Sanskrit moksha or Prakrit mokkha means liberation or salvation. It is a blissful state of existence of a soul, completely free from the karmic bondage, free from saṃsāra, the cycle of birth and death. A liberated soul is said to have attained its true and pristine nature of infinite bliss, infinite knowledge and infinite perception. Such a soul is called siddha and is revered in Jainism.
In Jainism, it is the highest and the noblest objective that a soul should strive to achieve. In fact, it is the only objective that a person should have; other objectives are contrary to the true nature of soul. With right view, knowledge and efforts all souls can attain this state. That is why Jainism is also known as mokṣamārga or the "path to liberation".
According to the Sacred Jain Text, Tattvartha sutra:
Owing to the absence of the cause of bondage and with the functioning of the dissociation of karmas the annihilation of all karmas is liberation.
From the point of view of potentiality of mokṣa, Jain texts bifurcates the souls in two categories–bhavya and abhavya. Bhavya souls are those souls who have faith in mokṣa and hence will make some efforts to achieve liberation. This potentiality or quality is called bhavyata. However, bhavyata itself does not guarantee mokṣa, as the soul needs to expend necessary efforts to attain it. On the other hand, abhavya souls are those souls who cannot attain liberation as they do not have faith in mokṣa and hence never make any efforts to attain it.
The Path to Liberation
According to Jainism, the Ratnatraya or "three Gems", samyagdarśana (correct perception), samyagjñāna (right knowledge) and samyakcāritra (right conduct), together constitute the mokṣamarga or the path to liberation. According to Acharya KundaKunda's Samayasara:
Belief in the nine substances as they are is right faith (samyagdarśana). Knowledge of these substances without doubt, delusion or misapprehension, is right knowledge (samyagjñāna). Being free from attachment etc. is right conduct (samyakcāritra). These three, together, constitute the path to liberation.
Samyak Darsana or rational perception is the rational faith in the true nature of every substance of the universe.
Samyak Caritra or rational conduct is the natural conduct of a (soul) living being. It consists in following austerities, engaging in right activities and observance of vows, carefulness and controls. Once a soul secures samyaktva, mokṣa is assured within a few lifetimes. The fourteen stages on the path to liberation are called Gunasthāna. These are:
Those who pass the last stage are called siddha and become fully established in Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct.
Nirvāna means final release from the karmic bondage. When an enlightened human, such as an Arhat or a Tirthankara, extinguishes his remaining aghatiya karmas and thus ends his worldly existence, it is called nirvāna. Technically, the death of an Arhat is called their nirvāṇa, as he has ended his worldly existence and attained liberation. Moksa (liberation) follows nirvāṇa. However, the terms moksa and nirvana are often used interchangeably in the Jain texts. An Arhat becomes a siddha, the liberated one, after attaining nirvana.
In that night in which the Venerable Ascetic Mahavira, died, freed from all pains, the eighteen confederate kings of Kasi and Kosala, the nine Mallakis and nine Licchavis, on the day of new moon, instituted an illuminations on the Poshadha, which was a fasting day; for they said: 'Since the light of intelligence is gone, let us make an illumination of material matter!'(128)
A liberated soul dwell in Siddhashila with infinite faith, infinite knowledge, infinite perception, and infinite perfection. According to the Jain text, Puruşārthasiddhyupāya:
Having achieved the ultimate goal, knowing everything that needs to be known, and enjoying eternal and supreme bliss, the Omniscient, Effulgent Soul, rests permanently in the Highest State (of liberation).