Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Moksha Mean?

Moksha is the concept of ultimate freedom and liberation, central to Indian philosophy and religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Also known as mukti, the term is derived from the Sanskrit word, mukt, meaning "liberation," "release" and "emancipation." It refers to the state of being released from the life-death cycle (samsara) and the limitations of a worldly existence. According to Indian philosophy, moksha is the ultimate Purusartha, the fourth and final goal for human existence.

Traditionally, moksha is closely tied to the concept of universal consciousness, in which one accepts the Self as at one with all existence. It is believed that the only way to attain absolute freedom, peace, bliss and oneness with the Divine is to reach the state of moksha.

Although the term is often used interchangeably with the Buddhist concept of nirvana, Hindus believe that nirvana is more specifically the state a person enters into after achieving moksha.


Yogapedia Explains Moksha

Although Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism each have unique perspectives on moksha, the term is most prevalent in Hinduism. Hindus believe in a cycle of death and rebirth known as samsara, in which the next incarnation is dependent on karma, or actions in the previous life. Moksha marks the end of this cycle, in which one overcomes all ignorance and desires of a worldly existence to attain ultimate freedom and bliss. In some schools of Hinduism, moksha has connotations of self-realization and liberation within this life.

Moksha is also central to Indian philosophy in general, comprising one of the four goals in human life known as Purusartha. The three purusartha prior to moksha are:

  • Dharma – living a virtuous and moral life
  • Artha – attaining the means for wealth, security and prosperity
  • Kama – appreciating sensual pleasures, enjoyment and love

It is believed that as individuals move through these three goals, they slowly begin to release attachment to worldly possessions and desires until they are able to reach moksha. There is criticism as to the inherent tension between achieving these goals and attaining moksha, which gave rise to the concept of dharma-driven action otherwise known as Nishkam Karma. This is a central message of the Bhagavad Gita, in which balance between action and renunciation can be found as a means of reaching the ultimate freedom of moksha.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga outlined by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras can be interpreted as steps on the path to attaining moksha. In yoga, there are several paths to achieving this freedom; Jnana, Bhakti, Karma and Raja. A more recent style known as Jivamukti is also centred on the concept of moksha. Created by Shannon Gannon and David Life in 1984, Jivamukti combines Hatha yoga with principles of scripture, devotion, nonviolence, music and meditation as a means of self-realization and liberation.

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