What is Mukti?

The book by T.S. Rukmani, Samnyasin in the Hindu Tradition – Changing Perspectives is a specialized subject on Samnyasins. This book is mainly based on the interviews among 31 Samnyasis/Samnyasinis by the author first giving an overview ‘in the Cultural World of the Hindus’ (pp. 9-30) followed by a scholarly perspective (31-56), and ending with the analysis of the author both on the scholar’s and the Samnyasis (211-250).

The interviews with 31 Samnyasis is the main section of the book (57-209), which provide several interesting perspectives by the Samnyasis covering various topics like their background, interest in this vocation, choice, deeksha, choice of successor, family ties, travel abroad and attire, social work, personal rituals and sadhana, about initiating woman Samnyasinis, involvement in politics and Moksha. These interview provided new information which was not widely known related to the particular ashram or sect (sampradaya) and also about ‘retrospect and prospect’.

However for me the topic on Moksha helped me to reflect on my own understanding based on my bhakti in the Lord and also from Muktiveda. As the author gave a final summary on this subject, I will share it here first:

“The purported goal of any samnyasin is to achieve moksa and so it would be good to look at the way the samnyasins understand the concept of moksa. While the traditional samnyasins still gave a textual definition of moksa which was also echoed by asrams like the Ramakrishna and Chinmaya Missions, there were many other ways of defining moksa as well.

For Bhoomananda the dissolvement of the ego is enlightenment which is another word for moksa. Sankarasram was of the view that there was ‘nothing like individual moksa. One who is self-centred can never get moksa.’ He seemed to understand Vivekananda as saying that seva done for its own sake ‘will take him to moksa.’  Asrams like the Virasaiva and Bharat Seva Sangha, along with the Ramakrishna Math, do not draw a distinction between ‘working for one’s moksa and working for social betterment.’  Swami Ranganathananda paraphrased it as ‘It is the service of God in human form that is the core of a samnyasin’s life.’ The one will lead to the other is how they nuanced it. On the other hand, the Hawiian Swami {Sivaya Subramuniyaswami} believed in the traditional definition of freedom from rebirth as moksa.

For Swami Agnivesh ‘one’s own moksa is inextricably wound round the betterment of the society as well.’ He explained further that ‘the asram is for both the individual’s pursuit of salvation as well as for social upliftment, social transformation. Fighting injustice, to put it very simply, is key to worship, prayer and meditation.’ I understood that for Swami Agnivesh fighting injustice is equal to moksa in a certain sense.

For Prashantananda (Bharat Seva Samaj) moksa is something to be realized and cannot be defined.  ‘We are doing it here by serving society.’ Maheshananda (Kaivalya Dham) answered the question as to whether he had had samadhi experience by saying, ‘I don’t know.’  For him it was a state of cita and ‘this state can be achieved by even ordinary people if they make that as the goal.’

One came across another way of looking at moksa, akin to the Vaisnava sense, when some of the Swamis equated it with absorption in God. Tamal Krishna Goswami said, ‘Yes, I have had moksa experience through constant bhakti. It is possible to forget oneself in bhakti. I have not experienced sayujya bhakti as yet. I am still groping.’  Swami Sahajananda did hint at his own experience of moksa when he said, ‘I have had spiritual experiences in my path towards moksa. Moksa can come after intense tapasya. My master gave me the bliss of God.’ Sacchidananda also echoed that when he said ‘I was only deep-chanting God’s name and be in tune with God constantly. That will lead us to the highest God-realization.”  For Dayananda (Arsha Gurukulam) ‘moksa is a purusartha [a goal] sought by all humans. Moksha is freedom from samsara’ and all the limitations of samsara like birth, death, etc. He seemed to imply that a state of freedom of the mind is what is called moksa. Veda Bharati (Sadhana Mandir) understood enlightenemtn/moksa as ‘an expansion.’  It is more a matter of experience.  ‘It is not an act of selfish withdrawal. When all become as you, then the pida {suffering} of everyone becomes your pida. Since you have risen above that duhka {sorrow} yourself, you can help them, you can guide them.’ This seemed to have resonances of the bodhisattva ideal.

Gurusharananda (Udasin Math) said it was difficult to define moksa and it was a matter of experience. ‘It frees you from anything and everything.’” — pp. 244-45


I am not going to give any of my comments on this view by various Swamis summarized by the author. However, one common point is that there is no uniform agreement on any single definition – a common human fact.

For me as a bhakta of Bhagavan Muktinath ‘bhakti’ itself is moksha. Long before at Mahdubani (1987 or 88) I wrote one line (in English?!?) “Neither I have fear of hell nor I have fear of God; love it is love alone that forces me to love you Lord.”

Though traditionally it is claimed and believed by many (both among Christians and Hindus) that moksha is going to heaven, after reading The God I Don’t Understand by Wright1 (which I have already shared in my Bhakti Theology), I realized that ‘heaven’ too is not a permanent place and finally our moksha will end up coming back with the Lord to the New Earth. It would be a revised, renewed, redeemed new default version of this very life on earth. (What a relief as I need not learn anything new – I hope there will be cross stitch work too.)

There too my continuous bhakti (relationship) with the Lord will be the moksha for me (us). Of course we often understand in our bhakti moksha is not private and it reflects in our relationship with the Lord and others. And bhakti is not merely celebrating my relationship with the Lord and others but understanding my ‘position’ in the Lord as a redeemed person.

Though moksha positively for me is my bhakti, negatively it is the removal of ‘fear’ (or anxiety) about ‘life’ and ‘death’.  And my bhakti tradition even helps me to leave that too to the Lord by prapati (total surrender without any reservation). In other words, my bhakti helps me not even worry or think about moksha as it is the Lord’s burden and not mine. Accepting each movement of life as it is (through disturbance, trouble, suffering, sorrow, pain and what not will always be there as part of life), and doing my part faithfully at my best, and leaving the rest with the Lord because of my relationship with Him is moksha for me.2

1…..Look again at the wonderful picture in Revelation 21-22.  It says nothing about us going off to heaven or to anywhere else at all. Rather, it shows us God coming down to earth, transforming the whole creation into the new heaven and new earth that he had promised in Isaiah 65:17, and then living here with us—on earth.

In other words, the Bible’s last great vision is not of us going “up” there (to heaven), but of God coming “down” here (to earth)….. The God I Don’t Understand, Christopher J. H. Wright, Zondervan, Michigan, 2008,  p. 194

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Rev. 21:1).

…So the scope of God’s redeeming work is as vast as the whole universe he created.  It is also a way of telling us clearly that although we are heading for a new reality, it is not a fundamentally different reality.  We are not leaving the created order for some other “spiritual” order. Rather, we will be leaving the old sinful order of things and will find ourselves in a renewed, restored, redeemed creation.  But it is still “heaven and earth,” not “heaven instead of earth”. To repeat, the Bible does not promise us that someday we can leave the earth and “go to heaven” instead. Rather, it promises us a whole new creation that includes the earth.—ibid. p. 195

…The new creation will somehow – in ways only God can imagine and plan for – include all that we have accomplished by our work in this creation. Purged and redeemed, yes. Freed from all accretions of greed and guilt, of violence and covetousness, of deceit and pride, yes. But not obliterated and forgotten forever.—ibid. p. 200

  1. This article I wrote in the morning.  In the Afternoon when I was meditating on this subject (or rather enjoying my moksha in the afternoon) I wrote the following song:258. முக்தி

    நீ தரும் முக்தி நிலையானது
    நிறைவான வாழ்க்கை அருளுவது
    அறைகுறை என்பது இதில் இல்லை
    உன்னருளுக்கு என்றும் குறையில்லை

    இறந்தபின் போகும் இடமல்ல அது
    ஏதுமே புரியா நிலையல்ல அது
    உன்னுடன் நிலைத்து வாழ்ந்திடவே
    நீதரும் நிலையான பேறு அது

    உலகம் புதிதாய் மாறிவிடும்
    உறவுகள் உன்னத மாகிவிடும்
    உன்னுடன் உள்ள உறவுமட்டும்
    இங்குபோல் அங்கும் தொடர்ந்துவிடும்

    முக்தியின் முழுமை புரிந்துவிடும்
    முக்தியின் தன்மை விளங்கிவிடும்
    பக்தியின் பயணம் தொடர்ந்திருக்கும்
    பக்தனாய் வாழ்வது நிலைத்திருக்கும்

    அந்த பேரு இங்கு பெற்றேன்
    அதிலே தொடர்ந்து பயணிப்பேன்
    மரித்து மீண்டும் எழுந்த பின்னே
    நிலைத்து அதிலே வாழ்ந்திருப்பேன்.

    31-10-2014. மதியம் 2.15, மத்திகிரி

    258. Mukti

    Mukti which you give is eternal/permanent
    It gives holistic(complete) life
    There is no half way in it
    There is no lack of your grace

    It is not a place to after death
    It is not a status without any understanding
    It is a noble status
    To live eternally with you

    The world will become new
    Relationship will become noble
    But the relationship with you will
    Continue as it is here (on earth)

    The totality of Mukti will be clear
    The nature of Mukti will be understood
    The journey of bhakti will continue
    The life to live as a bhakta will become permanent

    I received that noble status here also
    I will continue to travel in it
    After death and resurrection
    I will live permanently in it.

    31-10-2014. afternoon 2.15, Mathigiri