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Philosophy 312: Oriental Philosophy
The View from Above: Moksa ( Moksha, Mukti)

Abstract: By overcoming the limitations of personality, moksa can be realized.

I.  As human beings we are limited in many ways:  we lack physical, mental, and spiritual abilities.  We error, we grow ill, we die.

II. We are limited in three essential ways: suffering, ignorance, and limited life.

    A. Limitations due to suffering--the limitation of existence.

      1. When your life has a purpose, you can tolerate almost any pain.  E.g., in the strenuous life, the scrapes and bruises are hardly noticed.

      2. Psychological suffering and pain is more difficult to deal with--especially, personal losses.

        a. If the ego had no expectations there would be no disappointment. If the ego did not exist, there would be nothing to disappoint.

        b. If one can see things with empathy "under the aspect of eternity," one can truly experience joy at the victory of his opponent (cf., the final chapter of Siddhartha). One can see the inevitable narrowing of life's possibilities due to prior choices (e.g., compare the process of life to a chess game).

      3. The only real disability in life is a bad attitude.

    B. Limitations due to ignorance or lack of awareness. We seek "knowing that knowledge of which brings knowledge of everything." We seek awareness of ultimate reality.

      1. The "blinding insight" of the mystical experience has occurred too many times to too many reputable thinkers in all cultures for us to doubt its worth.

      2. The shattering vision of unity--mystics claim transcendent knowledge is possible.

      3. Evidence from academic psychology suggests that we are hardly aware of the possibilities of the human mind: hypnotism, meditation, collective unconscious,  the idiot savant.

    C. Limitations of the self--how far can our being extend? How can we define the boundary of the self? Is our total being part of infinite consciousness?

      1. Immediacy level of consciousness: we identify ourselves with the individual moment (e.g., the crying of a child over a trivial misfortune).

      2. Intermediate level of consciousness: we identify ourselves with what we do, "show we are," and the roles we play. We shift identification away from the individual moment to see our life as a process.

      3. Infinite level of consciousness: we do not identify ourselves with any particular set of experiences. There is a self which underlies my everyday self and yet endures through individual experiences. Compare this notion to the transcendental unity of apperception.

        a. If I am more than what I have experienced, then I can let go of past injustices, forgive, and still be the same self.  If I change my mind, I do not change myself.  Commitment and self-consistency are not necessary for self.

        b. The Hindu epics relate many fables which illustrate the infinite level of consciousness.

III. Moksa: "From Brahman to a grass blade, creation is for the benefit of the soul until supreme knowledge is obtained." Moksa is absolute freedom from ignorance, anguish, and death. Suffering is not part of the soul (Self) and is only part of human personality (the self).


Justice T. U. Mehta, "The Path of Arhat."



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