Moksha otherwise called Mukti, Kaivalya, Jivanmukti, Apavarga etc is usually interpreted as an enlightened state liberated from cycles of birth and death. This state is also seen as self-realised or god-realised.
To appreciate Moksha, we need to understand life. Life flows through ups and downs – we spend a lot of time managing problems on a daily basis. What are we hunting for in life? Where does all the achievements lead us to? Deeper analysis will reveal that, a feeling or emotion of happiness is what we go after. In Bhagavad Gita, Krishna describes this life driven by Raga and Dvesha: attraction to things that bring happiness and staying away from things that brings sadness. This is programmed and very natural, so every one behaves the same way. No choice in this for us and hence no need to judge ourselves because of this.
The cycle of birth and death is called Samsara. Why should we break this circle and seek liberation from it? Life brings not only moments of unhappiness, but also brings happiness. Ups and downs of life moderates our expectations. So it is good to be reborn, so that we can enjoy more in life. Kings of ancient India had enough stability and security, so they could share what they had for others well-being. In such a life, why should we seek liberation? In fact, there is no need to seek Moksha, as we all have learned to manage our life and we look forward to a better life in the future.
Then why do we have the concept of moksha in the Vedic texts?
Let’s go into it. Vedic texts talk about two types of people and their respective lifestyles (Bhagavad Gita, 3.3). The first type is active people who seek success, enjoyment and life aligned with ethical principles. Hinduism is rooted in this principle – it is normal to pursue any pleasure as long as ethics are not compromised. Ethics which is termed as Dharma in our scriptures and is the basis for a successful life. Texts like Ramayana, Mahabharata etc extol these principles through stories of great men and women.
The second type is contemplative people: monks (sannyasin) or renunciates or people who prefer a contemplative life or solitude. These people have dispassion towards pursuit of ethics, wealth and enjoyment. What kind of mind do they have? They live in their private world – so they get away from active society to avoid problems for others and themselves. Some are born like this, while others naturally evolve into this lifestyle. This lifestyle is not to run away from responsibilities of life or out of disappointments in living. For contemplative people, the goal is moksha, because they hardly find any meaning or purpose in the active life.
Most of us are active people, why are we still pursuing moksha? We are confused about the choices, or we lack clarity, so we mix up our goals with the goals of those who teach us about Moksha. Or we tend to believe that Moksha is the goal for all. In this state, a person tends to have guilt and conflict inside, with a part of the mind wanting to enjoy and the other side wants to drop everything. Remember, it is ok to enjoy and God has given us the organs of enjoyment for the same purpose, within the limits of Dharma.
In addition to the two life styles, there is a third category of people who appear to be active, but preferring a contemplative life. We call them karma yogi according to the Bhagavad Gita. These hybrid preferences are exceptions to a norm and an example is Arjuna or the King Janaka.
Let’s talk a little about the means to Moksha. The means to Moksha is through philosophy/knowledge/vidya/jnana, usually taught by a teacher directly through Upanishads/Vedanta or indirectly through Yoga.
What is Moksha
Moksha is a state of freedom where you realise the whole universe is not separate from oneself. In fact ‘I am the Universe’, as denoted by the Upanishad verse “Aham Brahmasmi”. There is noting separate between God or me. This is called self-realisation while living.
Contemplative people know everything is impermanent, and it bothers them. So they seek Moksha. Active people are ok with it and does not affect/bother them. They in turn enjoy the roller coaster ride.
One needs to know where you are and continue life without getting disturbed. Ishvara has given us a life of enjoyment, pleasure, money making and charitable pursuits as anugraha. Let’s live it as beautifully as we can, as a gift back to the Gods!