The Four Puruṣārthas/Purpose of Life

The Four Puruṣārthas/Purpose of Life

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Puruṣārthas means with the purpose for which a person strives for. It implies our goals or purpose of life. Puruṣārtha is exceptionally significant that our goals or purpose of life should be very very clear. Puruṣārtha is just like a weapon by which the human beings protect their lives and control themselves. It is eternal. It means an object of human pursuit. It is so contextual in present India as well as the modern India. Leterally speaking puruṣārtha means those actions which are proper and correct. It is a key concept in Hinduism. It refers to the four proper goals or aims of a human life. The four puruṣārthas are :

Dharma (righteousness),

Artha (prosperity),

Kāma (pleasure, love) and

Moksha (liberation).

Puruṣārthas are necessary and sufficient for a fulfilling and happy life. Puruṣārtha is a composite sanskrit word. The term comprises two words — ‘puruṣa’ and ‘Artha’. The word ‘puruṣa’ means “human being”, “Soul” as well as “Universal principle and soul of the universe”. The word ‘Artha’ means not only wealth or value, but also purpose or objective. So, the word “Puruṣārtha” etymologically denotes to the aim or purpose in life. The puruṣārthas are elaborated upon extensively in the Mahābhārata, the epic Indian poem that contains The Bhagavadgīta, and are interwoven with yogic philosophy at the deepest levels. Each one of the puruṣārthas has many scriptures dedicated to it (the Kāma Sūtra, the Dharma Shāstras, and the Artha Shāstras, among others).

Puruṣārthas are also known as the Caturvarga. In Mahābhārat it is also mentioned that the ultimate aim of life is to attain moksha or liberation in the path of Dharma.

All four puruṣārthas are important, but in cases of conflict, Dharma is considered more important than Artha or Kāma in Hindu Philosophy. Moksha is considered the ultimate ideal of human life. Ancient Indian literature emphasizes that dharma is formost. If Dharma is ignored, Artha and Kāma profit and pleasure respectively lead to social chaos.

The Gautam Dharmashāstra [Gautama Philosophy], Apastamba Dharmasūtra [Apastamba Philosophy] and Yājñavalkya Smṛti as examples, all suggest that Dharma comes first and is more important than artha and Kāma.

Kāma Sūtra states artha is more important and should precede Kāma, while dharma is more important and should precede Kāma, while dharma is more important and should precede both Kāma and Artha. Kautiliya’s Arthashāstra(Kautilya Philosophy), argues that Artha is the foundation for the other two. Without prosperity and security in society or at individual level, both moral life and sensuality become difficult. According to Kautilya, Poverty breeds vice and hate, while prosperity breeds virtues and love. Kautilya also thought that all three are mutually connected, and one should not cease enjoying life, nor virtuous behavior, nor persuit of wealth creation. Moksha is considered in Hinduism as the parama-puruṣārtha or ultimate goal of human life.

Dharma:

The Four Puruṣārthas/Purpose of Life

The Indian expression of right activities is dharma. In Mahabharata it is mentioned as an ethical concept, defined as that which is right and good. In Mimamsa, dharma is a means to the attainment of certain ends. This means that, ends like artha and kama should be acquired through righteousness, honesty and straightforwardness. One can posses artha through stealing and can become rich and through it can get all pleasures of life. But is this the dharma of a person? In Mahabharata, dharma is stated as that which upholds the society. Dharma is duty. It is the higher good to achieve the highest i.e., moksa or liberation. In all stages of a man’s life either as a student or as a householder, as a forest dweller or an ascetic, dharma has to be accepted as paramount. An IAS officer has got lots of riches, money and pleasures in his life, but these are to be acquired by doing his duty with sincerity and honesty, and not with bribery, corruption or other mal-practices; only then it will add meaning to his life, otherwise artha and kama without dharma would be meaningless. Dharma is the most important urge and should be developed to regulate both artha and kama.

If dharma is the common regulator, moksa or liberation, is the common aim, though difficult to attain. Under the wise regulation of dharma, desire has to be satisfied and wealth has to be produced and well used. But all the three urges have to be so adjusted and regulated as to lead a man to self- fulfillment in his search for the highest good. Dharma also refers to Varnashrama Dharma i.e., choice of duty on the basis of one’s aptitudes and stage in life.

Artha:

The Four Puruṣārthas/Purpose of Life

In one of the old Sanskrit lexicons, ‘artha’ is said to mean-meaning, money, a thing, and possessions. Artha also means the attainment of riches and worldly prosperity, advantage, profit and wealth. Artha, is a powerful urge in human nature. Acquisition of means for the material well-being, therefore, is a legitimate social and moral purpose. Today everyone is running after money. People need money to meet their basic necessities, for higher education, for luxuries of life, for name, fame, etc. However, if the urge to seek money or possessions is not restricted then it will lead to self-indulgence or greed and will bar the way to highest good i.e., moksa. It is given in one of the pali text, that “one who enjoys his wealth and does meritorious deeds with it, experiences pleasure and happiness”. It has therefore to be coupled with charity, also to Kautilya “wealth and wealth alone is important in as much as charity and desire depend on wealth for their realization.” Artha helps in the attainment of Kama; also Prof. Hiriyanna affirms that artha is ordinarily acquired for kama.

The Four Puruṣārthas/Purpose of Life

Kama is ordinarily termed as pleasure. The definition of pleasure in Kamasutra is the following: “Kama is the enjoyment of the appropriate objects by the five senses of hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting and smelling, assisted by the mind together with the soul.” The urge to enjoy pleasures and satisfy desires, is the most powerful and as an incentive to individual progress, most effective. It is said, “All that man does is inspired by kama.” As Manu regarded kama as desire, one can say, it is a desire for pleasure. It can be sensuous pleasure, mental pleasure getting through satisfaction of the work, urge for sexual pleasure, etc. Everyone is seeking that, which gives them pleasure and luxuries of life. Nobody wants to stay at the bottom level. People feel money is the important factor in the attainment of the pleasures of life by fulfilling our desires. So one may put artha as a means to kama as an end. But now, is that all? Is the purpose of human life fulfilled? How is this artha acquired? How well it is utilized in our life? To answer these questions, what one need to do is, to follow his dharma. Let us see how.

Moksa:

The Four Puruṣārthas/Purpose of Life

Etymologically moksa means to get ‘rid off’or ‘release’. Also it is commonly understood as liberation. In Bhagavad-Gita, moksa is mentioned as the supreme tranquility and the highest bliss. It is delight in the self, contentment with the self, self- satisfaction and self-fulfillment. It is the highest end of life, attainable only by the individual himself, with the help and guidance of dharma. Moksa as the last end signifies that its attainment is impossible without first fulfilling the obligations of the other three. It is a state of non-action. It is not that on death moksa is attained. Being the ultimate value of man’s social existence, the purushartha of moksa is an end in itself. Beyond that, man has nothing to attain. It is the stage where man’s cravings cease and along with that ceases the need for attainment and fulfillment. It is realization and living of the truth namely Aham Brahma Asmi and Tat Tvam Asi. In other words it is waking up of human consciousness at the highest level of reality i.e., paramarthik satta. The liberated person neither acts nor causes others to act. He may work for the good of humanity without moral obligation. But he has no duties to perform. It is total destruction of egoism. We can call moksa as a sublime goal. It can be known through mystical experience. Many saints like Tukaram, Kabir have talked about it and ultimately we all have to aim at it and only then we will be able to come out of the cycle of birth and death.

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