By Swami Harshananda
Puruṣārthas literally means ‘ends to be striven for by human beings’.
Recognizing the basic needs and cravings of a human being, the ancient sages have given a fourfold ideal to be striven for by everyone which is called the puruṣārthas or the ends to be striven for in life.
Classification of Puruṣārthas
There are four types of puruṣārthas. They are the following:
- Dharma - righteousness
- Artha - wealth
- Kāma - desires of the flesh
- Mokṣa - liberation from trans-migratory existence
Significance of Puruṣārthas
Ordinary enjoyments of the world are centered around artha and kāma. However, in this world of cut-throat competition, unless some higher norms and standards for the right rules for a good and a fair game are set up, the big fish will eat up the smaller ones and the jungle-law will prevail. These rules that are indicated by the dharma.
Puruṣārthas Delineated for a King
As applied to a king, the four puruṣārthas recommended are:
- Desire for wealth that he does not have
- Protecting the wealth that he already has
Delineation of Puruṣārthas
Every person is free to pursue the path of artha and kāma, comfort and pleasure, but always within the perimeters of dharma. However, life teaches everyone that neither artha nor kāma can ever be satiated and there must be a much higher goal to be sought after. This is mokṣa or total liberation from the transmigratory cycle of birth and death. It is being reinstated in one’s original state, the state of eternal bliss which can be attained through spiritual evolution under the guidance of expert spiritual masters. Sometimes, the first three are grouped as one unit called as ‘trivarga’ and the last as ‘apavarga’.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore