Of the four aims, mokÅ›a or mukti is the truly ultimate end, for the other three are ever haunted by the fear of Death, the Ender.(1)
Mukti means “loosening” or liberation. It is advisable to avoid the term “salvation,” as also other Christian terms, which connote different, though in a loose sense, analogous ideas. According to the Christian doctrine (soteriology), faith in Christ’s Gospel and in His Church effects salvation, which is the forgiveness of sins mediated by Christ’s redeeming activity, saving from judgment, and admitting to the Kingdom of God.
On the other hand, mukti means loosening from the bonds of the samsara (phenomenal existence), resulting in a union (of various degrees of completeness) of the embodied spirit (jivatma) or individual life with the Supreme Spirit (paramatma). Liberation can be attained by spiritual knowledge (atmajnana) alone, though it is obvious that such knowledge must be preceded by, and accompanied with, and, indeed, can only be attained in the sense of actual realization, by freedom from sin and right action through adherence to dharma. The idealistic system of Hinduism, which posits the ultimate reality as being in the nature of mind, rightly, in such cases, insists on what, for default of a better term, may be described as the intellectual, as opposed to the ethical, nature.
Not that it fails to recognize the importance of the latter, but regards it as subsidiary and powerless of itself to achieve that extinction of the modifications of the energy of consciousness which constitutes the supreme mukti known as Kaivalya. Such extinction cannot be effected by conduct alone, for such conduct, whether good or evil, produces karma, which is the source of the modifications which it is man’s final aim to suppress. Moksa belongs to the nivrtti marga, as the trivarga appertain to the pravrtti-marga.
There are various degrees of mukti, some more perfect than the others, and it is not, as is generally supposed one state.
There are four future states of Bliss, or pada, being in the nature of abodesâ€”viz., salokya, samipya, sarupya, and sayujyaâ€”that is, living in the same loka, or region, with the Deva worshipped ; being near the Deva ; receiving the same form or possessing the same aisvarya (Divine qualities) as the Deva, and becoming one with the Deva worshipped. The abode to which the jiva attains depends upon the worshipper and the nature of his worship, which may be with, or without images, or of the Deva regarded as distinct from the worshipper and with attributes, and so forth. The four abodes are the result of action, transitory and conditioned. Mahanirvana, or Kaivalya, the real moksa, is the result of spiritual knowledge (jnana),(2) and is unconditioned and permanent. Those who know the Brahman, recognizing that the worlds resulting from action are imperfect, reject them, and attain to that unconditioned Bliss which transcends them all. Kaivalya is the supreme state of oneness without attributes, the state in which, as the Yoga-sutra says, modification of the energy of consciousness is extinct, and when it is established in its own real nature.(3)
Liberation is attainable while the body is yet living, in which case there exists a state of jivanmukti celebrated in the Jivanmukti-gita of Dattatreya. The soul, it is true, is not really fettered, and any appearance to the contrary is illusory. There is, in fact, freedom, but though moksa is already in possession, still, because of the illusion that it is not yet attained, means must be taken to remove the illusion, and the jiva who succeeds in this is jivanmukta, though in the body, and is freed from future embodiments. The enlightened Kaula, according to the Nityanita, sees no difference between mud and sandal, friend and foe, a dwelling-house and the cremation-ground. He knows that the Brahman is all, that the Supreme soul (paramatma) and the individual soul (jivatma) are one, and freed from all attachment he is Jivanmukta, or liberated, whilst yet living. The means whereby mukti is attained is the yoga process (vide ante).
1. Visnu-Bhagavata, IV, xxii, 34, 35.
2. That is which gives moksa, other forms being called vijnana. Mokse dhir jnanam anayatra.
3. See Bhaskarar5ya’s Commentary on Lalita SahasranSma, sloka, 125.