Four Purusharthas

Everybody accepts that the total development of man should cover all the four dimensions, viz., Sharira, Mana, Buddhi, and Atma. The westerners and materialists also accept this. But then where is the difference in our acceptance and theirs?

When we consider body is to be developed, it is not merely physically but also mentally and intellectually. We should not think, “Why should I care for the body? Caring for it is materialistic. There are many who starve or mortify themselves beyond limits in the name of vratas. This is not a correct attitude. It is counter-productive.

It is said that Buddha went to the forest for doing tapas and started fasting endlessly. After a few days he found he could not meditate, as he could not concentrate or sit in a single posture for a long time. He realized that it was a wrong way. By then some village lady came with food and saved him for the world.

Our ancients said Sharira madhyam khalu dharma sadhanam. The body is the primary means of dharma and because of that, it must be taken care of properly. Not by wrong foods or beautifying it in an artificial manner. o, we should look after the legitimate requirements of the body so that it will serve us as a means of dharma. This is a approach which is different from the western approach, the materialist approach.

Similarly, the mind should be taken care of through correct samskaras. It should bear good thoughts, feelings, ideals. Mana eva manaushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoh. Mind is instrumental in creating bondage or freeing from it. It should not be like an unbridled horse; without self-control it leads to bondage.

Intellect occupies a decisive place in human development. There is a beautiful upamanam (simile): the body is the chariot, the soul is the traveller (king) and the mind is the rein (bridle). What is bridle? Pragraha. Manah pragrah eva cha. The chief (soul) in the chariot (body) has control of the reins (mind) on the life’s journey. He who holds the reins is the master. In the Kurukshetra war, Sri Krishna was the one who wielded the chariot and led Arjuna to victory.

Intellect clears all hurdles to pave way for the achievement of one’s mission. It is not to be dissipated on egoistic disputes but should be exercised for reaching the avowed goal of life.

Thus a harmonious blend of the above four (Sharira, Mana, Buddhi, and Atma) is necessary to reach the highest goal in life.

The Westerners on the other hand give great importance for physical development of the body, let go the mind unbridled, not using their high intellect to rein perverted desires and have no thought of the Atma at all.

We have reviewed Sharira, Mana, Buddhi and Atma sufficiently. Let us now revert to the four Purusharthas to know what they are and how the take man to the ultimate. nuance

Our great Acharyas have conceded that Dharma defies definition as it has many connotations and means many things according to context. It cannot be contained by mere logic. Tarko apratishtha. Logic does not lead to a definite conclusion as to what is dharma.

In our great Epics – Ramayana and Maha Bharata - some brothers stick together on account of Dharma and some other brothers desert them on account of the same Dharma. Then what is Dharma and what is Adharma? Shrutayo vibhinna naivo yashirvasya vacha pramana. Not a rishi has given an absolute pramana for Dharma. The interpretation is subject to many conditions.

They said therefore “Mahajano ena yeta sapantha”. The path followed by the truly great unselfish persons is Dharma. “Was it Dharma for Sri Krishna to have done that?” It was Dharma because it was not motivated by any personal gain but in the interest of enforcement of justice.

We are governed by Sanatana dharma. Satyam vada. Dharmam chara. Speak the truth; practice Dharma. These are universal principles for all in all climes and countries. None has said: tell asatya or follow Adharma.

Then there is Yuga Dharma! In Satya Yuga all were honest and truthful and followed Dharma. There was a slight deviation in Dwapara Yuga. Sri Krishna had to exercise his prerogative to set right things. But in our present times- Kali Yuga – even the basic principles of Dharma are not respected.

Dharma changes according to places and situations as we have already noticed earlier. The food habits vary from people to people. Many people in cold places take to drinking to keep themselves warm. That is o.k. provided it is within limits. Even ambrosia becomes poison in excess.

Then there is Apaddharma. Every rule has an exception in extra-ordinary circumstances. A security man is compelled to shoot a terrorist to neutralize him from causing death either to him or others. But can everyone do so because they do not like each other? Similarly, blood from one is taken for transfuse it to another it.

That is why the motive behind the act determines whether it is Dharma or Apaddharma or Adharma. Therefore the first and primary dharma is to keep one’s God given body and soul together in good condition.

A rowdy is chasing someone to harm him and comes to a crossroad. He does not know which side to turn to catch the run-away. He sees someone sitting in a small bridge nearby and enquires whether he has seen anyone running. Should he tell the truth which will result in harm to a poor man or should he tell the truth? To save the man from harm, he can tell an untruth that he did not know and that is accepted as Dharma, or as Apaddharma. But if he points out the direction in which the man, it will result in his being harmed and that is Adharma.

Dharma has to be practiced properly with reference to context. It is no open license! One is not free to do that any time anywhere. It is a mahajano yena yeta sapantha. It is also “Kshurasyadhara nishitah duratyaya”. It is like the razor’s edge. The most important thing is it should totally free from self-interest.

Artha means both economics and politics both. Pranayama is regulation of Prana. Likewise Arthayama regulates the economics in public interest, state interest, from immediate needs to long range requirements. It should take care of everything.

Similarly, politics is also be regulated in the right way. Here again national interest should take precedence over individual’s interest. A right economic policy by politicians without vested interest promotes national progress and prosperity. This is the basis for a welfare state.

Too much of prosperity is bad. “When wealth increases, man decays!” It should not happen so. Many affluent persons blind to the needs of others, squander their wealth indiscriminately. Late Sri Deendayal Upadhyaya used to say that such people, not inclined to do Puja or Japa, engaged priests to do them on their behalf. So there should not be any prabhava of artha, only abhava of wealth.

How this can be achieved? This question has been gone into by many thinkers. The great economist Schumacher said “Small is beautiful”. Some swear by large scale industries which make human beings virtually slaves. Going back age old cottage industries will not suit modern times. There should be a mixed economy taking into consideration all aspects. l.

What is the proper form of government? Is it democracy, autocracy, dictatorship, theocracy? There is a saying: That Government is the best which governs the least. There is no imposition from the State, no state interference on one’s legitimate rights or illegitimate demands on the citizen.

This was asked of Bhishma. His reply was: Striyanshca apurushah margam sarvalankara bhushita nirbhaya pratipadyante yatha rakshati bhuvitha. The proper government is where “the ruler rules properly, a young girl, well adorned with jewels, without any male escort, goes about without any shadow of fear at any time!
You may say it is a very tall order. There was a time when such a situation prevailed in our country. There was an internal `sentinel’ in every man’s heart monitoring his deeds. Dharma was present everywhere and Adharma nowhere!

It is said that USA has the largest number of police men in proportion to the civil population. Still, the greatest number of crimes occurs there. In our country, even today, there are many villages where there are no police stations and still nothing goes wrong. Perhaps more things go wrong where there is police man!

Law and order cannot be enforced by external agencies. This cannot be ensured by recruited policemen or unscrupulous politicians. It should come from within. More hospitals cannot erase diseases. Healthy practices can only do that. That is why the term arthayama has great significance in making a nation great.

The third Purushartha is Kama. This also has a broad spectrum: whatever pleases the five senses – Sabda, Sparsa,. Rupa, Rasa and Gandha - come under Kama. They are necessary to meet the natural human needs. This also is subject to restrictions of Dharma. It is not unlimited. This is well regulated. One who is in Brahmacharya ashrama gets his just need, not that of one in Grihasthashrama. It is totally prohibited. What is permitted and legitimate in Grihasthashrama is not permitted in brahmacharyashrama. Not in Vanaprasthashrama. Here too Dharma alone prevails in regulating Kama.

That was why Bhagawan said in Gita: Dharma aviruddho bhuteshu kamosmi.”I am Kama which is not in conflict with Dharma”. Everything is graded to suit every person at every stage in life. What is permitted to a student is not for a Grihastha, what is permitted for him is not for a sanyasin. Any infringement of this rule becomes Adharma.

Now we come to Moksha! This is also to be within the parameters of Dharma. There is nothing like a total freedom. An upstart – a young boy cannot say that now he is going to the Himalayas for Moksha. He should have credentials to reach that stage. A refining process has to be undergone. No doubt, there have been exceptions. Normally, one has to pass through the stages of Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha to become a Sanyasin. But Shankaracharya straight away became sanyasin. Not only that; he initiated many others to become sanyasins; he even established ten orders. That was a rarest of rare case. Not everybody can claim such a privilege while free to strive.

Today, there are many who lead the life of Sanyasins without the saffron garb and undergoing the stages Grihastha and Vanaprastha. There are life workers and RSS Pracharaks who have dedicated themselves to a higher national cause. This is also permitted as high idealism prompted them to opt for such a life. It is not because one wants to run away from domestic responsibility. It is not escapism. Therefore this falls under Dharma.

In short everything is governed by Dharma. Dharma aviruddho kamah, dharma aviruddho arthah, dharma aviruddho mokshah. Dharma alone sustains the world.
The four Purusharthas are goals of life, one after the other. There are four Ashramas relating to the stages of life are Ashramas. The four things to be cared for are sharira, mana, buddhi, atma. People have been classified under four Varnas. There is no bar for any anyone from moving up. Mere birth does not determine a person’s worth; only merit. Great men had humble origin.

With the individual development, the social development also takes place. Individual development can not take place outside the context of society. We are all part of society. It cannot happen that individuals develop and society declines and nor can it happen that society develops and individuals declines. If body is healthy, it means all organs are healthy and well bonded, each sustaining the other.

published date: 
Wed, 06/30/1999
Related Magazine: 
Share this