India Glossary
Moksha

India Glossary
Karma

Samsara
   The doctrine of samsara as it was developed in the Upanishads made the hope of a heaven in which all the sorrows of this world were made good a foreclosed possibility. With the concept of an afterlife in which one simply is reborn time and again because of the actions (karma) one takes in life led Upanishadic thinkers to conceive of moksha, or release from the changing world and the cycle of birth and rebirth.


India Glossary
Atman

India Reader
Chandogya Upanishad
   Since the Upanishadic writers believed that the material universe, the universe of change, was essentially illusion (maya ), the constant participation of atman, one's unchanging spirit, in the world of change and illusion was the cause of disappointment and suffering. The goal in much of the Upanishadic literature is to become free of the cycle of birth and rebirth, free of the body and its vicissitudes, free of the sorrow and disappointment of this world. What this "liberation" entailed is never really made clear in The Upanishads . Called "the opposite side of sorrow" and "the farthest shore from darkness" in the Chandogya Upanishad and "the crossing over the waters of sorrow" in the Mundaka Upanishad , this liberation seemed to involve some sort of absorption into the Universal Spirit or the Absolute and the loss of one's individual identity.


India Glossary
Brahmin

Jainism
   The two great revolutionary challenges to orthodox Hinduism in both its intellectual and brahminic forms both focussed almost exclusively on this idea of moksha . Jainism concentrates exclusively on methods to attain release from samsara ; unlike the Upanishadic writers, Mahavira and the Jains seem to have thought of karma as a kind of material thing which accreted around the unchanging soul. What particularly bound one to the material world were sinful or violent acts; one could counterbalance these violent acts with acts of merits. What Mahavira enjoined on his disciples was not complete action, but self-conquest, setting limitations on yourself and holding to these limitations consistently. Successfully pursued, these methods could lead the atman to shed its karma in order to reach and dwell in the highest place in the universe, Isatpragbhara.


Buddhism
Buddhism
   Buddhism also stressed individual effort in the quest for moksha and placed liberation from samsara as the central goal of its philosophy. Buddha seems to prescribe a form of therapy in the Four Noble Truths, in which he describes the cause of human suffering or impermanence (dukha) in the human desire for permanence and then outlines a method of ridding oneself of one's desire and, therefore, one's suffering or impermanence. For Buddha there was no underlying or fundamental unchanging aspect to the constantly changing universe, so that successful detachment of the self from the world of change was in fact self-extinction (Nirvana). Although this doesn't sound like an attractive alternative to most Westerners, logically it is preferable to an eternity of suffering in a universe of change and illusions.

Richard Hooker



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1994, Richard HookerRichard Hooker
Updated 10-02-97