized to be one with the Ground of all being — the Source of all phenomenal existence known as Brahman. The self-as-individual is realized to have never existed. In other dvaita traditions it is held that the identification between the liberated human being and God is not total but there is always some distinction between the two. In Vaishnava, Moksha involves forsaking everything material and establishing one's existence as a purely devoted servant of Vishnu (bhagavan or God; also known by many other names such as Krishna, Rama, narayana, etc.). Some Hindu scriptures emphasize this devotional conception of Moksha, which is achieved through the practice of Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of worship) or Prapatti (surrender). On the other hand, works of the non-dualistic Hindu school, Advaita Vedanta or Brahmavada whose doctrinal position is derived from the Upanishads, say that the Self or Super-Soul is formless, beyond being and non-being, beyond any sense of tangibility and comprehension.
- In dvaita-advaita (dualist) and qualified advaitic schools of the personal Vaishnava traditions, Moksha is defined as the loving, eternal union with Ishvara (God) and considered the highest perfection of existence. The bhakta (devotee) attains the abode of his 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 Nastika 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.
Means to achieve Moksha
Atma-jnana (self-realization) is the key to obtaining Moksha. The Hindu is one who practices karma and bhakti, knowing that Brahman (Absolute 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: Karma Yoga (working for the Supreme), Jnana Yoga (realizing the Supreme), Raja Yoga (meditating on the Supreme) and Bhakti Yoga (serving the Supreme in loving devotion). 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.
- bhakti sees God as the most worshippable object of love, for example, a personified monotheistic conception of Shiva or Vishnu. Unlike in Abrahamic traditions or Vaishnava, Smartha 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.
- 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 Sankaracharya. Through discernment of the real and the unreal, as a peeling of the layers of an onion, the sadhaka (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.
Moksha in the sacred Hindu temple dance, as in the classical Indian dance too, is symbolized by Shiva raising his right leg, as if freeing himself from the gravitation of the material world.
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