What is Moksha and what does Science say?

[A few friends asked me about Moksha to be explained in simple words without any mystifying scriptural references, quotations and citations. This is what I wrote to them.

The points are made accordingly with no hyperbole, no mystique but merely as barebones facts without any frills – bibliographic references, supporting evidence etc. for the sake of brevity. I thought of sharing it here so that it can be corrected / sharpened in expression and  improved in an overall way]

1. Moksha:

There is nothing mysterious about it. It goads the spirit of inquiry in us.

Our ancients’ inquiry was on:

i) Who am I? and ii) What is this world around?

The word moksha is derived from muk to release, liberate, free.

Liberation from what? Nobody has shackled us in the world. Nobody bound us down.

Moksha is about Liberation from having to experience the consequences of the actions done.

All actions have consequences – good, bad, indifferent. Actions that give happiness to us are called ‘good.’ Those that give sorrow are called ‘bad.’

Essentially moksha is freedom from experiencing both“happiness and sorrow.” Moksha is NOT (repeat NOT) being selectively ever-happy!

There were six main Darshanas (schools of philosophical thought) prevalent under the umbrella of Sanatana Dharma in ancient India and not all of them postulate ‘moksha.’

In Vedanta, one of the Darshanas, moksha has a significant position. It is understood differently by Advaita, Visishtaadvaita and Dvaita schools that come under Vedanta.

Advaita is the most ancient and the most logical of these three thoughts. It does not require nor does it invoke a God at any stage in its thesis.

Words like God, creator, birth-death cycles, maya, karma etc. may be used as mere explanatory artifacts only to convey a point for better understanding and those terms and formulations are as immediately discarded as evoked, the moment the point is effectively conveyed/understood.

In the ultimate analysis of Advaita (which by itself is only a pointer and not an entity or goal), moksha is freedom even from the “search”(so called sadhana = seeking) for moksha!

The logic is quite a bit counterintuitive.

In short what it says is:

“You normally identify yourself with the limited body-mind. This is a mis-identification of who you really are.”

The body-mind is part of and within the world and not separate from it. Anything in the world is subjected to disease, decay and death. You cannot conquer them, try whatsoever you may.

But at the same time you are also aware that you are aware of them. That Awareness does not change like the things in the world. You are that unchanging Awareness. Awareness is the only One Real thing (‘Real’ in the sense that it is invariant with respect to space-time).

Actions and changes happen only for the worldly things (including the body-mind). It is they that reap the consequences but not You, the Awareness.

It is not that you are suddenly dropped into a pre-existing world. It is You who create the world from moment to moment out of yourself (like spider creates the web out of itself – its own saliva) and you immediately enter it.

For example, you as your mind create all the multifarious dream world objects every night out of yourself and enjoy and suffer within it. Your mind is the creator of the dream and is the only entity there taking the multiple shapes of objects, friends, enemies, snakes and actions. Your mind also exists simultaneously in your dream as the dreamer.

Same thing happens in the wakeful world. In fact the Wakeful world is an extension of the dream world, night after day after, night after day after ……….

Do you experience in the wakeful world the consequences of the actions done in your dream world? If the dreamer-you are dead in your dream by the dream bite of a dream snake, do you find yourself dead in the awake state? No, because the dreamer-you, the dream-snake, the dream-poison, the dream-biting are all just one and the same thing – your mind taking all these forms.

If you and you Alone, as Awareness, is all that exists, and when there is no “other” or second thing, who to do anything and what moksha to obtain? Is moksha any different from you? You are Moksha, the Supreme goal and God. Suppose you are sitting right on your sofa in your home. What can you “do” to reach home? Can an action you perform take you any nearer to the home?

So the main crux is to “realize” that I am not this body-mind, a separate person. All actions, all the phantasmagoria of the phenomenal world just go on like the dream that goes on without you consciously efforting to dream.

One has to push oneself questioning and questioning in this inquiry till suddenly, the truth becomes apparent. Leaving the inquiry mid-way or compromising will not do.

Some people understand intellectually but quickly find a smug “comfort zone”. They stop pursuing the inquiry assuming their cocoon of ‘comfort zone’ as the terminal station for happiness. But one who delves really deeply into the ancient Indic vision can hardly stay satisfied within any such zone.

Moreover, Advaita is not about happiness – it is about transcending both happiness and unhappiness. It is not about doing things right or wrong.

This position is uncomfortable for people who want to “do” things and are unable to give up the thought that they are not separate limited entities possessing a body-mind.

The Visishta advaita and Dvaita acharyas found it a bit inconvenient to regard the world as lacking “reality.” So they modified Advaita by nibbling away chunks of it. As a result, they redefined Moksha to suit their arguments which subscribe to say that there are more than one reality.

2. Upanishads and Science:

Science is also about inquiry. It probes

i) What is this world and ii) Who am I (mind and consciousness)?

Ever since the Cartesian dichotomy came into play, science concentrated more on the first question and it is rapidly making strides these days  into the second question.

The ancient seers and sages were endowed with keen sense of observation, incisive logic and unbiased inference – traits we want in a modern scientist. So the Sages can be regarded as the scientists of their day. Their scientific reports were the Upanishads written in the style and idiom of the day.

Modern science is an Upanishad in development. The last word is not yet said. It is still very young. Those who are driven by patriotic spirit of glorifying ancient Indian thought should not bash Science which is not a laundry list of some tentatively arrived set of observations. It is a method of inquiry, much like what our ancients did.

Science goes with the unique advantage of applicability on a mass scale with a high degree of probability of success. Let us give it its chance.

(If you feel a bit propelled by what is said in this Post, you may like to see the Power Point presentation “Inquiry in Science and Vedanta” at my Blog (http://beyond-advaita.blogspot.in/). I can mail a detailed transcript of the slides on request).

5 thoughts on “What is Moksha and what does Science say?

  1. I wonder if you are speaking as someone whose own realization IS that unchanging Awareness without any thought of an ‘other’, or, just laying out a sort of map of Advaita Philosophy to explain a subjective process that somehow ends with pure Awareness that supposedly is synonymous with Moksha? I don’t ask this with any sort of disrespect. But, the difference between an intellectual explanation of what Truth or pure Awareness is, and how to realize it, is necessarily different than someone who has actually ‘become’ that and not a momentary glimpse or partial realization on any level that makes the mistake of thinking ‘they’ can understand this.

  2. Dear Unknower,

    You are definitely a “Knower!!”
    Thanks for the thoughts.

    The comment has two parts – a) A Question followed by b) A Statement.

    The Question:
    Can’t be truly answered. Any answer will be presumptuous.
    But two broad “Markers” for one’s own use may be mentioned – (i) “Seeking” itself stops; (ii) Flux of desires will enormously diminish.

    The statement:
    Is it not just an assumption?
    (I am sure you know it, but just for general clarity: No one to “become” That, you are already That. Secondly, a correct understanding is irreversible – not momentary, nor partial.)

    Thanks and regards

    • Knowing and Unknowing, a coin with 2 sides.

      The cessation of seeking and the diminished flux of desires don’t necessarily add up to Moksha as you describe it in your post. Not MY version of it. 🙂

      One can still be involved with seeking on a different level. Self-Realization is not the end product, so to speak. Dissolution of Self may be closer to irreversibility. This is quite rare. No Self=No Creation. We cannot imagine such a thing. This is why I am an Unknower.

  3. Thanks again for the continued dialog.

    Are you saying that True Knowing and unknowing co-exist as two sides of a coin?
    The usual simile given in Advaita teaching for Illumination and ignorance (lower case “i”) is like light and darkness. Darkness disappears in presence of Light.

    2. What you say is true — The combo of cessation of seeking and diminished desires is not by itself moksha. These are not targets. Depending on one’s own inquiry, they may help one in self-assessment. [But if there is a ‘self’ (lower case ‘s’), looking for assessment and validation, the cat is already out of the bag! It has not disappeared!!]

    Or is it something else you would like to point out?

    3. As and when “seeking” has really ended, what subtle level seeking can exist? Even ‘subtle seeking’ is seeking. Otherwise, it would be pseudo-Advaita as Rupert often cautions.

    4. No ‘self’ (lower case ‘s’) = no world. True. That is your experience in deep sleep. Mind cannot imagine it because mind is not there in deep sleep.


    • I don’t think true knowing can have an opposite side. But, I wouldn’t use the word knowing to describe that. I do think the terminology used here falls far short of really explaining this. We begin seeking knowledge because that is what our brains do. But, the brain is not able to sort out what we are talking about so knowledge is not part of this equation.

      It seems to me that mind is very much there in deep sleep, just in a latent state. But, perhaps what you are calling mind is the internal stream of thinking that is quiet in deep sleep. For me, mind is much more than this, more on the level of consciousness. Take away consciousness and what is left? Can there be any knowing? No amount of explanation can explain this. The real issue is the psychological pain caused by thought and its reflective nature of itself. Without resolving this, no possible understanding can take place of what is going on. Moksha is a concept. One of the endless concepts given to us by our mutual histories throughout time. Abstraction has to end first in order to be whatever you are.

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