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Four Purusharthas in Hinduism: Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha

The people have different types of desires and goals, Hinduism describes it in four Purusharthas. They keep laboring hard to achieve their desires (Purusharthas). Sometimes people cannot differentiate between desires and real goals. All people do not have known what to do and what not to do with their desires and goals. So they puzzle in their life due to ignorance Desire with a blind mind may create a sin. Greed and desire are said to be the root of all sins. So, Hindu and yoga philosophy has given a proper guideline for legitimate goals. This is a Vedic philosophy which has elaborated four aims (Purusharthas).

Yoga’s (Ashtanga Yoga, Kripalu Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Siddha Yoga, Tantra Yoga) four aims (Purusharthas) of life are common for entire human beings of the world. The aims are Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Mokshya. In Sanskrit, they are referred as “four Purusharthas” four courage of life. These are not important only as an individual quality or need; but they are equally important to flourish one’s potentialities allowing living happier, healthier and fulfilled life. It is the foundation to grow and uplift spiritually.

Dharma (Duty)

First Purushartha is known as Dharma has very vast and a multitude of meanings.  The normal translating words, for ‘Dharma’, are religion, truth, righteousness, wholesomeness etc. These all meaning coincides moral and spiritual duty. Each and every activity of people should be non-harming, non-irritating for other. The work, duty or activities which are favorable for one-self and other is said as Dharma. People mistakenly believe that they should do spiritual work, prayer, worship etc to do dharma. This has resulted in suffering.

Some think theists perform dharma but an atheist cannot. It is not a correct concept. The so-called theist, if does harmful deeds; it would be against dharma. Whether you believe in god or not, but out action of body, mind, and speech should be directed towards the welfare of all. It is the activity which is justice for self and other. It seeks the justice. Dharma has both gross and subtle meanings. For the inner world of an individual, the word ‘Dharma’ gives subjective meaning. It may differ from one person to another person. It also differs from one situation to another situation. However, it seeks to be true to the self and other.

Dharma is a law of Nature. For example, Sun shines, planets revolve around the sun. It is much more than religion. It has nothing to give and take from the narrow religious idea, faith. In fact, Dharma is free from religious doctrine. Dharma cannot be imprisoned within the theory of religion. To walk on the path of Dharma is doing what ought to be done. The law of nature always gives a positive result. It seeks the sustainable and true benefits of all.  Dharma takes people at the top when followed properly.

Artha (Worldly gain)

It does not mean that people have to earn a lot of wealth. It means to earn in a systematic and right way. It suggests to be prosperous but keeping the dharma in mind. Prosperity is essential to lead a happy life. Earning in a wrong way is not a proper duty.  The householders need to earn for the livelihood of all family members and whoever are dependent on them.

If they earn in excess amount their duty is to donate to the needy people. It is a good rule that a person has to donate the one-tenth portion of his earning. They have to maintain a progressive status to improve both dharma and artha simultaneously.  The word ‘artha’ also gives the meaning earthly recognition. The prestige, name, fame, sound relation in the society etc are the earthly gain.

Another important worldly gain is good health. Unless one is healthy, he cannot achieve the goals of life. Being healthy all the time is itself of treasure. It is the basis and foundation for performing any work.

Kama (Physical and Sensual Pleasure)

Hindu philosophy also includes the worldly pleasures, including sexuality, love, marriage, arts, music, food, etc during the second stage of life. It includes innate urge as well in order to attain one’s ambition.  Achievement of these aspirations is linked with Kama. It is the lord of desire to enjoy the life in the fullest extent. Kama also refers the relationship with the higher concept of beauty through artistic expression. However, during the achievements, one should sincerely observe the dharma. Anything which is acquired in absence of Dharma will take towards misery.

Most of the people perceive Kama as a sexual pleasure. However, it has a broader meaning. Actually, anything that brings joy and pleasure in our life is Kama. If one completely tuned at present, live in present, then he acquires real pleasure.  At the highest stage of Kama, we connect to our higher self or divinity.  It is a conscious stage at the present moment.

Moksha (Liberation or Enlightenment)

At the fourth stage of life, after having all the experience of the world, human have to strive for liberation. Fixing dharma as a basis, if one has achieved the first three Purusharthas, gradually a time appears when one surpasses them. If Artha and Kama are based on Dharma, then attaining the final aim i.e. moksha will be easier. As one goes through the first three goals, he will realize that there is no permanent happiness in them.

So, he feels that source of eternal peace and joyfulness should be sought. But, if there is not a good foundation, then moksha is impossible. Actually, Mokshya is the liberation of freedom from the recurring births into the body after destructing all the karmas. It requires a higher level of wisdom and self-realization. It is the realization of highest truth.

These four aims (Purusharthas) are incomparable to each other. Each of them has its own importance. Each helps other to reach the final destiny. They are like the legs of a chair, all are equally important for the existence of chair. They are the pillars of a fulfilling life. They interweave each other. However, first three Purusharthas are the gear to approach the fourth. When the people start striving towards these Purusharthas, life becomes happier and easier.  The life will be incomplete without achievement of these Purusharthas. The success of life is hidden on the achievement of the four aims.