In most families all over the world, you'd see that when a baby is born, from the very beginning, it's taught to live life in a certain way.
"Do the right thing", "Respect people", "Study well", "Earn well", "Be responsible", these are some of the phrases you'll see being used by every parent or guardian who's raising a child.
Have you ever stopped and wondered why it happens this way?
Leading a good and true life can perhaps give you happiness and peace, but is that all?
Is there a deeper meaning behind fulfilling one's life's responsibilities and taking care of one's desires?
According to Hindu scriptures, yes, there is.
Your job in this world is not just to create a good life for yourself and others through physical and mental activities but also to choose to realize your higher consciousness.
This consciousness is the true destination of your soul. And when you keep doing the right things, your soul continues to get purified.
Until, one day, you realize you're your soul's true potential. That's the day your soul is liberated and becomes free of all the bondages of human life.
This liberation is also known as Moksha in Hinduism.
Now, let's discuss the true meaning and the most important ideas behind the concept of Moksha and the freedom of the soul.
We'll also take a look at the ways to achieve Moksha.
What is Moksha Meaning?
The Moksha definition, according to Hindu philosophy, is the liberation of the soul from the cycle of birth and death. This cycle is also called samsara.
It's common knowledge in all faiths that human beings have souls. But according to Hinduism, all beings have souls, not just humans.
Yes, everything that lives and breathes, including an amoeba, has a soul.
The plants in your garden, the bees that hum by your flowers, the bird that feeds its younglings on the branch of a tree, the neighbourhood cat, they all have souls.
And each of these breathing beings, and most importantly humans, are on this planet because their souls are going through a constant journey.
This is the journey of birth and death. It's a cycle that the soul cannot free itself from unless it attains liberation or Moksha.
So, in other words, Moksha means freedom, liberation, or salvation.
The soul is immortal. It doesn't die when a person passes away.
Rather, it weighs all the good and the bad deeds carried out by the being in their lifetime, and all their past lifetimes, and based on the cumulative effect, decides on which body to flow into next.
And it's not even necessary that the next body will be that of another human being. It can be any being.
But if, as a human, your good deeds outweigh your bad ones, your soul is more likely to go into a body with higher enlightenment.
This process continues until the time comes where the soul has only good karma, at the end of which, it achieves Moksha.
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Moksha And The Four Purusharthas
Well, so now, if you already know from the beginning that your soul's ultimate goal is to reach Moksha, can't you just skip some lives and attain that stage?
As exciting as that may sound, it's not doable.
And this is because if you're born into this world, particularly as a human, you must fulfill certain life goals before you can reach Moksha.
These life goals are known as purusharthas.
The word can be broken down into two Sanskrit words, 'Purusha' and 'Artha'. 'Purusha' means human and 'Artha' means purpose.
Going through a human life isn't easy. Sometimes you will struggle a lot.
And that's why the knowledge of these 4 purusharthas can guide you on your journey.
Interestingly, Moksha is one of the 4 purusharthas, albeit the final one.
Let's briefly see what the other three are.
The idea of Dharma is to lead a life of truth and righteousness.
Doing the right thing, helping others in need, showing love and compassion, are some of the attributes of Dharma.
By following a path of Dharma, you can maintain a sort of stability and order in your life. It makes you level-headed, prevents you from going astray, and keeps you lawful and virtuous at all times.
Artha means wealth. Well, there's no denying that we need some amount of wealth to stay alive.
The need for Artha is why most people work, although that shouldn't be the sole reason for working.
But Artha is necessary to live in the material world and to fulfill all your needs. The key is to not be greedy but only amass as much wealth as you truly need.
When gaining wealth, it's crucial to never stray from the path of your Dharma.
Kama means pleasure. And contrary to popular belief, it's not just about sensual pleasure.
Kama is anything that gives you happiness and enjoyment, such as art & literature, the company of friends, kindness & compassion, and so on.
It's important to have some kind of passion or desire because this urges you to do the right thing, which is your Dharma.
Of course, limitless Kama can ruin both your Dharma and your Artha.
4. Moksha - Balance of the Purusharthas
As we've already talked about before, Moksha is the fourth and final purushartha or life goal.
But to attain Moksha, you must go through the other three life goals first and create a perfectly harmonious relationship between them.
Moksha is the final journey of the soul. And it can only happen when you've fulfilled your other purposes of life on the earth.
Living a life of righteousness, accumulating the necessary wealth, and entertaining yourself along the way will all one day tend to cease.
That's when you start your way on the fourth purushartha, which is Moksha.
How To Achieve Moksha?
A lot of people think that Moksha can only happen when you leave this world.
While that may be true when we're talking about your soul's ultimate destination, do know that it's possible to achieve liberation during your lifetime, too.
One way to do this is through renunciation.
Once you've fulfilled your life purposes, and have seen your future generations take up the mantel, it's the best time to begin your spiritual journey.
Of course, you can also begin this journey much sooner if you wish to.
Giving up all the worldly pleasures and pains, you begin to search for your higher self.
You look for ways to guide your soul towards its goal of union with the divine consciousness.
Through this journey, you can achieve enlightenment, which is also a form of Moksha.
This is when you come to know of your true potential and are affected by neither joy nor sorrow.
This stable and unaffected state of the soul is hard to achieve, and can, of course, take more than a lifetime.
This is why we take several births before our souls can attain that final state of liberation.
What Are The Ways To Achieve Moksha?
Okay, so now you know that attaining Moksha is difficult.
But the ancient scriptures must have laid out some ways to achieve it, right?
And that's correct.
Thanks to ancient texts on yoga, we have been handed down some truly inspiring paths to obtain liberation for our souls.
Difficult, no doubt, but enlightening and inspiring.
Let's talk briefly about the four yogic paths to achieve moksha:
1. Karma Yoga
This is a path of deeds.
What you do in this life gets reflected in all your future lives.
And if Moksha is your goal, you've got to keep your actions positive and selfless.
Keep doing all the good work, show love and compassion for others, and expect nothing in return. That's what Karma Yoga is, in a nutshell.
2. Bhakti Yoga
Some Moksha seekers may choose the path of Bhakti, which means devotion. This devotion is towards the higher consciousness, wherein you surrender yourself completely to the divine love.
It may sound simple. But to practice such selfless devotion and accepting everything as the Lord's will, without question, takes a lot of effort.
This effort can only come from unconditional and constant love towards the One.
3. Raja Yoga
This is the path of meditation, of self-discipline.
By controlling the mind, meditation can help you reach that inner place of quiet where you can begin to understand your higher self.
In this path, you take up certain yogic meditation practices such as mantras and pranayamas.
When you're quite at peace with your higher self, your soul begins to unite with the divine consciousness.
And ultimately, this leads to Moksha.
4. Jnana Yoga
It's often considered to be the most difficult yogic path to reach Moksha but also the most supreme.
Jnana means knowledge and Jnana yogis devote their life to seeking that ultimate knowledge of the Eternal, the One, the Absolute.
When you begin to understand the divine consciousness for its true nature, you guide your soul towards that which is eternal, which is beyond the realms of this, or any other world.
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What Happens After Moksha?
Moksha is a state of pure divine bliss. Once you've reached that stage, you're free from the material world, its bondages, and its sufferings.
You enter into a state of enlightenment where you shed your physical self along with your ego.
All that remains is your higher self, and that too unites with the divine consciousness.
You and the divine energies then become one. Your soul then has no further requirement to be born again and get back to a physical encasement.
There will be no need to go through the life fulfillment paths again.
Your soul will reach the divine realm where there is just the divine energy, all united with your soul's energy.
This is a point of no return for your soul. And thus, the cycle of birth and death is finally broken.
Attaining Moksha may not be easy but if you aim for it, the paths are there for you to choose. Start with your mundane activities.
Remember the three purusharthas that you must always keep in balance to drive your soul into the fourth purushartha.
Aim to lead a life of compassion and unconditional love. Carry out your good deeds and don't think of the results.
And then, when you've chosen the right path to guide your soul towards its ultimate destination, know that your good deeds and balanced life goals will all add up.
If not in this life, your cumulative karma will begin to show up in your next lives too, until your soul finds a way to break through the barriers
So, the right time to enlighten yourself and aim higher for your soul's liberation is right now, in the present life that you're living.