Purusha means human being and artha means object or
objective. Purusharthas means objectives of man. According to
Hindu way of life, a man should strive to achieve four chief
objectives (Purusharthas) in his life. They are:
1. dharma (righteousness),
2. artha (material wealth),
3. kama (desire) and
4. moksha (salvation).
Every individual in a society is expected to
achieve these four objectives and seek fulfillment in his life
before departing from here. The concept of Purusharthas clearly
establishes the fact that Hinduism does not advocate a life of
self negation and hardship, but a life of balance, achievement
Dharma is a very complicated word, for which there
is no equivalent word in any other language, including English.
Dharma actually means that which upholds this entire creation. It
is a Divine law that is inherent and invisible, but responsible
for all existence. Dharma exists in all planes, in all aspects
and at all levels of creation. In the context of human life,
dharma consists of all that an individual undertakes in harmony
with Divine expectations and his own inner spiritual aspirations,
actions that would ensure order and harmony with in himself and
in the environment in which he lives. Since this world is
deluded, a human being may not know what is right and what is
wrong or what is dharma and what is adharma. Hence he should rely
upon the scriptures and adhere to the injunctions contained there
in. In short, dharma for a human being means developing divine
virtues and performing actions that are in harmony with the
Dharma is considered to be the first cardinal aim
because it is at the root of everything and upholds everything.
For example see what happens when a person amasses wealth without
observing dharma or indulges in sexual passion against the social
norms or established moral values. Any action performed without
observing dharma is bound to bring misery and suffering and delay
ones salvation. Hinduism therefore considers it rightly as the
first cardinal aim of life.
In ancient India dharmashastras (law books)
provided guidance to people in their day to day lives and helped
them to adhere to dharma. These law books were written for a
particular time frame and are no more relevant to the modern
world. The best way to know what is dharma and what is adharma,
is to follow the religious scriptures such as the Bhagavad gita
and the Upanishads or any other scripture that contains the words
Artha means wealth. Hinduism recognizes the
importance of material wealth for the overall happiness and well
being of an individual. A house holder requires wealth, because
he has to perform many duties to uphold dharma and ensure the
welfare and progress of his family and society. A person may have
the intention to uphold the dharma, but if he has no money he
would not be able to perform his duties and fulfill his dharma.
Hinduism therefore rightly places material wealth as the second
most important objective in human life. Lord Vishnu is the best
example for any householder who wants to lead a life of luxury
and still be on the side of God doing his duties. As the
preserver of the universe, Lord Vishnu lives in Vaikunth amid
pomp and glory, with the goddess of wealth herself by his side
and yet helps the poor and the needy, protects the weak, upholds
the dharma and sometimes leaving everything aside rushes to the
earth as an incarnation to uphold dharma.
Hinduism advocates austerity, simplicity and
detachment, but does not glorify poverty. Hinduism also
emphasizes the need to observe dharma while amassing the wealth.
Poverty has become a grotesque reality in present day Hindu
society. Hindus have become so poverty conscious that if a saint
or a sage leads a comfortable life, they scoff at him, saying
that he is not a true yogi. They have to remind themselves of the
simple fact that none of the Hindu gods and goddesses are really
Hinduism believes that both spiritualism and
materialism are important for the salvation of human beings. It
is unfortunate that Hinduism came to be associated more with
spiritualism, probably because of the influence of Buddhism,
where as in truth Hinduism does not exclude either of them. As
Swami Vivekananda rightly said religion is not for the empty
stomachs. Religion is not for those whose main concern from
morning till evening is how to make both ends meet. Poverty
crushes the spirit of man and renders him an easy prey to wicked
In ancient India Artha shastras (scriptures on
wealth) provided necessary guidance to people on the finer
aspects of managing their wealth. Kautilya's Artha Shastra,
which is probably a compilation of many independent works, gives
us a glimpse of how money matters were handled in ancient
Kama in a wider sense means desire and in a narrow
sense, sexual desire. Hinduism prescribes fulfillment of sexual
passions for the householders and abstinence from it for the
students and ascetics who are engaged in the study of the
scriptures and in the pursuit of Brahman.
The Bhagavad gita informs us that desire is an
aspect of delusion and one has to be wary of its various
movements and manifestations. The best way to deal with desires
is to develop detachment and perform desireless actions without
seeking the fruit of ones actions and making an offering of all
the actions to God. This way our actions would not bind us to the
cycle of births and deaths.
Hinduism permits sexual freedom so long as it is
not in conflict with the first aim, i.e. dharma. Hindu scriptures
emphasize that the purpose of sex is procreation and perpetuation
of family and society, while the purpose of dharma is to ensure
order in the institution of family and society. A householder has
the permission to indulge in sex, but also has the responsibility
to pursue it in accordance with the laws of dharma. Marriage is a
recognized social institution and marriage with wife for the
purpose of producing children is legitimate and in line with the
aims of dharma.
One of the important sects of Hinduism is
Tantricism. It recognizes the importance of sexual freedom in the
liberation of soul. The Tantrics accept sex as an important means
to experience the blissful nature of God and the best way to
experience God in physical form. They also refer to the concept
of Purusharthas to justify their doctrines. They believe that
sexual energy is divine energy and it can be transformed into
spiritual energy through controlled expression of sex.
Just as the dharmashastras were written for the
sake of dharma, and artha shastras for artha, kama shastras were
composed in ancient India for providing guidance in matters of
sex. We have lost many of them because of the extreme secrecy and
social disapproval associated with the subject.
If dharma guides the life of a human being from
below acting as the earth, showing him the way from above like a
star studded mysterious sky is moksha. Dharma constitutes the
legs of a Purusha that walk upon the earth; both artha and kama
constitute his two limbs active in the middle region; while
moksha constitutes the head that rests in the heaven.
Human life is very precious because of all the
beings in all the worlds, only human beings have the best
opportunity to realize the Higher self. It is also precious
because it is attained after many hundreds and thousands of
lives. Rightly, salvation should be its ultimate aim.
Moksha actually means absence of moha or delusion.
Delusion is caused by the inter play of the triple gunas. When a
person overcomes these gunas, he attains liberation. The gunas
can be overcome by detachment, self control, surrender to god and
offering ones actions to God.
If dharma is the center of the wheel of human life,
artha and kama are the two spokes and moksha is its
circumference. If dharma is at the center of human life, beyond
moksha there is no human life, but only a life divine.
The four Purusharthas are also like the four wheels
of a chariot called human life. They collectively uphold it and
lead it. Each influences the movement of the other three, and in
the absence of any one of them, the chariot comes to a halt.