An outstanding feature of Hinduism is the doctrine of “purusarthas”, advocating four complementary engagements in an individual’s life. These are dharma, artha, kama and moksha.
Dharma seeks conscious conduct of life on moral values of honesty, compassion, truthfulness, and purity of body and mind. It is a behavior toward ethical living. Dharma involves austerity, saintliness, absence of anger and non-violence. Dharma-based actions, duties and responsibilities are the commitments toward a righteous living.
Artha means one should be working to earn enough wealth in order to achieve economic liberty or independence. Kama emphasizes on the need of pleasures and enjoyments in life as well.
Moksha or mukti denoting freedom, is a much hyped Hindu traditional thought. In essence it represents spirited purity to seek oneness with the Supreme-being.
Moksha covers two allied but distinct schools under the faculty of moksha-shastra.
One is based on the concept of eternal salvation from the repeated cycle of birth, death and rebirth. This rotation of advents is a popular notion among Hindus with the support of reincarnation ideology.
The birth-rebirth cycle to achieve moksha or salvation is referred as soteriology. In Sanskrit it is called Samsara.
Life is an entanglement of sufferings. Moksha is considered as the ultimate goal to be relieved from those miseries and afflictions. The blissful emancipation is achieved thru dharma-inspired righteous actions along with conscious detachment from worldly affairs. Accumulation of wisdom is an imperative of moksha along with the dispossession of worldly desires or cravings in its pursuits.
It is a stage of Braham-anubhav, a vibe of Supreme within. In this state of capping perfection with a feeling of Oneness that one gets into moksha, and the person is eternally liberated from the fettered cycle of birth, growth and death.
The postmortem of one or several cycles of birth and rebirth determines the qualifying criteria as how well one treads on the path of dharma before achieving moksha. And once there, it is a point of no return as one is let off from the bondage of samsara.
The second and alternative school of thought in the moksha shastra lies in its evolutionary interpretation. Referred to as jivanmukti, it is that state of transcendental consciousness which one receives within the present life. In that respect moksha does not have to be liberation from samsara or life-rebirth wheel of suffering.
Dharma provides the route or ‘marg’ to get to the destination of moksha. In this journey a major emphasis is on discriminatory or critical studies to gain knowledge. Ignorance is dispelled and illusion is cleared.
The accentuation on critical study involves evaluation in order to accumulate true education. And when true education is being pursued the rationality factor in Hinduism is once again underlined.
Detachment from the outer world, lack of craving or desires for material possessions, self restraint, calmness of mind, dispassion, endurance and patience, faith and commitment are the other essentials to make a journey on the moksha marg.
The maneuvers in the pursuit of moksha transform the nature, attributes and behavior of an individual where peace and bliss are the ultimate rewards along with a feeling that the whole universe resides in the self.
Whereas dharma is both a vehicle and route map to reach the goal of moksha, the latter is subjected to its practicality and worthy of its achievability. Sometimes, it is the travel which is more challenging, captivating and compensating than the destination.
Dharma involves actions, while moksha does not. Dharma means karma, moksha is contrary to that. The latter is only a state of thought and consciousness. The scriptures in Geeta emphasize on karma or action in its simplistic and literal meaning. Non-karma means the dead end.
Is moksha stage the dead end of life? According to Osho (Rajneesh), yes it is. He questions the worthiness of moksha. Seeking moksha is against the law of existence, Osho argues.
Excerpts From Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs And Traditions, Chapter 11