Monday, July 29, 2019


श्री गुरुभ्यो नम: | हरि: ॐ॥

सदाशिवसमारम्भाम् शङ्कराचार्य मध्यमाम् |
अस्मदाचार्य पर्यन्ताम् वन्दे गुरु परम्पराम् ||

Moksha - the fourth puruShArtha

In the previous post we discussed the first three of the four puruShArtha-s identified in sanAtana dharma. We also discussed the limitations of each of them. Is there a goal for humanity to aspire to which is free from limitations? Yes, say the upaniShad-s - it is moksha, liberation.

What is moksha? Two aspects of moksha are spoken of in scripture - total freedom from samsAra (तरति शोकमात्मवित्, the knower of the self transcends sorrow), and attainment of supreme  (ब्रह्मविदाप्नोति परम् the knower of Brahman attains the highest /  ब्रह्म वेद ब्रह्मैव भवति, the knower of Brahman becomes Brahman).

The question then is - how is this moksha attained? The upaniShad-s speak of this in one voice - it is through knowledge. In each of तरति शोकमात्मवित्, ब्रह्मविदाप्नोति परम्, ब्रह्म वेद ब्रह्मैव भवति, the verb विद् (meaning: to know) occurs, meaning that it is by knowledge that moksha is attained.

Knowledge of what? The first mantra quoted above - तरति शोकमात्मवित् - is from the seventh chapter of ChAndogya upaniShad. Narada, the devarishi approaches Sanatkumara and says, "I know all the sciences and arts, but still I have no happiness. I have heard that he who knows the self, transcends sorrow. Please teach me about my self". From this we can understand that the "knowledge of the self" is the means to moksha. 

However, in the taittirIya upaniShad's brahmAnanda valli, the same moksha has been described as ब्रह्मविदाप्नोति परम् - the knower of Brahman attains the supreme. The muNDaka upaniShad also says ब्रह्म वेद ब्रह्मैव भवति - the knower of Brahman, becomes Brahman verily. Here, it is the "knowledge of Brahman" that is described as the means to moksha.

If the knowledge of self and the knowledge of Brahman lead to moksha, it means that knowledge of self is the knowledge of Brahman, and consequently, the self is Brahman. This identity of the self with Brahman is the ultimate import, and endpoint of the teaching of the veda, which has been encapsulated in every upaniShad in sentences like अयमात्मा ब्रह्म, तत्त्वमसि, अहं ब्रह्मास्मि, प्रज्ञानं ब्रह्म. Thus the upaniShad-s themselves are called the vedAnta to indicate that they are the means to the final culmination of all human pursuit.

This is the knowledge that mumukshu-s strive for. 

However, this raises a question - how can the knowledge of the self / Brahman, lead to transcending sorrow and of samsAra? For this, we have to understand what is samsAra. This will be considered in future posts.

श्री गुरुभ्यो नम: । हरि: ॐ॥

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