Purushartha (पुरुषार्थ:)

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Purushartha (Samskrit: पुरुषार्थ:) refers to the four principal categories of pursuits in human life namely, Dharma (धर्मः), Artha (अर्थः), Kama (कामः) and Moksha (मोक्षः). The life of a human being was set in the framework of these four Purusharthas by our ancient seers. The whole body of Bharatiya texts and parampara have all aspects of life and after-life events seen through the lens of the purusharthas. Thus Purushartha drsthi is the most unique of the principles of Sanatana Dharma. While a vast majority of people in the world live a life to fulfil Artha (अर्थः) and Kama (कामः) and a few adhering to Dharma framework, very few pursue the Moksha purushartha.

परिचयः ॥ Introduction

"What is the purpose of my life? What is the aim of my life? What am I born?" - these are a set of common ultimate vocal or silent questions that plague the minds of human beings. All other questions that are raised reduce down to these basic questions.[1]

All human beings are driven by some or the other form of desire to work, to perform Karma, towards the following things as their goals

  1. Basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter; thus education and livelihood is a prime desire for self sustenance
  2. Providing safety and security for themselves and family. Here the fear and insecurity of the future are addressed.
  3. Supplementing mental and physical wants such as entertainment, investment and so on. Wants can be innumerable.
  4. Morality and ethical goals such as following principles for healthy mental and physical well-being, charity, meditation etc
  5. Perpetuation of family and lineage; work towards in-life and after-life happiness
  6. Duties and responsibilities to family members and society
  7. Attaining happiness, wisdom, knowledge, limitlessness.

These desires are fulfilled when we perform Karma in our everyday lives, such as eating food, working in an office, watching sports, buying groceries, visiting Mandirs or perform pujas, perform danas, perform activities for the sake of family members etc.[1] All these activities ultimately progress with certain limitations within a personal and societal framework primarily with an aim to achieve happiness and freedom and overcome fear, sorrow, ignorance etc. And this well defined framework as per the principles of Sanatana Dharma lead us to the four Purusharthas or life goals, namely Dharma (धर्मः), Artha (अर्थः), Kama (कामः) and Moksha (मोक्षः).[1] Some traditional philosophers like Sankara have tried to interpret these four values as moral value, instrumental value, psychological value and supreme value (paramo, purushartha) respectively.[2]

व्युतपत्तिः ॥ Etymology

The term Purushartha (पुरुषार्थ:) is a compound word consisting of the terms "पुरुषः (purusha)" and "अर्थः (artha)". The term Purusha in the word Purushartha, is derived from the dhatu "पूः" used in the sense of पुरं शरीरं च । one who resides in, enters in पुरि शेते इति। sleeps in the pura (city) or body, i.e., refers to the conscious Jiva who occupies the body is called Purusha (पुरुषः)। The derived meaning of the word Purusha is thus the Jiva or the embodied Atman. Purusha (पुरुषः) in the Rigveda and elsewhere refer to the immanent and transcendental supreme being. In the Bhagavata Purana we see that in the following shlokas

पुरुषत्वे च मां धीराः (Bhag. Pura. 11.7.21)

बह्व्यः सन्ति पुरः सृष्टास्तासां मे पौरुषी प्रिया २२। (Bhag. Pura. 11.7.22)

पुरं पुरुषमात्मवान् । (Bhag. Pura. 3.20.50)

The term Purusha is used mainly to denote "a man", "a person". Thus when mentioned in shastras this term is used to designate not the beings or creatures in general but refers particularly to a human being. In this context the "Purusha" in the term "Purushartha" refers particularly to a human being, specifically to the man and woman.[3] Thus the term purusa is used in two contexts and both are closely interrelated. On the one hand purusa is cosmic in which the entire universe (Brahmanda) is stated and the other is the individual (pinda) in which the human being is connoted. The term ‘purusa’ also means that which moves forward (purati agre gachhati). This meaning is specially relevant to human context because the human being has the potentiality to grow.[2]

The term "artha" in the word Purushartha, has a been explained in the sense of अर्थ्यते प्रार्थ्यते सर्वैः। where it means the "desired fruits" or "desired objects." It can be expanded as पुरुषाणाम् अर्थः। and पुरुषैः अर्थ्थते इति पुरुषार्थः। it means those (results) which are wanted by the Purusha or Purusharthas are those fruits (of efforts) desired by a person.[3]

From these perspectives it can be said in essence that almost everything that we see in this world are the objects that are either to be "known" or "desired" by a Purusha. However, in the view of the shastras, the Vedas or for that matter in the whole body of Samskrit literature it is said that the results of any effort by a man falls into any one of the four categories. Thus Purusharthas are etymologically said to be the four primary desirables or objectives (Chaturvarga) of human pursuits. The ability to fulfill them is solely vested in the human beings and no other being, and hence they are called Purusharthas. After a human being is born, whatever desires (Kama) he has, the activities (Karma) they incite him or her to perform and the results so obtained (karma phala) can be categorized under any of these four goals only. Chaturvarga Phalaprapti is the only logical end for any desire of a human being, as explained clearly in Bhagavata Purana.[3]

पुंसां अमायिनां सम्यक् भजतां भाववर्धनः । श्रेयो दिशत्यभिमतं यद्धर्मादिषु देहिनाम् । ॥ ६० ॥ (Bhag. Pura. 4.8.60)

Hence in this universe the lakshya or goal of all activities of man are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.

As per Shabdakalpadhruma Purushartha is explained as धर्मार्थकाममोक्षरूपेषु पुरुषस्य इष्टेषु । The desires of a person in the form of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.

Agni Purana states the four Purusharthas explicitly as धर्मार्थकाममोक्षाश्च पुरुषार्था उदाहृताः । The Purusharthas are exemplified by Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.[4]

Adhikari of Chaturvarga

A human being alone is designated to fulfil the chaturvarga, even though the universe is created with beings of all kinds of specialties - all powerful devatas, daityas, danavas etc. Even though they have all the abilities to live and conduct their lives on this earth and other lokas, they all have one great deficiency - that of a discriminating mind (Buddhi). The Bhagavata Purana mentions the following

बुद्धीन्द्रियमनःप्राणान् जनानां असृजत् प्रभुः । मात्रार्थं च भवार्थं च आत्मनेऽकल्पनाय च ॥ २ ॥ (Bhag. Pura. 10.87.2)[5]

Meaning: Paramatma created beings with Buddhi (intellect), Indriyas (sense-organs), Manas (mind), and Prana (vital energy). Through the Pranas, the beings become alive, through the indriyas they hear the shastras, through the Manas they deliberate on the Atma tattva and finally by Manana and by using Buddhi they arrive at what the tattva is pointing to, to attain Atma.[3]

The last of the four intended purposes, the means to fulfil the purpose of being one with Atma, is not fully developed in other beings. Observing this one deficiency, the Srshtikarta created man having the quality to discern and seek Atmavidya. Because of this one exceptional quality - understanding and discerning power of the humans, man became the adhikari to these Chaturvargas which cannot be performed by any other beings. Thus the last for the four goals namely, moksha, cannot be the goal of any other being other than man because Buddhi or intelligence is the instrument functioning at its highest level only in the human.

Uniqueness of the Upadhi of a Human being

It is said that being born as a human is highly desired for only in this Upadhi can the reflection of Paramatma be recognized in the embodied Jiva. In the Aitereya Aranyaka,

पुरुषे त्वेवाऽऽविस्तरामात्मा । स हि प्रज्ञानेन सम्पन्नतमः । विज्ञातं वदति विज्ञातं पश्यति । पशूनामशनापिपासे एवाभिविज्ञानं न विज्ञातं वदन्ति न विज्ञातं पश्यन्ति (Aita. Aran. 2.3.2)[6]

Meaning: In Purusha (manushya sharira) the manifestation of Atman is the highest as compared to other lifeforms. He is the only one endowed with Prajnana or discrimination. Man knows, sees, and speaks along with the understanding that "I am the knower, I am the seer, I am the speaker." An animal (creature) also knows, sees and speaks (utters sounds). But they do not have the understanding of that sense of "I am the knower, I am the seer and I am the speaker." Thus there exists a difference in the cognition level of a human and an animal. It is this extraordinary intelligence of the human which makes him dear even to the deities.[3]

Every human being is primarily imperfect but can gradually attain perfection. The Vedic seers and sages were convinced that by constant effort one can attain perfection. And the human being who is the evolute in the cosmic process can be an instrument or agent for the attainment of perfection. Thus the word purushartha not only means goals of human being but also stands for human endeavor.[2]

Shri Krishna in Bhagavat Gita clearly states that He is the Buddhi in the body of a man. In the Bhagavata Purana Shri Krishna mentions that in man, having a suitable body, using the the capabilities of Indriyas, Manas etc, an intelligent one can attain the Atman. For this reason, even though the creation has one, two, three, four, multiple and no legged creatures having different kinds of bodies, it is the human being (manushya sharira) which is most loved by the Him, for it is only in this Upadhi he can with focus and concentration reach the unreachable state of attaining that Ishvara which is different from Ahamkara (identification of body with Atman).[3]

पुरुषत्वे च मां धीराः साङ्ख्ययोगविशारदाः। आविस्तरां प्रपश्यन्ति सर्वशक्त्युपबृंहितम् २१।

एकद्वित्रिचतुष्पादो बहुपादस्तथापदः। बह्व्यः सन्ति पुरः सृष्टास्तासां मे पौरुषी प्रिया २२।

अत्र मां मृगयन्त्यद्धा युक्ता हेतुभिरीश्वरम्। गृह्यमाणैर्गुणैर्लिङ्गैरग्राह्यमनुमानतः २३। (Bhag. Pura. 11.7.21-23)[7]

Thus it is the Manushya who is the most intelligent being among all creations in Jagat and capable of Atmasakshatkara and thus chosen as the Adhikari for the four pursuits. This identification of man as not just another animal but is capable of reaching unknown higher realms is the most unique power of man that differentiates him from rest of the beings according to Sanatana Dharma.

मोक्ष एव परमपुरुषार्थः ॥ Moksha is Paramapurushartha

The Doctrine of Trivarga comprising of Dharma, Artha and Kama is the sum and substance of the Bharatiya philosophy of life, intended to strike a reasonable balance between the interests of the individual and the public interest which means the interests of all other individuals who constitute the society or Nation concerned and includes all humanity. It declares the supremacy of Dharma over Artha (wealth) and Kama (desire for securing material pleasure). It is the invaluable and everlasting solution for all the problems of all human beings for all time to come, irrespective of their belonging or not belonging to any religion.[8]

The propounders of Dharma did appreciate that the fulfillment of desires of human beings was essential but were of the opinion that unless the desires were regulated by law, they would bring about undesirable results. Therefore, all the propounders of Dharma were unanimous that for the existence of an orderly society and the peace and happiness of all, the desires (kama) for material enjoyment, and pleasures (Artha) should always conform to Dharma (Code of Right Conduct) and be never inconsistent with it.[8]

Manu declares

धर्मार्थावुच्यते श्रेयः कामार्थौ धर्म एव च । अर्थ एवेह वा श्रेयस्त्रिवर्ग इति तु स्थितिः । । २.२२४ । । (Manu. Smrt. 2.224) परित्यजेदर्थकामौ यौ स्यातां धर्मवर्जितौ । (Manu. Smrt. 4.176)

Meaning: To achieve welfare and happiness some declare Dharma and Artha are good. Others declare that Artha and Kama are better. Still others declare that Dharma is the best. There are also persons who declare Artha alone secures happiness.[8]

But the correct view is that the aggregate of Dharma, Artha and Kama (Trivarga) secures welfare and happiness. However, the desire (kama) and material wealth (Artha) must be rejected if contrary to Dharma.[8]

In this single verse Manu Smriti has considered the merits of pure materialism (Artha and Kama) and of mere spiritualism (Dharma without Artha) and concluded that it is the combination of Dharma, Artha and Kama which secures welfare and happiness with an overriding principle that desire (kama) and material wealth (artha) should be rejected if they are inconsistent with Dharma and calls this doctrine Trivarga. There can be no better rule or philosophy than Trivarga, for the welfare of the individual and society. It strikes a harmonious balance between the interests of the individual and society. However, while Dharma embraces every type of righteous conduct covering every aspect of life essential for the sustenance and welfare of the individual and society, it also includes those rules which guide and enable the attainment of moksha (eternal bliss)[8]

Everyone wants to be infinitely happy, yet one incessantly gets engaged in the worldly paths forgetting the goal of finding this elusive entity called Atman, which exists, is conscious and limitless. There are two natures of man in terms of his search for Sukha, loosely translated as happiness.[3]

  1. विषयसुखम् (Vishaya Sukha): It is that dukha (includes sadness, pain etc) mixed sukha generated when the karma-, jnana-indriyas come in contact with vishaya (objects in Jagat). It is the pleasure derived from the things around us. After finally getting tired of the unstable nature of such a kind of happiness, there arises in man the thought that these indriyas are limited to the body and I am not that.
  2. आत्मसुखम् (Atma Sukha): After fulfilling the vasanas or samskaras from previous lives, in the form of eternal search for vishaya sukha in the outside world, the mind comes to a firm decision that there is something eternal called Atman, which is the original Self of a human and rejoices in this Jnana. Then he is said to be in the state of Atmasukha. It is the ultimate state of a human being only.

To attain and remain in the state of Sukha, it appears that the most important desired purposes of all human beings (sadhya साध्य) are just two namely Kama (desires required to fulfil worldly pleasures) and Moksha and the instruments (sadhanam साधनं) to achieve these two goals are Dharma and Artha. Thus the two pursuits and their two instruments are generally felt necessary by every person. Since Moksha pertains to the domain of Self or Atma it is termed Adhyatma, and the chief instrument to achieve it is Dharma. Artha and Kama are essential instruments for fulfilling the needs in life. Dharma also supports these two needs, the Artha and Kama.[3] Amarakosha defines Trivarga as Dharma, Kama and Artha and along with Moksha as Chaturvarga.

त्रिवर्गो धर्म कामार्थः चतुर्वर्गः समोक्षकः। (Amar. 2.7.57)

While the four purusharthas have their own significance, shastras have given greater importance to Moksha because the Trivargas will eventually lead to Moksha.[3] The trivargas by themselves are faultless when they are used in the way given by the shastras. When the desires and thoughts in the human mind lead the man away from the way the goals have to be pursued, then they become associated with doshas or mala. When dharma is performed with an intent for their worldly results (sakama dharma), artha is used for causes other than charity and personal means (niguhana), when one gets carried away gets excessively attached to desires (moha) - in such cases the trivarga is said to have doshas.

अपध्यानमलो धर्मो मलोऽर्थस्य निगूहनम्। संप्रमोहमलः कामो भूयस्तद्गुणवर्धितः।। (Maha. Shan. Parv. 123.10)

When man pursues dharma without attachments to the results of such actions (nishkama dharma), artha or wealth is sought with an intent to donate and for service (त्यागाय संभृतार्थानाम्), and kama or desires are such that they invoke dharmik way of life - then such trivargas are free from doshas or faults. In such a way when a man follows the goals of life within the frame work of trivarga, they all lead him easily to the fourth paramapurushartha namely Moksha.[3] All the instruments required for achieving Atma sukha by undertaking the path of Paravidya are given to man, such as the laukika Vidyas (Apara Vidya), the Indriyas, Buddhi etc hence man pursuing the "Alaukika अलौकिकम्" path is inherent in the human being to attain the limitless state called as Moksha. Hence Moksa is considered as the supreme value i.e. parama purusartha. It is the ultimate end of human life, because it puts an end to all limitations of human life. Therefore, it has been described as absolute freedom i.e. freedom from the cycle of birth and rebirth.[2] Vedanta Paribhasha, opens with the statement that among the four purusharthas, Moksha is the paramapurushartha, the supreme of the purusharthas.

इह खलु धर्मार्थकाममोक्षेख्येषु चतुर्विधपुरुषार्थेषु मोक्ष एव परमपुरुषार्थः, (Veda.Pari. 1.1)[9]

Thus as the ultimate goal of human pursuits, Moksha is said to be the parama-purushartha.

Purusharthas and their importance

The importance of a particular purusartha varies with the stages of life (ashramas), in which man is in during the course of his life’s journey. In the brahmacarya ashrama, dharma is given utmost importance with minimal-artha and kama essential for bodily maintenance. In the grhastha asrama, kama is of paramount importance, but it must be adequately supported by artha and dharma. In the Brahma Purana it is stated that by balancing the trivargas, a grhastha can reap the benefits in both in this world and beyond (alaukika).

त्रिवर्गसाधने यत्नः कर्तव्यो गृहमेधिना। तत्संसिद्धौ गृहस्थस्य सिद्धिरत्र परत्र च।। २२१.१० ।। (Brah. Pura. 221.10)

In the sannyasa ashrama, moksa along with dharma is the paramapurusartha, artha and kama play a minimal role. In fact one purusartha becomes the foundation of either one or two stages of life (ashrama) of the person concerned. In other words, the scheme of purusarthas ceases to be hierarchical. Each purusartha has equal role for the sustenance of society and welfare of the human beings as long as they are correctly understood and pursued.[8] Besides purusartha as value should not be taken as person specific. No value in true sense can be so. Man being a social animal needs a harmonious and well-balanced life in society. It should strike a balance among the physical, psychic, moral and spiritual aspects. The theory of purusartha aims at providing a guideline that ensures such a harmony for a man in his personal as well as social life. As extolled in Bhagavata Purana, if one pursues only Artha and Kama, then he may as well wash his hands of all purusharthas, because following only these two pursuits a man loses his discrimination and knowledge leading to attaining those forms that are lower than a human.

अर्थेन्द्रियार्थाभिध्यानं सर्वार्थापह्नवो नृणाम् । भ्रंशितो ज्ञानविज्ञानाद् येनाविशति मुख्यताम् ॥ ३३ ॥ न कुर्यात्कर्हिचित्सङ्‌गं तमस्तीव्रं तितीरिषुः । धर्मार्थकाममोक्षाणां यदत्यन्तविघातकम् ॥ ३४ ॥ (Bhag. Pura. 4.22.33-34)[10]

The Trivargas are instruments (sadhanas or upayas) to be used cautiously to achieve a balance in life and the fourth purushartha, Moksha is the end to be attained (sadhya or upeya) using these instruments. It strictly put forth that no thoughts or actions that impede the purusharthas should ever be entertained.[3]

धर्मः॥ Dharma

Dharma is said be a code of law which is instructed by the Vedas and Smrtis - श्रुतिस्मृतिप्रदिष्टा आचारो धर्मः।[11] In the darshana shastras we find the following lakshanas of Dharma.

  1. Maharshi Kanada keeping the results arising from Dharma in view defined dharma as यतो ऽभ्युदयनिःश्रेयससिद्धिः स धर्मः । वैशेषिक-१,१.२ । meaning Dharma is that means by which a man can achieve the worldly progress as well as nihshreyasa (moksha).[12] For this the foundation he considered was the Vedas as pramana तद्वचनादाम्नायस्य प्रामाण्यम् । वैशेषिक-१,१.३ ।
  2. Maharshi Jaimini viewed Dharma in the perspective of a pramana as well as results, defined it as that unfailing instrument which fulfills all the desires of the human being, as laid down in the Vedas - चोदनालक्षणोऽर्थो धर्मः -१,१.२ (Purv. Mima. 1.1.2)[13]
  3. Maharshi Vyasa defined viewed it etymological origin ध्रियतेऽनेन इति धर्मः and propounded that Dharma is one that sustains and nourishes human existence, it is the foundation of all beings as in धारको धर्मः।

Dharma connotes precepts that aim at securing the material and spiritual sustenance and growth of the individual and society. Indian thinkers distinguished between different kinds of dharma, all of which have influenced the concept of good life and well being. They include

  • maanava dharma (dharma of human beings),
  • svadharma (dharma of self),
  • varnaashramadharma (dharma of different groups of people and stages of life),
  • dharma as law,
  • dharma as justice,
  • dharma as customary morality,
  • dharma as duty, and
  • dharma as conscience[14]

The ten lakshanas of Dharma (Manusmrti 6.92) are verily the backbone of this Sanatana Dharma itself. They are

  1. Dhrti (धृति: । firmness or fortitude)
  2. Kshama (क्षमा । forgiveness)
  3. Dama (दमः । self-control)
  4. Asteya (अस्‍तेयम् । refraining from stealing or dishonesty)
  5. Shaucha (शौचम् । purity both external and internal)
  6. Indriya nigraha (इन्‍द्रियनिग्रह: । control over the indriyas or worldly senses)
  7. Dhih (धीः । intellectual power, knowledge of Shastras)
  8. Vidya (विद्या । knowledge of Self)
  9. Satyam (सत्‍यम् । truthfulness)
  10. Akrodhah (अक्रोधः । absence of anger)

They are desired and to be pursued by the individual (Atmik gunas) and are important for the well-being of the society, to promote humanity in general. Dharma was formulated as the solution to the eternal problems confronting the human race, originating from natural human instincts. ‘Dharma’ as a purusartha provides the principles, or norms by which, one would know whether a given pursuit of artha or kama is worth pursuing. Dharma therefore determines the ethical merit of an action. Thus dharma refers to moral values but not to religious values. In fact dharma is essential for lokasamgraha, in an integrated society in which artha and kama can be pursued meaningfully.[8]

Though a word of wide import, in the present context, Dharma is the standard or norm of an action which is understood in an individual as well in a social context. Its possession is the cause of man's unique nature. It is the characteristic feature that distinguishes man from animals. It represents the moral principle, which gives the human being a sense of worth and meaningfulness. It defines the essential human values such as ethics and morals.[15]

Kinds of Dharmas

Dharma is of two kinds based on how it is attained - [16]

  1. सिद्ध-धर्म - Siddha Dharma: To achieve this Dharma, no effort is required, it is readily present, knowing it is attaining it. It is the ideal form as exemplified by Paramapurushas such as Shri Rama and Shri Krishna where it is said that रामो विग्रहवान् धर्मः। Rama is the embodiment of Dharma and कृष्णं धर्मं सनातनम्। Krishna is verily Sanatana Dharma. They are the eternal Ishvara - the ideal Purusha, on whom the world derives its sustenance. Means to attain this Paramapurusha has been discussed in Vedanta, and some methods include listening to their stories, performing bhajans and total surrender.
  2. साध्य-धर्म - Saadhya Dharma: Now this Dharma is to be practiced, with deliberation of the shastras, performing the rituals, kriyas, danas etc., mentioned in them as instruments of Dharma sadhana (nimittas) to earn the unseen, unknown (adrushta and apoorva) results in the form of Punya. They are in various forms based on the place, time, varna, ashrama and the individual capacity. They include the various rules or vidhis, and forbidden actions or nishedhas, proposed in Vedas and Smrtis based on the place, time etc., and include the sadacharas in thought, speech and deeds for a person. They are applicable to the humanity and are not based on the theological views of any particular world community, or a sampradaya; they are divine principles for the progress and growth of the world community.

Adharma and Dharma

The ancient seers have clearly demarcated what constitutes Dharma. Those karmas, invoked by mind, body, and speech, performed for the good of the world and lie within the limits defined by Rtam, promote mans progress in both worldly goals and beyond. The chief purpose of Sadhya Dharma or right action is obtaining Punya. Somadeva in his Nitivakyamritam, succinctly states the means to Dharma as follows.

आत्मवत् परत्र कुशलवृत्तिचिन्तनं शक्तितस्त्यागतपसी च धर्माधिगमोपायाः । (Niti. Vaky. 1.4)[17]

Contemplation on the means of welfare of others as of oneself, practicing charity and austerity as per one's own capacity are the means of Dharma. Those karmas which are performed against Rtam, in contrary to that laid out by the Rshis, against the good of the society and the individual are said to be Adharma. Somadeva in his Nitivakyamritam states Adharma to be the fruits of actions contrary to Dharma [17]

अधर्मः पुनरेतद् विपरीतफलः। न खलु भुतद्रुहां कापि क्रिया प्रसूते श्रेयांसि । (Niti. Vaky. 1.3 and 6)

Meaning: Verily, no action of persons maliciously disposed to other persons can lead to welfare.

Thus, sadachara puts a man on the path of progress and durachara causes his downfall.[16]

अर्थः ॥ Artha

Artha is defined as the means of each and every worldly prosperity.[11] यतः सर्वप्रयोजनसिद्धिः सोऽर्थः । That which leads to the accomplishment of all worldly and beyond worldly purposes is Artha (in the sense of prosperity).[18] It is one of the most important elements in the scheme of Purusharthas. Artha is not just money, it that chief instrument for Dharma, health and enjoyment of a human being. While Dharma is the source of Sukha (happiness) and abundance, the Artha is the source of Dharma.

खुखस्य मूलं धर्म: । धर्मस्य मूलम् अर्थः । (Chan. Sutr. 1-1,2)

It is the important means to achieve desired things in the world as rightly stated by Chanakya - अर्थार्थ प्रवतते लोकः | (Chan. Sutr. 7.28). Kautilya Hence it is etymologically stated as अर्थ्यते सर्वैः इति अर्थः। meaning - to attain which everyone has a strong desire is said to be Artha.[19]

Artha Paribhasha

Artha is one through which the human being fulfills his needs, it is the purpose of one's livelihood. Thus it is a chief instrument of occupation (vrtti) of a person. On Artha are dependent Dharma and Kama according to Chanakya.

वृत्ति मूलम् अर्थः । अर्थ मूलौ धर्मकामौ ।। (Chan. 1.89-90)

In this context, purpose of occupations related to land, wealth, money, education, art, agriculture and cattle rearing etc., are all termed as Artha.

विद्याभूमिहिरण्यपशुधान्यभाण्डोपस्करमित्रादीनां अर्जनं अर्जितस्य विवर्धनं अर्थः. ॥ १.२.९ ॥ (Kama. Sutr. 1.2.9)[20]

Meaning: Education, land, gold and silver, cattle, money and food grains, vessels and containers, wood, metallic things used at home, viz., household articles of comfort and need, friends earnings and growing income of a person - all these are termed as Artha.

Artha is sanctified by Dana

Role of Artha in achieving Dharma


It is well known that the force behind every action of a human being is his desire or Kama.

Kama Paribhasha


Moksha is a personalistic or individualistic value.[2] Boundlessness or expansion beyond something perceptible is an innate causeless nature governing everyone’s life. Achieving freedom from embodiment is the culminating point of Moksha. All human endeavors are directed, to Moksha, consciously by a few and unconsciously by most people. This solo journey of a Mumukshu, who is consumed by the desire to be unfettered, is unmediated by his own senses, the only leading light being the words of Shruti (heard from the Guru), the Shabdapramana. Once a sadhaka starts the journey into the realms of the mind and consciousness, vrittis of the mind keep him busy within himself.


Darwin established the fact of evolution and some of the factors of evolution; and during the next one hundred years after him, biology clarified these still further, and also dealt with the direction of evolution and with the uniqueness of evolution at the human stage. Biology was now bringing to science the concept of the uniqueness of man from a scientific point of view.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 What is the Purpose of our Life? By Vishal Agarwal in Bharatiya Vidvat Parishad post.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Nayak, Bibhuti Bhusan. (2004) Ph.D. Thesis: Purusartha in the modern philosophical perspectives. Utkal University (Chapter 1)
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 Tripathi, Prem Vallabh. (1970) Purushartha Chatushtaya. Varanasi: Rajvidya Granthamala. (Pages 5 -)
  4. Shabdakalpadhruma (See under पुरुषार्थ)
  5. Shrimad Bhagavata Purana (Skanda 10 Adhyaya 87)
  6. Aitareya Aranyaka (Aranyaka 2)
  7. Shrimad Bhagavata Purana (Skanda 11 Adhyaya 7)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 Jois, Rama. DHARMA - The Global Ethic, Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. (Page 18-19)
  9. Vedanta Paribhasha (Pratyaksha Parichcheda)
  10. Shrimad Bhagavata Purana (Skanda 4 Adhyaya 22)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Paik, Sipra (2000) Ph.D Thesis: The concept and treatment of purushartha in Indian Philosophy. Gauhati University (Chapter 1)
  12. Vaiseshika Sutras
  13. Mimamsa Sutras by Jaimini
  14. Kiran Kumar, S. K. Perspectives on well-being in the Indian tradition. In Journal of Indian Psychology, 22 (2), 63-72, July 2004
  15. Nayak, Bibhuti Bhusan. (2004) Ph.D. Thesis: Purusartha in the modern philosophical perspectives. Utkal University (Chapter 2)
  16. 16.0 16.1 Tripathi, Prem Vallabh. (1970) Purushartha Chatushtaya. Varanasi: Rajvidya Granthamala. (Pages 27 - 30)
  17. 17.0 17.1 Gupta, Sudhir Kumar. (1987) Nitivakyamrutam by Somadeva Suri, with Hindi and English Translation. Jaipur: Prakrut Bharati Academy (Page 2)
  18. Gupta, Sudhir Kumar. (1987) Nitivakyamrutam by Somadeva Suri, with Hindi and English Translation. Jaipur: Prakrut Bharati Academy (Page 12)
  19. Tripathi, Prem Vallabh. (1970) Purushartha Chatushtaya. Varanasi: Rajvidya Granthamala. (Pages 221 - 225)
  20. Kamasutras by Vatsayana (Adhikarana 1 Adhyaya 2)