Moksha or ‘mukti’ is the ultimate spiritual goal of Hinduism – liberation of the soul from the endless cycle of reincarnation and reunion with the spirit of the Universe.
There are several ways, prescribed in the sacred texts, to achieve moksha.
Jnana Yoga (The Yoga of Wisdom), the toughest one, must be acquired with the help of a spiritual teacher. After imbibing the guru’s wisdom, the seeker of moksha contemplates on what he has learnt and goes into meditation before intuitively experiencing enlightenment. The student of jnana yoga needs certain qualities that require intensive practice. The ability to discriminate between the temporal and permanent (Viveka), detachment (Vairagya) and the six virtues – tranquility, sense control, renouncing all extraneous activity, faith, endurance and single-minded concentration. Finally, he must have an intense longing for moksha.
Such a daunting path is undoubtedly beyond the scope of most. Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of Faith) which involves surrender and absolute devotion to a personal god is comparatively easier. Important Bhakti sects exist around major Hindu deities like Shiva, Vishnu and Devi.
Bhakti Yoga entails few rituals or difficult spiritual practices. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna declares that love of God, purity of intention and devotional service are the only requirements for the seeker of moksha. The appeal of Bhakti lies in a simple, one-to-one approach to God that is open to all, devoid of ritual and social barriers.
Another text, the Bhagavata Purana teaches nine ways to salvation – listening to stories of Krishna, praise of the Lord (typically through group chanting), contemplation, service to humanity, image-worship, homage, servitude to the Lord, good relations with others and self-surrender to the divine.