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Religion Library: Hinduism

Afterlife and Salvation

Written by: Jacob N. Kinnard

This release, called moksha, is ultimate salvation. The individual is absorbed in the ultimate, Brahman, in the same manner that a stream or a river (a metaphor for the individual atman) is absorbed into the ocean (Brahman). When one attains this state, rebirth stops. One is released, forever. The individual is one with Brahman.

This path, the jnana marga or path of knowledge, is not the only means to attain ultimate salvation. Indeed, Hinduism very much holds that there are many paths to reach the same destination.

PATHS (MARGAS)
Karma margaPath of action
(especially ritual action)
Vedas
Jnana margaPath of knowledge
(meditation and analysis)
Upanishads
Bhakti margaPath of devotion
(especially towards Krishna)
Bhagavadgita

The Bhagavad Gita introduces the path of devotion, or bhakti marga. One can attain salvation, in the context of this path, through selfless loving devotion to a chosen god. In the Bhagavad Gita this god is Krishna, although because all of the gods in Hinduism are ultimately encompassed by the overarching divine powerhouse Brahman, bhakti directed at any god can lead to salvation.

Krishna and RadhaBhakti is often discussed in distinctly human terms, using human love as the model. A parent's love for a child, for instance, is the model for the devotee's love of the god; a parent's love is utterly selfless, absolute. Likewise, the love of a devotee for a god is also described in amorous terms.

Some of the best-known and most beloved stories in Hinduism involve the love "affair" between Krishna and Radha (a particularly beautiful example is the Gita Govinda, by the poet Jayadeva). Krishna in these stories is a lovely young man who plays a bewitching flute. Radha is a beautiful young woman. She is, however, a human being. Gita Govinda manuscript (ca. 1500 CE)She abandons her worldly duty to be with Krishna. The point of these stories is that although worldly duties are importance for the maintenance of society, love of the divine (here specifically Krishna) transcends the worldly dharma. Through such absolute love, one attains salvation through the grace of the god.


Study Questions:

1.     What are a few of the varying Hindu beliefs about afterlife?
2.     What is moksha?
3.     How does one attain salvation?

 

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