On The Attainment of Purity


Written by Ravinjay Kuckreja

The path of yoga’s last stage is samādhi, the state of absorption. However, once this samādhi has been achieved, the soul is then able to experience Itself in Its purity. This is the stage of “kaivalya”.

Terms Used

Kaivalya is the attainment of ‘purity’, a complete separation of the Self from the material body and mind. In other Hindu traditions, especially in Vedānta, the word used for this sort of goal is “mokṣa”.  The Sanskrit word “moksa” means ‘freedom’ or ‘liberation’, with it initially being called “mucyate”, ‘to be freed’ or ‘released’.  Another term for it in Indian traditions is “apavarga” which is the ‘removal’ or ‘separation’ from duḥkha or suffering.  In Buddhism, the term ‘nirvāṇa’ is used, meaning ‘blown out’ or ‘extinguished’.

The Evolution of Mokṣa

The initial parts of the Veda do not mention a mokṣa. Instead, the purpose of the rituals were for merit, puṇya, and the attainment of heaven with the body. Then in later parts of the Veda, such as the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ( of the Yajurveda, the idea of attaining the heavens without a body appeared. And much later, such as in the Jāiminīya Brāhmaṇa (1.252) of the Samaveda, we find a passage about the end of punarmṛtyu (redeath). In the end of the Veda, the Upaniṣad, there are two understandings of liberation. Firstly, it is to be released from both good and bad activities. Second is to be freed of birth and death, ending the cycle. Later, various philosophical schools appeared, such as Sāṅkhya and Vaiśeṣika, all having mokṣa with its goal. 

Defining Liberation

Mokṣa or kaivalya cannot be an attitude, it is a goal. Mokṣa is a state where there can be no change, where there can be no plurality. It is freedom, liberation. Freedom from what? From suffering, from the frustrations of desire, from change. However, what exactly happens at the point of liberation is open to interpretation and differs from one tradition to another. There are several theories about the nature of mokṣa. According to some thinkers it is the positive state of absolute bliss, according to some only the state of absolute absence of pain, while according to some others the state which contains neither pleasure nor pain; according to some it denotes communion with or the company of God, while according to others only the realization of the true nature of the Self; according to some it can be obtained by the Self even when it is still in a material body, while according to others only when it becomes disembodied (after physical death). The Bhagavad-gītā (6.27) tells us what one feels when mokṣa or kaivalya is achieved;

praśānta-manasaṁ hy enaṁ
yoginaṁ sukham uttamam
upaiti śānta-rajasaṁ
brahma-bhūtam akalmaṣam

When the Yogi’s mind is peaceful, no longer restless in passion, he attains the highest happiness, is freed of all karmic reactions and becomes one with (or similar to) Brahman.

Gathering all the various definitions and interpretations of mokṣa across cultures and traditions, it can be concluded that Mokṣa is:

(a) freedom from suffering, freedom from desire, from oppression, from disease, etc., or,

(b) liberation from ignorance and the attainment of knowledge leading to wisdom, or,

(c) final freedom from the cycle of birth and death. 

Depending on the tradition, this mokṣa can be attained when one is still in a body (alive) or when one has left the body (died). 

Types of Devotional Mokṣa

In the Bhakti or devotional traditions, mokṣa would be attaining the worshiped Īśvara. This mokṣa can happen in these three ways:

  1. Sālokya: being in the same realm or planet as the deity worshipped. For example, going to Kailāśa to be with Śiva or to Vaikuṇṭha to be with Viṣṇu.  
  2. Sāmīpya: this form of liberation is a step closer than Sālokya, where the soul not only resides in the same realm as the deity but also in close proximity to them. It implies a nearness to the divine, symbolizing a deeper spiritual intimacy and connection.
  3. Sārūpya: here the soul attains a form similar to that of God. This doesn’t mean becoming God but rather transforming into a divine form that mirrors the deity’s attributes. This likeness allows for an even greater identification with the divine essence.

Types of Non-Devotional Mokṣa

If the focus in on the attainment of knowledge or Brahman, then mokṣa is defined as:

  1. Sāyujya: considered by some as the ultimate form of mokṣa, Sāyujya involves the merging or union of the soul with the divine. In this state, individuality is completely dissolved, and the soul becomes one with God. 
  2. Kaivalya: in the Sāṅkhya and Yoga schools, Kaivalya is the liberation of the puruṣa (spirit) from prakṛti (matter). Unlike the devotional paths that seek union with a deity, Kaivalya emphasizes the realization of the Self as distinct and separate from the material universe. 

Stages of Mokṣa

And that this mokṣa can appear as these various stages:

Stage 1: The first stage is the realization that the entire universe is all pervaded by Brahman. Mokṣa at this stage is the wisdom that this all-pervading consciousness of the universe is us.

Stage 2: The second stage is the realization that every being is interconnected, although seemingly separate, we are all actually one. Mokṣa at this stage is freedom from the individual ego, the idea of self-identity, thus being able to cultivate empathy with everything and everyone.

Stage 3: The third stage is intimacy with Brahman, the realization and bond developed with a saguṇa Īśvara, a particular form of God. Mokṣa at this stage is freedom from any self-endeavor to achieve liberation, it is the state of surrender, peace and joy.

Stage 4: The fourth and final stage is communion with or unification with Brahman. Mokṣa here is absolute freedom from rebirth and suffering and the attainment of the state of Brahman.


Daniel H. H. Ingalls. (1957). Dharma and Moksa. Philosophy East and West, 7(1/2), 41–48. https://doi.org/10.2307/1396833

Prasad, R. (1971). The Concept of Moksa. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 31(3), 381–393. https://doi.org/10.2307/2105718

Chakrabarti, A. (1983). Is Liberation (mokṣa) Pleasant? Philosophy East and West, 33(2), 167–182. https://doi.org/10.2307/1399100

Bhatt, S. R. (1976). The Concept of Moksa–An Analysis. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 36(4), 564–570. https://doi.org/10.2307/2106874

Potter, K. H. (1958). Dharma and Mokṣa from a Conversational Point of View. Philosophy East and West, 8(1/2), 49–63. https://doi.org/10.2307/1397421

Bodewitz, H. (2019). The Hindu Doctrine of Transmigration: Its Origin and Background. In D. Heilijgers, J. Houben, & K. van Kooij (Eds.), Vedic Cosmology and Ethics: Selected Studies (Vol. 19, pp. 3–20). Brill. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1163/j.ctvrxk42v.6Krishan, Y. (1988). EVOLUTION OF THE IDEAL OF MOKṢA OR NIRVĀṆA IN INDIAN RELIGIONS. Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 69(1/4), 195–204. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41693766


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