What is Moksha?

In Hinduism and Jainism, moksha (Sanskrit: liberation) or mukti (Sanskrit: release) refers to liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth.

Beliefs as to how moksha may be achieved differ considerably from tradition to tradition. Overall, three distinct approaches or yogas are recognized:

Karma yoga (“the path of action”): This path draws its inspiration from the Vedas and the teachings of Brahmans. It requires no visits to temples or shrines, nor any other form of ritual worship. All that is required is behaviour that results in the resolution of one’s karma.

Jnana yoga (“the path of knowledge”): intense meditation and self-reflection, usually with the aid of austerities. This path draws its inspiration from the Upanishads and the gurus that teach them.

Bhakti yoga (“the path of devotion”): this breed is more popular than the difficult second path. It is the identification of a worshipper with a particular God. In effect, it is the total devotion to a single God, usually Rama or Krishna. The first great text of “devotionalism” is the Bhagavad Gita (“The Song of God”). Krishna appears in this text and says: “only with love can you come to me”.

Raja yoga (“the royal path “): this is the psycho-physical meditational path, more simply known as yoga in the West. It involves breath-control, meditational poses and the adoption of a moral lifestyle geared towards an actual experience or apprehension of the truth of Brahman or the One reality of being and non-being. It is seen in the Hindu Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras, the Hindu Tantra tradition and other such related streams of Hindu thought.

Note however that Jains consider the third path invalid, as they do not believe it is possible to be granted moksha simply by the grace of God.