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Moksha – The Journey of Soul

by Anubhav Bakshi

Moksha is the foundation upon which the entire structure of Hinduism is built. Moksha is the only permanent goal in the Hindu belief system. Every religion of the world talks about the Salvation of Human Beings at the hands of their Gods. However, Hindus have a different take on this.

Hinduism lays stress on the ‘liberation’ of the Soul rather than its salvation. We believe that a Soul keeps taking births in this world in different forms till it has attained its final objective of liberating itself from this cycle of rebirths. At that moment it merges with the Parabrahm, the supreme power. And that is Moksha for a Soul. 

For a better and clear understanding of the concept of Moksha, first, we need to understand the Soul.

What is Soul?

The concept of Soul or the ‘Atman’ is central to Hinduism. The entire structure of this way of life or religion stands on the foundation of the Soul and its journey. The body of a person is considered as a mere tool in the journey of the Soul to reach its destination. All our scriptures from Vedas, Upanishads, to Gita, lay prime importance on the Soul and centre our entire existence to serving its purpose to finally merge with the universal spirit i.e. to attain Moksha.

For a better understanding of the journey of a Soul and its ultimate destination Moksha, we need to first understand what these two words mean according to the Hindu texts.

The Universal Energy

The Soul is nothing but Energy, pure, potent, and all-powerful. The entire universe is a gigantic Energy Reserve. This energy manifests itself in every existing thing in this universe. And this energy has the power of creation, preservation and destruction all rolled into one. This is energy reserve of the universe is what we call the Parabrahm, the formless Supreme power. 

Everything that exists in this universe is nothing but a fraction of this energy. The Galaxies, the Stars, the Planets and all the life forms on any planet are in essence, just energy.

This energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It just exists and merely changes its form and travels from one place to another. 

Similarly, our Souls are also small masses of energy, a tiny part of that Giant Energy Reserve what we term as the Param Pita Parmeshwar or Parmaatman.

And this energy or Soul has to undertake a rigorous and long journey spanning many lifetimes to return and merge with its source of origin.

And to complete that journey, the Soul keeps shifting from one body to another. This journey to return to that Gigantic Energy Reserve called Universe, The Almighty. That concept is called the Milan of Aatman and Parmaatman or in simpler terms, that’s what is called attaining Moksha.

The Four Purusharthas:

Four Purusharthas

Hinduism focuses on the wholesome development of the soul. As the soul is considered as the manifestation of the supreme being on this Earth. Therefore, to realise its full potential a human being is set the goals of life that they must attain so that the Soul can be liberated. These goals are called Purusharthas.

According to Hindu scriptures, there are four Purusharthas for every Human being:

1. Dharma

This goal implies that everyone should lead his/her life according to the right way of life prescribed. This means that the person’s conduct should be virtuous, and according to laws that aim to maintain social balance and order.

2. Artha

Artha signifies the efforts towards the ‘means of life’. Hindu way of life requires an individual to strive for success in his career, accumulation of wealth and financial security. However, this effort should be made without greed. Only then this goal can be achieved.

Artha has been given importance because if a man is always struggling to meet his ends, he will never be able to focus on the goal of his liberation.

3. Kama

This goal focuses on one’s desires, passions, emotions, and pleasures of senses. Hinduism believes that fulfilling one’s desires and passions is essential so that the soul can be free of them when it’s time to leave the body. 

The pursuit of Kama, as per Hinduism should be in the boundaries of Dharma and Artha, with an eye towards Moksha.

4. Moksha

This is the final and most important goal for a human being. Moksha means liberation. It is the liberation of the Soul from the cycle of rebirths and attaining self-realization.

Journey of A Soul

Hindus believe that the Soul has immense potential to achieve great things but is bound by the limitations of the body that carries it. If we take a scientific example of an air tunnel that is filled with air bursting with Kinetic energy but is sealed at both ends. We can experience the ferocity of the wind that can either wreak havoc in the form of a tornado if let loose or can generate power if channelled properly. 

The connection between the body and Soul is the same. The Soul being pure energy can be used by the body either for destruction or can be used to attain enlightenment. Or there is a third option. It can remain trapped, causing upheaval inside the body, but never really achieving anything.

According to the core belief of Hinduism, the journey of a Soul can only be completed once it has realised its full potential. Only then it attains the terminal velocity to zoom into the space to reach its destination. 

And how does the Soul realise its potential? 

It does that through the process of self-realisation. The Soul is so powerful that it can complete its journey back to the space, but it needs to be channelised through the process of meditation or Samadhi. Like the air trapped in a wind tunnel can be channelised by creating a passageway, similarly, the process of meditation, which involves several rituals and processes, opens channels in the body that guide the Spirit towards the right path. 

But that’s only half the work; the other half involves doing one’s Karma within the scope of Dharma. Meditation gives food to the Soul; Dharma enlightens the path and Karma chooses and walks the path. 

According to the traditional Hindu beliefs, this process requires the body, mind, and Soul in their peak condition. And only when all three are in harmony, they create that perfect system to catapult the Spirit towards its ultimate destination. Therefore, we believe in the concept of reincarnation and rebirth. Because till the time the Spirit gets the perfect body and mind combination, it can never complete its journey. Hence, we believe that there is a process, a journey for everyone. And once a spirit finds that perfect combination through various rebirths, and completes its journey, it attains Moksha.”

Rebirths and Yonis

According to Hindu belief, a Soul must go through 84,00,000 Yonis or forms before it can acquire a Human form. What can be the reason for this belief?

Every life form on this earth can teach us something unique that is essential to build character. There is a lesson to be learnt from the life cycle of every animal, plant bird or insect on this earth.

An Ant’s life cycle teaches the ability to carry a burden heavier than your weight, a Bee’s life is spent in collecting sweetness from nature, an elephant teaches calmness, a Lion teaches boldness, an eagle’s life teaches the value of being alone and above everyone. 

So, it is important for a Soul to go through all the life forms to learn every aspect of life to purify itself. Only then it can successfully complete its journey.

Moreover, it is very difficult for the soul to experience every aspect of life in one birth. The universe teaches everything with experience. If you want to get rid of your anger and ask the almighty for help, your anger will not dissipate suddenly. The Almighty would put you in situations that would arouse anger in your mind. And that is the chance for you to condition the mind to ensure that you do not get angry. 

Similarly, if you want patience, you will be placed in situations that would require an extreme amount of patience from you. If you want to get rid of greed, you will be in a place that would give fire to your greed. It is up to you to control your greed. 

There are no miracles when it comes to attaining Moksha. Everyone must complete the journey and there are no shortcuts.

Role of Yugas in this Journey

For a soul to complete its journey, it must experience unfavourable circumstances to overcome its shortcomings, like the Gold needs to go through fire to remove its impurities. Through meditation, we can condition our mind and channelise our internal energy, but that energy needs a path to travel towards its destination. And that path is through the cycle of Yugas.”

Let us take an example of a River for a better understanding. A River originates from a glacier. That glacier is its origin and destination as it will eventually come back to it in the form of snow. But can the river just turn back after its first bend and return to the glacier? 

The answer is No. It must complete its journey through the slopes of mountains with aggressive energy, then pass through the plains, learning to calm down, to become a source of life to innumerable humans, plants, birds, animals, and insects, and then to let go if its identity to merge with the sea. 

And finally, it must go through the ultimate sacrifice of leaving its liquid form and turning into vapour. And then it is dependent on the wind to carry it to the same glacier. There it completes its journey in the solid form of snow to finally be one with that glacier. And even then, it is possible that not all the water from that river will return to the glacier. Some of it may be lost on the way. 

Similarly, every Yuga comes with its own lessons for the Soul to learn. As the importance of Dharma diminishes with each Yuga starting with Sat Yuga, the struggle to uphold it increases. And this struggle acts as a fire that purifies the Soul. And a Soul that goes though these struggles and is still able to uphold the Dharma attains Moksha.

Choice of Paths

For a Soul to attain Moksha, the universe gives it the choice to choose its path. The Soul can choose any one of the following paths:

Karma Marg

The path of dispassionate discharge of one’s duties within the scope of Dharma.

Jnana Marg

The path of knowledge i.e., by using meditation and concentration and training one’s mind and body through Yoga to merge the soul with almighty.

Bhakti Marg

Path of devotion is where a person surrenders himself to the devotion of the almighty with a single purpose to be one with him.

Soul's Choice of Paths

However, in Hinduism, there is always another way a soul can attain Moksha. But it is extremely difficult. Because this path tests the limits of Mind, Body and Soul. 

Tapa – The Direct Path to Moksha

Tapa or Supremely Dedicated Meditation is a form of meditation where one is required to channelise all the energies of Mind, Body and Soul, and focus them on a single point i.e., the Almighty. 

This path can take hundreds or thousands of years to reach the ultimate destination of Moksha.

What makes this path different from others is that through this path a Soul can attain Moksha in a single life span.

But then the question arises, how does one survive for that long? Even if the soul survives, the Body and Mind have their limits, they will turn into dust.

Our sacred texts also answer this question. 

Our bodies and mind deteriorate because of the constant workload that we put on them daily. Every day we deteriorate some of our body and mind through these chores. However, when in meditation, the body and mind receive more energy than they use for the task and that improves their longevity. And during Tapa the Mind, Body and Soul work as one and the life-giving energy gets a boost. It is channelised in such a way that it keeps all three of them in a healthy state.

Process of Tapa

The process of Tapa is extremely difficult. And it involves three steps:

1. Body

The first step is to take control of the body. All the energy used by the body must be channelised towards the meditation and hence the energy requirement of the body must be reduced. This can be achieved through mastering the techniques. 

And over a period, the energy requirement for the body reduces to almost zero. That is why the people who do this meditation remain in one position for a long period of time. 

2. Mind

The next step involves the controlling of the Mind, which is way more difficult than controlling the body. The body has limits or boundaries which it cannot cross. However, the mind has no such boundaries and hence can travel anywhere. The thoughts can come from all directions and the Mind has infinite storage for thoughts and worries. 

Therefore, only through extreme meditation, yogic techniques, and patience, one can learn to control the mind. And only then it can focus all its energy towards one goal: liberation.

3. Soul

The last and the most difficult step in Tapa is setting the Soul on the right path. The soul is the energy that keeps us alive. It is our life force. It has immense potential. And it is always trying to liberate itself. But it needs the right path. 

And once the mind and body are aligned, they create a path for the soul to travel. 

Finally, with a singular target in sight, with a focused mind, and through extreme meditation, the soul starts its journey to merge into the supreme universal energy. When the Aatman meets the Parmaatman, the journey is complete, and the Moksha is attained.

This process of Tapa is extremely difficult, and not everyone has the willpower or the patience to see it through the completion. This can be better explained through the following story.

Story: The Brahman seeking Moksha

Once upon a time, there was a Brahmin named Arihant. The purpose of his life was to break the cycle of rebirths and attain Moksha. And he wanted to attain it as soon as possible.  

He spoke to many sages and wise men, but no one could suggest to him a way to attain his goal. But Arihant was adamant that he would find a way to end this cycle of rebirths.

One day he was wandering in the forest when he heard someone chanting the Shiv Mantra, ‘Om Namah Shivay.’ Arihant was intrigued and followed the voice. He saw an old sage sitting under the tree in meditation, chanting the mantra. There was a divine glow on the sage’s face. Arihant’s eyes were fixated on his face. He was convinced that this sage could answer his question and show him the way. 

He paid his respects to the sage and sat near his feet and started waiting for him to open his eyes. The sage was engrossed in his meditation and didn’t notice Arihant. He remained in meditation for two days, but Arihant was also very stubborn and did not budge from his place. 

Finally, the sage opened his eyes and looked at Arihant, who was sitting with folded hands in front of him. The sage smiled and blessed him. He asked Arihant what he wanted. Arihant told him about his quest. The Sage listened to him and smiled. 

Then he told Arihant that like him he was also looking for a way to break this cycle of rebirths. His search took him to Maharishi Bhrigu, who told him about the journey to Vishnu Lok that would surely end the cycle to rebirths. 

As soon as he heard that, Arihant almost jumped from his place and asked the Sage to explain the process. The Sage asked him to be patient and listen to his story. 

Maharishi Bhrigu told him that there would be three steps to this process, first, he’ll have to meditate for hundreds of years, just to strengthen the soul for the journey. When the soul is finally ready for the journey, the next more difficult meditation must be undertaken to reach the Vishnu Lok and once you are finally there you will have to do extreme meditation to merge your soul into Vishnu to finally break the cycle of rebirths.

Arihant was very excited to hear the story and asked the Sage why he didn’t go through the process. The Sage told him that it required extreme conditioning of Mind, Body and Soul and only then one can complete the process. 

Arihant was not impressed and told the Sage that maybe he did not put himself entirely to the task. The Sage smiled and said that he was also very confident like Arihant and started his meditation with full rigour. And after hundreds of years of tough meditation, his soul was ready for the journey to Vishnu Lok.

Arihant was flabbergasted, and said, “You reached Vishnu Lok and still couldn’t break the cycle of rebirths. How is that possible?” 

The Sage again smiled; he was not perturbed with Arihant’s statement for even a second. He said that when he reached Vishnu Lok, the place looked like it was lit with thousands of Suns. He was amazed at the sight. 

Then a voice in his head told him to start meditating to understand everything. He did what he was told. After meditating for a thousand years, when he opened his eyes, he was astonished to see that the thousands of Suns were in fact the great Yogis and Sages who have been meditating there for thousands of years. They were all waiting for the Vishnu to merge them into him. 

When he looked at himself, he noticed that his body was also glowing, although not as brightly as the other Sages. 

Suddenly the entire place started to glow, and he saw what looked like millions of Suns shining together at one place. Everyone raised their hands and started running in the direction of the light chanting ‘Om Namah Narayana.’ He could hardly keep his eyes open. At that instant, he knew that it was Vishnu that had come to take some of them with him to Vaikunth. 

The sage said that at that moment he knew that if he needed a thousand years to meditate just to look at the devotees of Vishnu, it would need an eternity to get a glimpse of the Lord himself. At that moment he folded his hands and bowed to the light and turned around. 

And since then, he had been meditating to complete as much of the journey as possible in this birth so that he can complete the cycle of rebirths as quickly as possible and can merge with Vishnu.

As the Sage finished his story, his body started radiating a bright light which forced Arihant to close his eyes. Arihant opened his eyes and prostrated in front of the sage and requested him to become his teacher and guide him through this cycle of rebirths. The sage smiled and asked Arihant to get up and follow him into the journey of Yugas.”

Heaven and Hell – The Transit Stops

If the destination for any spirit is to get absorbed into the great cosmic energy or almighty, then one might wonder where does the concept of Swarg (Heaven) and Nark (Hell) fit into the picture?

This question needs to be answered with the explanation of two concepts related to a Soul’s Journey.

Escape Velocity for a Soul

Any spirit that leaves one body before completing its journey, must come back and acquire a new body to complete what was left incomplete.

This means that for a spirit, to set itself on the course to the cosmos needs to turn itself into the purest form of energy. And to do that it has to shed all the impurities it has acquired through the course of its journey. 

In other words, all the flaws in one’s character must be removed before this journey can be completed. If one cannot do that in one birth, he/she must take a rebirth and take care of that; and this cycle does not stop until all these flaws are washed away. Once that is achieved, the spirit takes the form of pure energy and merges with the almighty.

It is like the concept of Escape Velocity. Like any free, non-propelled object needs a minimum speed to escape from the gravitational influence of a massive body; a spirit also needs to attain the purest form and get rid of all the flaws, which act as roadblocks in attaining that speed so that it can escape this cycle of rebirths and reaches its destination.

Karma and Free Will

The Soul must undergo this cycle of rebirths. And it needs a new body every time. But as against popular opinion, a body is not like a piece of cloth that is readily available in a shop, when you need it. 

Since every birth has a specific goal, the soul needs to find a suitable body in a suitable environment to work on overcoming its flaws.  And this process takes time. And whenever a Soul takes rebirths, it leads a full life and indulges in a lot of karma. And all this karma cannot go unnoticed. 

The Soul undertakes Purusharths during its stay in a body. And depending upon the level and quality of Purusharths it does before leaving the body, it gets rewarded or punished. 

The universe does not interfere in free will and even though every soul knows what course it should follow to attain Moksha, it may succumb to the desires of the body and fall into the trap called worldly pleasures.

Hence, after the Soul leaves the body, it must wait till it is ready for the new one. This time is spent either in Swarg or Nark, according to karma. And once the credit of Karma acquired over a lifetime is finished, the Soul is ready for rebirth and gets on with its work. 

So, we can think of Swarg and Nark as transit stops in the journey of the Soul. 

Human life cannot exist in a vacuum. We cannot take human form and be detached from everything except our goal. When we take birth as a human we have to engage in Karma. And where there is Karma, there exists its fruit as well.

Once the spirit has attained its purest form and has completed all the Purusharths, there is no waiting or transit period. It straightaway goes and merges with the cosmos and hence doesn’t have to go through the Swarg or Nark.


Hinduism believes that every Soul has only one objective, i.e., to attain Moksha. And all our efforts and Karma should be directed towards attaining that goal. Our scriptures give detailed information about the paths and processes one should follow to purify and strengthen the Soul. 

By undertaking the four Purusharths diligently and choosing a path that is most suitable to one’s personality, the body can help the soul in completing its journey. 

This is the reason why Hinduism lays so much importance on Dharma and Karma. Because with the amalgamation of both the energy source within all of us, becomes pure and we can liberate ourselves from the tiring cycle of rebirths and can take our rightful place in the Cosmos within the Universal Energy.

So this is what Soul and Moksha mean for Hindus. And that is the reason why we believe that every life is sacred and should be lived to its full potential.

What are your thoughts and takeaways from the concept of Soul and Moksha? Is there anything else you want me to talk about in my blog?

Don’t forget to send your comments and suggestions. Learn about the concepts of Hinduism in Unfolding Beliefs and read interesting Mythological stories and their hidden lessons in Stories. All in Decoding Hinduism.

Till next time.

Anubhav Bakshi

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