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Anavritti In Hindu Religion

In Hindu religion, anavritti is a non-return of atman to a body. Anavritti is one of the four possible destinies of atman. Eternal cessation from pain or realization of bliss from which there would be no turning back is a goal and aim of Hindu way of life. This is the fourth and the ultimate purushartha (goal of life). There are two aspects to it, viz., cessation of pain and realization of bliss. Some philosophers like Naiyayikas and Samkhyas have laid emphasis on the former aspect while theists and Vedantins emphasize on the latter aspect. But the non-return to samsara is common to both, and this goal is referred to as anavritti (from where there is no return). Vaikuntha or Kailash or Goloka or Manidvipa, spoken of as ultimate place to be reached, too is referred to as anavritti.

According to Upanishads the journey of a human being can be conceived in four ways – towards naraka, svarga, brahmaloka (kramamukti) and sadyomukti.

The first is winning felicity in swarga by virtue of ritualistic and other moral actions, while living on the earth. But this felicity is only temporary reward. As soon as the merits earned by virtuous acts are exhausted by enjoyment, the self undergoes avritti, return to the mortal earth. Secondly, the self can be thrown into naraka for its sins. This is also a temporary travail, because as soon as the sins are expiated the self returns to the mortal world for a fresh cycle of life. Thirdly, man’s possible destiny is winning the world of Hiranyagarbha (the creator) by worship and meditation on God. There is anavritti to the mortal earth from this felicity. At the dissolution of the created world, the self gains absolute release along with Hiranyagarbha. This final release is through right knowledge obtained from Hiranyagarbha himself as the teacher. This is also called kramamukti. The fourth destiny is jivan mukti, total release through right knowledge on the earth, even while living in the body. This is called sadyomukti (instantaneous release). On this release, the self continues to live in the body. When the body, too, eventually goes, the released self does not go or return to existence anywhere, but is the Brahman, the Ultimate Reality.

But some theistic philosophers who do not subscribe to the concept of jivanmukta on epistemological grounds, see the third stage itself as moksha.

The texts that speak about this non-return of the atman or mortal existence are Chandogya Upanishad IV-15.6; VIII-6.6; Brahadaranyaka Upanishad IV-2.15; the Bhagavad Gita VIII-16, 26; and Brahmasutras IV-3.9, 11, IV-4.22.