On Moksha and Nirvana

Is the Hindu Moksha the same as Buddha’s Nirvana? This was a question on Quora and my response is below.


From a conceptual viewpoint Moksha and Nirvana are the same. Both are around breaking fetters of the senses to release individual Atman from the snare of Illusion. But there are key differences and am going to outline then briefly.

Before I state this point to be noted is that Buddhism did not evolve in isolation, it grew from the rockbed of Hinduism as a recoil from the ritualism sans insight theme that existed at that time. And after the outflowering of the Shakya Sage, there was a fresh light thrown that replenished inquiry into the human condition, leading to fruitful enrichment of Hinduism and Buddhism both.

Now to the brief outline. Nirvana in its essence moves towards the cessation of individual existence. All is annulled so that the wrinkle of suffering and pain may be removed from this fabric of life.

Silence is all?

Where Nirvana as a goal falls short in my view is this. Life is seen as a battleground, with Maya as antagonist pitting the child-soul against Her stupendous machinery. The child-soul grows in inner clarity by not falling for the snare of the senses. But that clarity that eases the mind and our higher faculties does not fully satisfy. The Silence is seen, the Unreality of the Many is perceived. Yet the heart is vacant, the powers of life wither away with that trenchant insistence on an escape to Nirvana. We live so that we may escape. And even that life is as an exile, a heart beats but the sap of existence is denied to us.

Many Roads to Self

Moksha, does not have the precise, or some would say narrow, definition that the Buddhist path of Nirvana has. Hinduism allows for many alternative modes in which the Soul may escape the fetters of Illusion. Moksha as a notion broadly clubs these  for convenience. Moksha’s approach to release from suffering accounts for the varieties of human consciousness. The lover finds his roads are peopled with the manifestations of his Divine Beloved and the eventual oneness is attained. The worker uses the tools of his trade to manifest some of his Deity’s perfection, power and beauty and eventually find release into the Deity’s Being. The thinker charges through the modes of consciousness with his bright intuitions and finds the light that illumines all existence to be the same as that which eggs him on, thus releasing himself from the mighty snare. And so with other modes of approach.

Journey makes us

Why this emphasis on approach when the question itself was around the end goal? Well, one finds the Silence to not be a mere negation of our perceived multiplicity. There is in It all diversity of seen and unseen hidden away, all the play of opposites together, all that which lures and repells, all is in It. The path through which the seeker approaches his Goal has colored His Goal. The Void and Silence are lonely no more. The lover, toiler, thinker and the occultist find their at times opposing views all resolved into a transcendent unity that reconciles Form and Formless, Time and Timeless, One and Many…all in a single view.

Much of this might be moot dependent on the state of consciousness one has attained. As the Buddha says, best is find this out for oneself through experience and until then only hold these as possibilities available to our aspiring self.

Painting by Priti Ghosh