By SK Sullerey
Moksha is an important aspect of human life, according to Indic philosophy. It refers to freedom from the samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth, when the Atman merges with Parmatman, just like rivers merge in the sea.
According to ancient scriptures such as the ‘Srisukta’, we are expected to have shatayu, a life span of hundred years. And this hundred-year span, as per the Dharma-shastras, is divided into four parts called Ashrams.
The concept of Nishkaam Karma Yog is one of the main teachings of the Bhagwad Gita. A verse in the Gita, Chapter 2, says: ‘Karmanye vadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadachana,’ meaning one should do his karma and not care about results. In this way, during the brahmacharya ashram, purushartha dharma plays a significant role. Brahmacharya Ashram is the first stage of life to achieve the moksha.
The next is the Grahastha Ashram, the second stage in life, which one enters after completing education. At this stage one pursues artha, wealth, the second purushartha, and kama, legitimate desires, the third purushartha. This is a significant stage where man earns his livelihood and completes his social responsibilities. The main samskara here is Vivaha Samskara. Marital life, occupation and social liabilities are discharged here. This is the only ashram on which other ashrams depend, as at no other stage are people connected with the kama and artha purusharthas.
After completing 50 years of age, one starts the third stage of life – the Vanaprastha Ashram. At this stage one retires from his family and other worldly responsibilities. In this period dharma again plays an important role and man starts living in a natural environment. This is the first stage of Atmasadhana which trains a person to achieve the final goal of moksha. The Bhagwad Gita, Chapter 2, talks about two main things, the shareer and atman, body and soul. While the shareer is nashwar, mortal, Atman is shashwat, eternal.
The fourth ashram is known as Sannyas Ashram, and the main purushartha here is moksha. This is the last stage of human life, spanning from the age of 75 to 100. The entire 18th chapter of the Bhagwad Gita is devoted to the moksha sannyas. In this period, one feels totally free from worldly affairs and tries to achieve the goal of moksha.
Contemporary religions such as Jainism and Buddhism do not believe in the Vedas and Atman, but they too believe in moksha. In Jainism, they call it the state of Kaivalya and in Buddhism, moksha is referred to as Nirvana. Thus, most of the prominent religions and philosophies considered moksha as the goal of life.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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