The subject of Mokṣa occupies a central and prestigious place in Hindu culture, although in practical and philosophical terms it has always engaged a tiny minority of Hindus. The pursuit of liberation from samsara and attempts to understand the true nature of reality have figured prominently among the major systems of philosophy and the scriptures on which these are founded. But unlike other areas within the Hindu world, Mokṣa, strictly understood, lacks texture. Unlike bhakti or dharma for example, there is little that one could say informally about an experience, or a condition, that is said to transcend discursive qualities. However, due to the practical nature of the philosophical enterprise in India, Mokṣa is implicated in broader areas of discussion, such as psychology, language, metaphysics, and even ethics.
General overviews of Mokṣa are usually found in works that cover a wide range of topics or systems in Indian philosophy. Some are massive compilations by a single author such as Dasgupta 1951–1955 or Radhakrishnan 1996, or single volumes within a larger series such as Potter 1981. Other general approaches are far briefer but still comprehensive works on Mokṣa in the context of Indian thought (at times historically organized) such Pramod 1984, Hiriyanna 1949, Singh 1981, or even articles such as Mayeda 2000. Due to the prestige of neo-Vedanta the overviews have played up Vedanta, especially Sankara’s Advaita Vedanta, but over the last few decades the balance has shifted somewhat to yoga and Samkhya as seen in Dasgupta 1974 on yoga and in Halbfass 1991 on Samkhya.
Dasgupta, Surendranath. A History of Indian Philosophy. 5 vols. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1951–1955.
Still the most comprehensive single-author survey of Indian philosophy, this classic work was largely based on original sources, many in manuscript form. It runs the full gamut of Indian thought in five volumes (the last posthumously published) from Vedas to modern theistic thought.
Dasgupta, Surendranath. Yoga Philosophy in Relation to Other Systems of Indian Thought. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1974.
Based on the author’s doctoral dissertation and preceding his celebrated work on Indian philosophy, this is an early and highly technical presentation of yoga thought in relation both to other systems of Hindu philosophy and early Buddhism.
Halbfass, Wilhelm. Tradition and Reflection: Explorations in Indian Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.
Presents several essays on a variety of topics, some bearing on liberation and the ultimate nature of reality, from an Indian-centric point of view.
Hiriyanna, Mysore. The Essentials of Indian Philosophy. London: Allen & Unwin, 1949.
Presents an introductory survey of a number of central topics in Indian philosophy, including Mokṣa. The discussion of Mokṣa begins with the Upanisads and includes the major systems of Indian thought.
Mayeda, Sengaku, ed. The Way to Liberation: Indological Studies in Japan. Vol. 1. New Delhi: Manohar, 2000.
This volume contains twenty essays by Japanese Indologists on the nature of bondage, liberation, and the means to liberation in several Hindu systems and also Kashmiri Saivism and Indian philosophy in general.
Potter, Karl H., ed. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Vol. 3, Advaita Vedanta up to Samkara and His Pupils. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.
A useful introductory essay on Advaita Vedanta precedes extensive summaries of major works and a detailed treatment of Mokṣa.
Pramod, Kumar. Mokṣa: The Ultimate Goal of Indian Philosophy. Ghaziabad, India: Indo-Vision, 1984.
Presents a general overview of Mokṣa according to the different systems of Indian philosophy—based on the author’s doctoral dissertation.
Radhakrishnan, Sarvapalli. Indian Philosophy. 3 vols. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996.
This is a re-publication of the original 1923 work, which was written not just to provide a general overview of the major systems but to explain them in a comparative context with Western philosophy and with a marked preference for Advaita Vedanta.
Singh, Balbir. Atman and Moksha: Self and Self-Realization. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1981.
Singh is a Sikh who writes extensively on Indian metaphysics and ethics. This work is based mostly on secondary works, offering a general overview of Vedanta theories of Mokṣa.
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