- The Purusharthas are the inherent values of the Universe: Artha (economic values), Kama (pleasure), Dharma (righteousness), and Moksha (liberation). The Purusharthas are the blueprint for human fulfillment. Working with them helps you create a satisfyingly balanced, meaningful life at the deepest and most holistic level. They offer a way for evaluating your life and making good decisions. Knowing your goals brings meaning to your spiritual practice
- Purushatha means “for the purpose of the Self.
- The original Vedic texts only suggested the three goals of Dharma, Artha, and Kama. In the later Upanishadic era, when people began to seek higher consciousness, the fourth goal of Moksha was added. Although the first three are somewhat interwoven, it is felt that the “right action” of Dharma is a necessary requirement for Artha to be meaningful and the abundance of Artha will be needed to support Kama. The path to liberation or enlightenment of Moksha is supported by the harmonious interaction of Dharma, Artha, and Kama.
- Dharma: Righteousness, Duty
- Artha: Wealth
- Kama: Desire
- Moksha: Liberation
The four Purusharthas are indeed the qualities and objectives of the Supreme Self and God. And since an individual is a reflection and manifestation of God, it is the rightful pursuit of a person to fulfill these four Purusharthas. In fact, it is both your individual and soul purpose.
A person is born on this earth to fulfill certain duties. The soul houses itself into the physical body which is most suited for performing these duties. The work that a person needs to do, which may be tied to their body, family, or commitments, among others, can be the Dharma of the person. Dharma is a difficult word to translate into English, but can roughly be explained as the rightful duty of a person.
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- Dharma also brings stability and order, a life that is lawful and harmonious, and the striving to do the right thing, to be virtuous, to be helpful to others, and to interact successfully with society. The great Indian text, The Bhagavad Gita says, “The greatest dereliction of Dharma is to desert the helpless in their time of need.”
- Vedanta tells us that you can discover your Dharma by studying sacred teachings from the examples of highly evolved people, reflecting on and following what satisfies your heart, and listening to your deepest inner feelings.
- The Bhagavad Gita also says, “Better your own Dharma though imperfect than the Dharma of another done perfectly.” This means that you need to find your own truth and even though you may make mistakes along the way, this is still preferable to trying to copy others.
- Vedanta tells us that you will know when you are in Dharma when your actions are spontaneously correct, you automatically know what to do in any situation, you are in harmony with and your life is supported by everything around you, you feel complete within yourself, and life becomes effortless.
- Dharma is considered the first of the Purusharthas because without it, Artha and Kama can easily become self-destructive. However, Artha and Kama, when balanced, also serve to support your Dharmic Path and eventually your outward Dharma leads you to inner Moksha.
Artha is the pursuit of material wealth, which may bring material comfort to a person. People sometimes believe that the path of spiritual growth and pursuit of material wealth are mutually exclusive, or even that a spiritual seeker needs to be in poverty.
But that is not true. If we look at the Universe, it is a reflection of abundance. Nature is abundant in everything. Poverty is nothing but a state of consciousness. If abundance is a quality of the Divine, how is the pursuit of abundance in contrast with the pursuit of the Divine? If one is in poverty, in a state of continually worrying about how to support and feed, how can one pursue spirituality? When one can move beyond daily worries, they can focus their attention on the goal of union with the divine.
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- Artha provides the foundation for Dharma and Kama. Without prosperity and security in society or at the individual level, both moral life and sensuality become difficult. However, it’s important that your “worldly success” doesn’t violate the moral responsibility of your Dharma and your journey toward Moksha (spiritual liberation).
- Ultimately, Artha is the pursuit of activities and means necessary for a joyous and pleasurable life. Vedanta says that you should:
- Discover a way so money runs after you and not vice versa.
- Do work that is compatible to your nature and capabilities.
- Do work that serves society.
- Do work you really love.
- Trust in the infinite organizing power of the Universe.
Kama is fulfilling one’s desires. Desires may come in various forms — to be wealthy, powerful, sexual needs, for recognition, etc. The Kama Purushartha advocates that one’s desires need to be fulfilled in their lifetime, albeit in a state of awareness and without harming anyone in the process. For a person to evolve spiritually and to reach the ultimate destination, the barrier of their desires needs to be crossed. This can be done either by fulfilling the desires or by sublimating or transcending them.
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- Kama relates to this pleasure, which can be sensuality, but is also art, music, beauty, love, intimacy, affection, fellowship, and kindness—it’s what brings a sense of delight to your life. The right kinds of pleasure lead you toward your Dharma and help you fulfill it with passion. Kama is good and necessary when it exists to support Dharma and becomes part of the richness of life. However, excessive Kama can lead to overindulgence, addiction, sloth, greed, and lust.
- To successfully practice Kama, you must ask, “Are my pleasures aligned with my life’s purpose?” The Upanishads tell us, “As is your desire so is your will, as is your will so is your deed, as is your deed so is your destiny and You are what your deep driving desire is.”
- To practice Kama from a yogic perspective means to practice being fully present with whatever you’re experiencing. Kama is a total sensory experience that includes discovering the object, learning about the object, establishing emotional connection, learning the process of enjoyment, and experiencing the resulting feeling of well-being before, during, and after the experience.
- Vedanta warns us that Kama should be followed with thought, care, caution, and enthusiasm, and be free from worries and egotistical problems. Know and seek which pleasures are saturated with Divine Consciousness and are drenched in the ecstasies of the soul. Ultimately, the highest Kama is the longing for Oneness with the Divine.
Moksha means liberation, the realization of the Self, and is the ultimate destination of this human birth. It is the stage of inner realization that the individual self is the same as the Supreme Self. Moksha is the experience of the cosmos within one’s self. It is the experience of the flow and fusion of the Shiva and Shakti energies in one’s self. The experience of union, oneness or Ekatvam with one’s Higher Self is Moksha.
more about moksha
When you live your Dharma, fully supported by Artha and Kama, Moksha or the final liberation dawns.
Moksha is your true nature—it’s who you really are. It includes:
- Freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth.
- Freedom from ignorance.
- Self-realization and self-knowledge.
- Consciousness of the Oneness of the Supreme Soul.
- The removal of obstacles to an unrestricted life.
- Access to our full human potential of creativity, compassion, and understanding.
- Vedanta tells us that liberation comes to those who know Brahman as that which is the origin and end of all things, the universal principle behind and at source of everything that exists, and the consciousness that pervades everything and everyone.
- Such realization comes from self-knowledge and self-discipline. Moksha is self-discipline that is so perfect that it becomes unconscious, second nature, an unworldly understanding, and a state of bliss. This liberation comes from a life lived with inner purity, alert mind, led by reason, intelligence, and realization of the Supreme Self who dwells in all beings. As the poet Rumi says, “The whole Universe exists within us, ask all from yourself.” While Lao Tzu tells us, “Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.”
- Moksha is seen as a final release from life’s illusion. The Upanishads describe the liberated individual as one who treats others with respect (regardless of how others treat him/her); returns anger with soft and kind words; doesn’t expect praise from others; never injures or harms any life form; is as comfortable being alone as in the presence of others; and is humble of clear and steady mind, straightforward, compassionate, and patient.
This article is written by Sarvesh Nagar (NET/JRF)
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