Author: Randeep Singh / go to all articles on Yoga Concepts
Meaning of Moksha, Liberation from the cycle of Rebirths
The word Moksha is derived from the
verb ‘Mucha’ which means ‘ to get rid of’,
or ‘to be relieved or liberated from’.
Conventionally it is used for getting liberated
from cycles of birth and death.
Indian philosophers believe in
the theory of Karma,
which states that everyone has to undergo a series of lives and deaths.
Depending on the actions (karma) in one’s past lives and fruits of these actions one is born either as a human being or a lower species.
Following death, one goes to heaven or hell depending on whether his actions were good or bad. After being in heaven or hell for a period depending on the credit due to oneself as per one’s actions one is reborn. Birth in a good or rich family with good physique and a sound mind or otherwise also depends on the fruits of actions of one’s past lives.
Moksha – Why should one believe in Rebirth?
For every event that takes place in the universe there is always a cause and an effect. Nothing happens (effect) without a cause. This concept is what explains the difference between rich and poor, beautiful and ugly, and good and bad in the universe.
Good or bad karmas – actions – are the cause and the circumstances one is born are its effect. It is believed that it is one’s own karma ( karma theory is vital to understanding the concept of Moksha) in the past lives which is responsible for birth in a good or bad family.
Ascribing the difference between the circumstances of the lives of different people to nature of God will make these two entities look partial to some beings than others, which cannot be explained.
Every action has its own reactions. Depending upon the nature of the action, the fruits will be good or bad. The one responsible for the action – karma – naturally has to reap what one has sown.
Normally one enjoys the fruits of most of one’s actions, good or bad, in the same life time only. The one who always helps others is respected and loved by people whereas a thief is despised by all.
However, one often comes across instances where one continuously experiences mishap and miseries inspite of one’s good deeds, religious disposition, and helping nature. On the other hand one can see another person enjoying all the worldly pleasures throughout his life inspite of being sinful and wicked.
What is the explanation about these sinful individuals who seem to be escaping the consequences of their actions? it is important to realize that even in normal life the benefits are not enjoyed immediately after the action e.g. a student studies very hard for years to get a degree so that he can earn money.
Even after getting a degree he may remain unemployed for years, or he may not get the rewards due to him for years. Perhaps he may enjoy it only in the next life.
There are instances all over the world where people and children have memories of their past lives and when they were taken to the place they carries the memory of had identified their past wives, children, house etc. One may naturally wonder, if that is so, then why not all of us remember our past lives so vividly.
The memories of people in general, of their present life, is short lived by nature, memories surfacing from the past life has to do with the potency of the samskaras – impressions of the actions, desires on the subconscious mind – which remain imprinted over the subtle body which gets carried to the person’s next life.
All of us have some natural aptitudes and likings. There are instances where a child could play violin in a masterly manner at the age of 4 years, Shankaracharya could explain Vedas at the age of 5 years.
On the other hand one’s whole life is not enough to have mastery over even on a single subject. Similarly, one occasionally comes across twin brothers living together under the same conditions but behaving in a different manner from each other, One man behave like a thorough gentleman and the other may be a rogue.
These natural aptitudes and qualities of mind which are seen in young children without any training may be explained on the basis of our likes, desires, and trainings undergone in the past lives.
Why should One aim at Liberation?
One may feel that it is better to enjoy a series of lives when the world is tempting and life enjoyable. Life however represents a series of pleasurable and painful, happy and sorrowful events. Usually the happy moments are few and far between. One has to look out and search for them.
We at our yoga retreat at Shahzadpur ask our campers to come up with at least ten positive, happy events of the previous day every morning before we start the day, an exercise to boost positive thinking. Almost all of them struggle to muster up even 8 such happy moments, this is degree to which the mind is habituated to dwell in negativity.
On the other hand unhappy and stressful situation are the order of each day. Disease, old age, and ultimately death represent the most severe agonies and are unavoidable. Even Samkhya Philosophy took birth from the quest to find solution to the three main sufferings of human life. The only solution as provided by Samkhya or Yoga philosophies along with others is to get out of the incessant cycles of lives and deaths, or attain Moksha in other words.
A so called intelligent achiever does not feel content even after acquiring all the worldly pleasures. Once one realized the superficial and transient nature of the worldly, material achievements one sets out in search for true, everlasting happiness.
Most of the charity work in any country is normally undertaken by their rich and famous, individuals who felt fooled about chasing the material gains for happiness. By continuous study and evolution one realizes that real happiness lies only in the state of final liberation or Moksha.
The Root Cause of the Cycles of Birth and Death
Indian philosophers believe that the various human cravings, desires, aversions, delusions, actions and fruits of actions get attached to the subtle body (linga deha) which accompanies the soul after death. The subtle body consists of representatives of mind, intellect or buddhi, sense and motor organs and the five basic elements from which the body is created.
In order to fulfill the various desires and to undergo and experience the remaining fruits of actions of past lives the individual undergoes a series of lives and deaths. Just as one discards one’s old cloths and wear the new ones the soul which is immortal discards the old body at the time of death and obtains a new body at the time of rebirth.
What is Moksha? Nature of Liberation
Man is composed of the same basic elements which constitute the universe. Man is the microcosm, the macrocosm in miniature. Liberation – Moksha – means return of all the constituents of the body and the mind to their original form and amalgamation of the individual soul principle with the original soul principle.
Man is the aggregate of body , mind, and the soul. The various desires, instincts, and emotions as well as the actions and fruits of actions act as linking bonds between the soul, the mind, and the body.
These ties between soul (Purusha as per Samkhya) and the mind can be broken only by having perfect control over all mental processes so that all desires, instincts, and emotions cease to exist and a person does not expect any return for his actions.
Moksha or liberation is actually the liberation of the soul – Purusha – from the clutches of Prakriti – the material universe principle. By controlling the mind, and its constituents – desire, aversions etc., – one is actually reversing the process of evolution of Prakriti.
The arresting of the desires, thoughts and feelings dissolves the mind, along with the senses of perception and action, which is responsible for weaving of the material universe around the soul, keeping it trapped. Once the mind is dissolved, the material aspects of the universe formed from the sattvic Ahamkara disappear, now the individual soul principle only remains entangled in the tamasic aspect of Ahamkara and the Intellect (Buddhi).
With further sadhana and practice the five elements which had evolved from the five tanmatras get purified which dissolves Ahamkara and the intellect sequentially. Thus, now the individual soul principle (the Purusha) is released from the trap of material principle Prakriti and it can now become one with the universal soul principle.
The soul is now rid of the cycles of births and deaths of the body, becomes immortal and enjoys true and eternal happiness. Death dos not mean liberation; liberation is the result of the acquisition of ‘ right knowledge’ which dissolves the mind and leads to eternal happiness.
All the Indian philosophies advocate or lay out the path for achieving the state of Moksha. Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali is a eight fold path for preparing the body and the mind for attaining the state of Samadhi which is done to attain Moksha. Meditation also is a technique to experience, reach the state of Moksha or the final liberation.
An amazing video on the concept and nature of Liberation is a must watch too.
Highest Evolution of Man is Liberation
Animals are concerned only with self. Their happiness lies in the fulfillment of their desires and instincts. Self preservation and reproduction are the only two main driving forces in their lives. They derive satisfaction from eating, sleeping, protection of self, and reproductive activities.
Man is a social animal. He gets attached to and identifies himself with his family. His happiness lies in the happiness of his family members. He even finds happiness in sacrifice and suffering for his family.
Mentally subnormal individuals with low intelligence behave like animals and are interested only in self. Even an intelligent person who doe not care to follow the dictates of his conscience and religion degrades himself to the level of an animal.
As man evolves further on his journey towards Moksha, he gets more and more interested and involved in the welfare of his fellowmen and society. He now identifies himself with society and is ready to sacrifice even the welfare of his family for the larger good of society.
This gives him greater happiness. At the time of war such a person who identifies himself with his own nation willingly gives all the belongings of his family to the nation and goes to war with all his sons. This is further explained by this story of Lord Rama.
Sita, the wife of Lord Rama was abducted by Ravana, the powerful king of Lanka. At this time Rama and Sita were in exile from their kingdom. Rama spent all his energy and many years of his life to organize an army to defeat Ravana.
He brought Sita back to Ayodhya, his kingdom. He started ruling his kingdom as an ideal ruler where all the subjects were happy, contended, and followed the rules of good conduct and religion. They looked upon Rama as an ideal person.
One day a washerman came and expressed doubts about the chastity of Sita as she had stayed in the captivity of Ravana for a long time. Though Rama never doubted her chastity, he abandoned his dear wife Sita who was then pregnant.
He thereby set an example so that no one in his kingdom including himself, should have any blemish on his or her character. Rama sacrificed his own family life and family for the welfare of his people. Even today the term Rama Rajya stands for an ideal rule.
At the highest stage of evolution towards Moksha one begin to identify oneself with the universe “Ahan Brahmasmi”. One loses one’s own identity – Ahamkara- and becomes one with the entire universe.
Saint Namdeo during a draught period when he, his family and the entire village were starving had obtained a loaf of bread and was walking back to his village. On the way he saw a hungry and the emaciated animal. he went out of his way and fed it all he had and was happy to see the animal contended.
He did not differentiate between himself, his family, society, and the animal. people in this stage of evolution see Atma or soul principle i.e. the trinity of eternity, knowledge, and happiness filling the whole universe encompassing all the animate and inanimate objects. This, the highest evolution of man is termed as “Moksha”.
Conclusion: Moksha is the state of freeing one’s soul from the shackle of the bondages which are the evolutes of Prakriti, the material principle from which the matter of the universe is composed of weave around it.
Moksha or liberation is returning the soul to its own nature, free of any material bondages, so that it can merge with the universal soul principle. The main bondages of the soul are the desires, instincts, and cravings for the material pleasure which are experienced at the level of the mind.
In order to liberate the soul finally of the material bondages one needs to work on the mind and learn to arrest its machinations so that the real happiness and peace lying beyond it, the experience of the pure soul, can be experienced, this is only possible once the soul evolves to the state of Moksha or liberation.
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