According to Hinduism the goal of human life is to be free or liberated from samsara, the repeated births and deaths. Such liberation is called moksha or mukti in Sanskrit. Buddhists call it nirvana. Moksha can be attained only through God-realization.
The different schools of Hindu philosophy hold differing views about how to attain moksha. Some believe that moksha can be achieved by people only after their death, others claim that it can be achieved even while they are alive.
Never does a man attain moksha by his own skill; by no means other
than the grace of Siva, the dispeller of evil, is such an attainment
possible. — Paushkara Agama
In heaven there is no fear at all. Thou, O Death, art not there. Nor
in that place does the thought of growing old make one tremble.
There, free from hunger and from thirst, and far from the reach of
sorrow, all rejoice and are glad. — Yajur Veda
Only by a tranquil mind does one destroy all action, good or bad.
Once the Self is pacified, one abides in the Self and attains everlasting bliss. If the mind becomes as firmly established in Brahman as it is usually attached to the sense objects, who, then, will not be released from bondage? — Yajur Veda
Moksha After Death
1. Salokya Mukti
In salokya-mukti the departed soul goes to ishta-loka (the abode of the Personal God, such as the abode of Vishnu), and stays there blissfully enjoying His presence. A person who has gone through rigorous ethical and moral disciplines followed by right knowledge, right action, non-attachment, and devotional meditation on the Personal God (Vishnu), becomes fit for release or moksha through Ishwara’s loving grace.
2. Samipya or Sannidhya Mukti
In samipya or sannidhya-mukti the departed soul enjoys the bliss of extreme proximity to the Personal God. A person who has gone through rigorous ethical and moral disciplines followed by right knowledge, right action, non-attachment, and devotional meditation on the Personal God (Vishnu), becomes fit for release or moksha through Ishwara’s loving grace.
3. Sarupya Mukti
In sarupya-mukti the departed soul acquires the form of the Personal God and enjoys intense bliss. A person who has gone through rigorous ethical and moral disciplines followed by right knowledge, right action, non-attachment, and devotional meditation on the Personal God (Vishnu), becomes fit for release or moksha through Ishwara’s loving grace.
4. Sayujya Mukti
In sayujya-mukti the departed soul becomes blissfully absorbed in the Personal God. A person who has gone through rigorous ethical and moral disciplines followed by right knowledge, right action, non-attachment, and devotional meditation on the Personal God (Vishnu), becomes fit for release or moksha through Ishwara’s loving grace.
5. Krama mukti or Avantara Mukti
Krama mukti or avantara mukti means liberation through stages.
A person who has intensely meditated on Saguna Brahman using the sacred sound symbol Aum or other prescribed methods of meditation goes to Brahma-loka after death. There he attains the knowledge of Nirguna Brahman. When the entire universe is dissolved at the end of the kalpa he becomes one with Brahman and is not born again. This is called krama-mukti or avantara-mukti.
6. Vishishtadvaita Moksha
Those who believe in this school believe that moksha means living blissfully in vaikuntha, which is the realm of the Personal God after the death of the devotee. A person who has attained moksha lives blissfully in vaikuntha in a spiritual body in the presence of God. He/she acquires many divine powers such as omniscience, etc., but unlike God he/she cannot create, sustain or dissolve the world. In spite of the exalted state the devotee has to remain subservient to God. They also believe that Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga are only aids to Bhakti Yoga. One can be liberated from the bondage of samsara only through God’s grace. They suggest that Bhakti Yoga practices are the only means of obtaining divine grace.
7. Purva- Mimamsa Mukti
Devotees achieve moksha through the right performance of rituals as prescribed by the Vedas. Some suggest that the liberated soul goes to heaven (after death) and enjoys heavenly bliss forever. Others suggest that moksha is a state devoid of the possibility of rebirth. You are free from pain and suffering. They do not consider moksha as a state of heavenly bliss.
8. Apavarga Mukti
Liberation or Apavarga is a separation from all qualities. Liberation is a state beyond pleasure, happiness, pain, or any experience whatsoever. It is achieved by cultivating ethical virtues and acquiring the right knowledge of reality. After liberation there is no rebirth.
Moksha Before Death
1. Jivan Mukti/ Videha Mukti
Some Hindus, especially those who follows the Advaita School of Philosophy believes that one can have liberation from samara even when alive. According to them, a spiritual aspirant has to first go through various moral and ethical practices, worship (upasana) of the Personal God, etc. These observances gradually purifiy his mind and make it ready for intense meditation on the Impersonal Divine Reality (Nirguna Brahman).
The intense meditation enables the devotees to attain a condition known as atmajnana or the knowledge of inner Divine Self. Atmajnana destroys the ignorance (avidya) that covers the knowledge of the Reality. As soon as his ignorance is annihilated, the person will be released and becomes a jivanmukta (one who has had jivanmukti).
After attaining jivanmukti a person can no longer think of himself or herself as an embodied being. The body and the rest of the world appears illusory to a jivanmukta. The illusory body will continue to exist as long as the prarabdha karma lasts. When the prarabdha is exhausted and the illusory body dies, the jivanmukta attains his disembodied release called videha-mukti.
Sadyomukti means “immediate release.” Sandyomukti is another way of getting moksha for those who believe in jivan mukti. According to this view, a jivanmukta may totally lose interest in his illusory body immediately after attaining jivanmukti. As a result, his body drops off in a matter of days causing his sadyomukti.
It is also possible that after attaining atmajnana, these liberated souls can no longer identify with their bodies, which along with the rest of the world have become illusory and unreal. So for them, their bodies are not really there and attains sadyomukti.
3. Kaivalya Moksha
This form of moksha is suggested by the Sankhya School of Philosophy of Hinduism. They suggest that the soul or the spirit is purusha (pure consciousness), and the body-mind complex is an evolved form of unconscious primordial matter known as prakriti. Prakriti functions by borrowing consciousness from purusha.
Purusha gets tied down or bonded by aviveka – purusha’s false identification with prakriti and its evolved products like mind, body, etc. Such false identification is caused by purusha’s ignorance. While in bondage, purusha suffers mental and physical pain because of its false identification with the mind-body complex.
In order to get rid of the false identification and consequent pain and suffering, purusha must acquire the knowledge known as viveka-jnana. When purusha learns viveka-jnana, it realizes that as spirit it is completely different and distinct from prakriti and the associated mind-body system.
When this happens, the devotees will experience the complete cessation of suffering and pain. Thus viveka-jnana causes purusha’s moksha by disentangling purusha from prakriti.