Purusharthas: Dharma, Artha, Kama & Moksha

      The vision of God is evident through his manifested creations. His world is filled up with the abundance of material and spiritual beings and energies. A common man is rightfully busy seeking correct guidance for his actions and thoughts such that there is appropriate harmony and balance in natural desires, organ sensory fulfillments and pursuits of ultimate liberation from the so-called Mayajal. Purusharthas means "Aims of Human Life". Hinduism provides great value and provides a clear path to its followers by showing them the aims of life with proper prioritization and sequencing.

The four chief aims of human life suggested by Hinduism are:  (a) Dharma, (b) Artha, (c) Kama, and (d) Moksha.

      Purushartha serve as right pointers in the life of a human being. The word Purusha is used here as an individual soul or Self in its purest form. And the meaning of the word Artha used here is Purpose or Objective. Man is also a God in his microcosmic aspect. God always maintains a perfect harmony in balancing the blissful coexistence of the entire universe clearly maintaining set rules. Therefore he should also emulate the God and manifest the same reality in his own little world. So, it is like an obligatory duty of every human to first understand and then pursue these aims in order to serve the purpose for which he has been created and sent to this life in this universe.

      As per basic tenets of Hinduism, man, as an aspect of God itself, exists in relationship with God like a reflection in the mirror that is somewhat different but inseparable. Veiled in him is the true Self under influence of Prakriti. The purpose of his life at earth is to follow the Dharma of God and achieve Moksha, liberation from Ahamkara, false self by leading a balanced life in which both material comforts and human passion have their own place and

      The four chief aims of human life suggested by Hinduism are:

(a) Dharma,
(b) Artha,
(c) Kama, and
(d) Moksha.

      Every individual in Hindu Society is expected to work hard to achieve these four objectives of life with detachment, without any expectation and as a sacrificial offering to the God. Depending upon his attitude, sincerity and dedication applied to pursue these; these goals either set him free or entangle him deeper with the allurement of human life.

      A true understanding of these aims will certainly help us prioritise our efforts of normal day life and will give us a sense of purpose, inspiration for working hard together with sense of duty and fulfillment. Many of us also come across this question from within as what should we strive for at our current stage of life. We are always looking for some one showing us the right direction at every stage of our life journey. These aims are designed to meet just that basic human requirement.

      Even before understanding individual objectives in detail, it should be clearly understood that it is just not recommended to jump over to the final goal by skipping other goals on the way. It is strongly argued that due experience of all aims of early life is essentially desired to help realize the ultimate aim of liberation. Unless we have gone through Kama and Artha, it will not be possible for us to appreciate as to what is the thing from which we need to seek liberation from in the first place. Unless a normal householder goes through the householder's life with all its problems, challenges, sufferings and other such experiences, he will not be able to feel the sincere desire for liberation. The real life actual experiences coupled with his own intellect and knowledge actually drives his sincere efforts for pursuing comparatively hard pursuit for liberation.

      Also, each one of us must avoid self negation which will be rightly construed as running away and escapism rather than liberation. The life desires are proper opportunities to bring about balance, richness, complexities and opportunities as a role on a big stage called cosmic drama of immense proportions wherein the person gets through his self initiatives, self controls, self efforts and self motivation alone.

      Now let us focus on each of these pious aims:

Very First Aim of Life — Dharma

      As a word, Dharma is used in almost all eastern religions but it means many things to many people and almost impossible for understanding it in well-defined limits set by any combination of words. English words like duty, faith, religion, righteousness, sacred law, justice, ethical obligations and morality are but unable to completely comprehend the true gist of Dharma as meant in Vedic traditions. In Hinduism, more accepted definition of Dharma can be taken as:

"Obligatory duty as prescribed by Vedas expected to be performed by an individual in accordance with the rules prescribed with relation to his age, caste, capability, capacity and profession without any desire, preference or attachment with the result of such act."

      The fact is that Dharma is much more of a concept rather than a single word and must be understood accordingly. Being a common origin from Dhri (same as used in Dharti), it will also cover all obligations for protecting everything on this earth and its equilibrium. In broader terms, it is the secret glue and binding force upholding and regulating the entire creation just as the law of gravity upholds the entire material universe.

      Dharma is to taken as a divine constitution that defines individual roles and responsibilities in the social and moral
contexts. It is supposed to be sacred, inviolable and pervasive. It is the one that an individual undertakes in harmony with divine injunctions and his own sense of morality and justice. But as this world is full of Maya and Bhram, it is not so easy to comprehend what is appropriate and most of us will feel pressure of going through 'Dharma Sankal' at many times in our life. It is for this very precise reason that our Acharyas and Gurus have recommended study of scriptures under the able guidance of well qualified Gurus, who alone can help us to accurately and safely navigate through the tough terrains of Dharma Grantha.

      As a personal experience, I wish to share that absence of a Guru can result in some detours resulting in some additional time and energy required to sort out initial hiccups. But once you have gone through first reading of scriptures like Law of Manu, Bhagavad Gita, Vedas, Upanishads with proper commentaries, an individual with normal level of intelligence will be able to perfectly navigate himself with perfect understanding of Dharma with reasonable clarity. This point is just to allay fears that if we are not able to have access to a Guru, we are not capable of seeking right pursuits of Vedic knowledge or knowledge of Hindu thoughts and beliefs.

      Applying the meaning of Dharma just to denote a religion is but a very limited view of Dharma in its Vedic background. It is much later that the word "Dharma" came to be used as Religion. Just to recall, for thousands of years of ancient Indian history; there was never a need to define Religion in separate boundaries. It was possible for any one to hold different faiths or worship different Gods without being differentiated under Religions. So, even at the cost of repetition, Dharma is much wider than Religion and must be understood accordingly.

Second Aim of Life — Artha

      With meaning equal to wealth and prosperity; it is recognized as quite essential for the overall happiness and well being of any individual living worldly life. It is well recognized that none of our duties can be fulfilled without wealth being around. It is considered as second most important aim in Hinduism and it recommends seeking wealth to uphold Dharma and help family and society to help achieve their goals.

      Another way to define it as an aim in life is to say that Artha is working for and achieving success in terms of wealth and power. Various forms of Artha can be briefly classified as under. The sequence is not accidental but a well-defined prioritization:

• Inner Wealth: Positive mindset, self respect, internal peace;

• Physical Wealth: Ability and capacity to undertake all physical acts with vigour;

• Family Wealth: Well knit family and circle of friends and other personal community;

• Professional Wealth: Actualizing highest potential by reaching at pinnacle of pursued profession by attaining everything possible to attain;

• Economic Wealth: Money or everything convertible to money; freedom to acquire things required for pursuing what one really likes and generally to be used for making life easier.

      Contrary to general understanding, especially one propagated by foreign commentators of Hinduism, it does not glorify poverty although it advocated austerity; simplicity and detachment for everything material. And to its credit, for most part of its glorious past, the entire region of Indian subcontinent which is the land where Hinduism has evolved and pervades, has been well known for its riches until the time when its riches itself became the attraction of foreign invaders of all types of people from Arab, Central Asia, Mongolia as well as Europe. So, anyone connecting Hinduism with poverty is suffering from a lack of vision and nothing else. Hinduism has never considered the desire for wealth as bad but greed is certainly considered so. Selfless desire for creating and preserving wealth is highly recommended.

      But one more critical point needs to be understood in sufficient clarity and that is the difference between Sanskrit words 'Artha' and 'Anartha' the two opposing terms linked with each other. Hinduism recommends but only righteously acquired wealth as the constituted meaning of Artha. Any part of wealth acquired by foul means or dubious methods is considered Anartha which is not only looked with disdain, but also which is synonymous with 'bad omen'. So, wealth is not the recommended wealth unless its means of acquisition are as per accepted norms of right Dharma.

      Wealth is taken as divine energy. An abundance of this divine energy is nowhere objected or held undesirable. Actually; one comes across many Veda Mantras where oblations are made to various Gods for bestowing wealth. Hence, aiming for wealth is virtue. Creating it and collecting it for family and society is not sinful. But taking something belonging to someone else is certainly sinful. So, one must have clean and clear means of acquiring wealth to be on right side of this virtue.

      In addition, Hinduism also emphasizes that being poor or rich should be taken just as an experience without getting attached to it. So, one should become indifferent to comforts/discomforts or having/not having of life caused by it. What is advocated is moderation and balance in pursuits of both material and spiritual goals of one's life. Most modern thinker of our time, Vivekananda has said:

"Religion is never for a person with empty stomach. If a person is struggling with survival needs, he cannot focus or appreciate any religious teachings."

Third Aim of Life — Kama

      Before going in detail, it is imperative to clearly apprehend the real meaning of this word, which has been generally twisted to denote only a small portion of its true meaning. Generally speaking it is understood as carnal desire. But that is not the correct understanding. 'Kama' actually means the enjoyment of legitimate desires with the help of honestly acquired wealth. Kama is also said to include producing and enjoyment of art, music, dance, drama, literature and poetry. So, all human desires of good things in life constitute Kama. This will include building a grand house, good conveyance, and good food, pampering of body, enjoying or throwing a great party as well as meeting carnal desires. Kama is also said to include producing and enjoyment of art, music, dance, drama, literature and poetry. It is thus religiously praiseworthy to take part, to support, or just to appreciate any form of pleasure. However, in terms of taking it as an objective of life, the caveat of use of honestly acquired wealth and the activity itself being within the gambit of Dharma is equally important.

      Hinduism, together with Buddhism considers 'Kama' as root cause of human suffering. Hence, detachment from sense objects, specially; sex is advocated as a way out from these sufferings. As per some interpretations in Hinduism, it can either be means of liberation and happiness or a great hindrance and cause of suffering, depending on how we approach it. In any case one has to overcome it ultimately to achieve salvation. It can be either done by abstaining from it or by indulging in it. The former is the way of Vedanta and the later is the way of Tantra. The first is the way of suppression while the second is the way of expression. The fact that Tantras have finally vanished from most part of Hindu thoughts, we should bury the expression of sexual powers as a means of liberation through the Tantrik way and side with Vedanta thoughts of the way through suppression.

      Generally speaking, Hinduism does not object to sex so long as it is not in conflict with the principle of Dharma and is used for the purpose of procreation, perpetuation of family and social order within the well established boundaries set in traditions, social norms and scriptures. Sexual activity is part of social obligation and should not be indulged for seeking pleasure. But sexual desire has been well understood as the ultimate in all basic human desires and unless it is overcome, one cannot overcome the Maya and ultimately one has to overcome it for seeking liberation as the final aim of life.

      The Puranic time is full of many stories portraying Gods and Goddesses as oversexed objects with even Gods finding it hard to resist beautiful Apsaras. But the real Vedantic Hinduism has had very clear views on this aspect and side stories better be ignored by intelligent readers and seekers as undesirable diversions which will ultimately delay reaching our final destination.

Final Aim of Human Life — Moksha

      Pursuits of Dharma regulate the life to keep an individual on the right path. While pursuits of Artha and Kama add to his worldly experience and impart valuable lessons of life. The pursuit of the final and most important aim in human life of Moksha is to be pursued for liberation and leading to the world of Brahman. Following Dharma starts in early student life and continues all through. Pursuing the twin aims of Artha and Kama are reserved for the householder stage. Finally seeking Moksha is considered as most important among all aims of life and is recommended to start only after seeking experiences of all other three aims. This is
the only aim to be followed all through Vanprastha and Sannyasa Ashrams.

      Moksha is both Purushartha and Parmartha. It actually means absence of 'moh, maya or bhram'. Bhram is caused by the inter play of three gunas, the activity of senses and attachment with the desire of sense objects. Liberation is achieved when quality of 'Sat' is increased by suppressing that of 'Rajas' and 'Tamas' and overcoming the desire of sense objects by detachment, self control and completely surrendering one's all actions to God. This is achievable only by following the path of Gy an, Karm, Bhakti and Tyag.

      These aims ensure that we do not neglect our obligations of human life at every stage, become obsessed with any one aim at the cost of other, maintain happiness and balance in human life, cater to both material and spiritual aspirations in right priority and proportions.

      It is well accepted that the achievement of Artha and Karma must come before the final quest for spiritual salvation. A person must enjoy in some measure what worldly life has to offer, pay off debts to society and contribute one's bit in maintaining a healthy communal life before turning away from the transient world and attaching himself to the changeless. Reality that lies veiled beyond material existence, which alone can give everlasting joy.

      In the times that the Hindu society gave proper emphasis on these aims and such other traditions, it grew to its maturity and became rich, splendid and unique. It reached its pinnacle in culture and civilization; it developed great literature, science, arts, crafts and industry. It also laid inspired basis of wonderful spiritual philosophies. But in due course came degradation on all cherished values. Old time integral harmony among various aims gave way to higher focus on Kama and Artha at the cost of Dharma. But even so, some strong basis of the old knowledge did remain and kept alive the hopes of the people even in the darkest days of Hinduism. That is why Hinduism alone, out of all ancient civilizations, still exists today having lived an unbroken continuous collective life.

      The quest for Moksha and its value as the highest goal of human life had not been understood even among most Hindus nor widely taught. The tendency amongst spiritual aspirants to have disdained and lack of meaningful involvement in society still exists. On the other hand very tiny number of householders, even today; are able to come out from Kama and Artha to pursue Moksha with total dedication.

Post a Comment

Do not post any spam link here.

Previous Post Next Post