Monthly Archives: September 2017

Dharma – Artha – Kama – Moksha

Dharma – Artha – Kama – Moksha

Dharma – Artha – Kama – Moksha

Wikipedia says, ‘Puruṣārtha (पुरुषार्थ) literally means an “object of human pursuit”. It is a key concept in Hinduism, and refers to the four proper goals or aims of a human life. The four puruṣārthas are Dharma (righteousness, moral values), Artha (prosperity, economic values), Kāma (pleasure, love, psychological values) and Mokṣa (liberation, spiritual values).  All four Purusarthas are important, but in cases of conflict, Dharma is considered more important than Artha or Kama in Hindu philosophy.Moksha is considered the ultimate ideal of human life.’

All the sites I browsed, explain the ‘goals of life’, ‘object of human pursuit’ as is. Bar wikipedia and a few others, none give much significance to the order. Thus, even though I have heard the above 4 terms explained countless number of times, I never really gave much thought to the order in which they come, and if that order had any significance at all.  

I think I mentioned the serial, Upanishad Ganga, many times already. The epiphany moments whilst watching this show are ceaseless. Upanishad Ganga has dedicated 4 episodes trying to elucidate ‘the goal of human life’ and the first Purusharth explained is Dharma. Why Dharma should come first; the significance of the order, how Dharma is interlaced with the following purusharths is beautifully brought to light in these episodes.

The life of King Harishchandra is exemplified to depict Dharma. Harishchandra not only foregoes his kingdom, crown, riches and name; he sells his wife and child to uphold Dharma. The chandala employed Harishchandra as a worker at his cremation ground. He directed Harishchandra to collect fees for everybody cremated there: a part of the fee would go to the chandala, a part would be given to the local king, and the rest would be Harishchandra’s remuneration. Harishchandra started living and working at the cremation ground. One day, his queen stood crying before him; she held the dead body of their son, who had died of a snake bite. The queen readied to cremate the dead body of their son. But, Harishchandra told her that he would not let her do so without paying the fee. He was bound by his Master’s word, fee for everybody cremated. Even though it was his own son, and even though his wife was too poor to pay any fee….“ Thus, was the struggle of Raja Harishchandra to uphold Dharma.

I thought the story was a bit too extreme, I mean, putting oneself to so much trouble, pain and grief to uphold Dharma; was Dharma really that pivotal?

“In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviours that are considered to be in accord with rta, the order that makes life and universe possible,and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and ‘‘right way of living’’.In Buddhism dharma means “cosmic law and order”,but is also applied to the teachings of the Buddha. In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is also the term for “phenomena. Dharma in Jainism refers to the teachings of tirthankara (Jina) and the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. For Sikhs, the word dharm means the path of righteousness and proper religious practice.”

The first lesson we learn is Dharma: duty, our duty. Verily, it is bound to come first. It is the foundation stone on which the edifice of our life lies.  The first thing we are taught is ‘know your duty’ and ‘do your duty diligently’. At the tender age of 8 our duty is to study, be a person of moral character and abide by our parents’ words. As we grow older the duty changes, we are duty bound to earn a living, enter the second pursuit of life; Artha. Making a livelihood with legal means within the bounds of our duty, ethically. Profiting off someone else’s loss, earning for the sake of a better life, more than the someone else, in competition with others; these are prominent reasons why we lose our power of discernment and behave contradictory to our true nature. It is Dharma which is the fine line standing between, need and greed. Subtly, it highlighted again that without Dharma, Artha can become a war for power and wealth, sans the foundation of ethics or values.

The gradual progression from Dharma and Artha is Kama, the third Purushaarth. The world is in chaos, misguided probably because of the preference this Purushaarth has been given! The youth today falls in love first, decides all other duties and responsibilities later. People are asked to vote at the age of 18-21, the driving license is issued at the age of 18years, but to fall in love there seems to be no such age bar. What happens when we practice and live life in the reverse order is the plight of the world today. Once again, Dharma helps us ennoble ourselves with love, rather than fall prey to lust. These subtle differences which prepare us for our last Purushaarth, Moksha, have to be followed in the said order. A confusion or transgression of the order keeps us away from our goal. It is by design that only on following Dharma can we be aware of the true goal of life; a life led with Artha and Kama deviod of Dharma are bereft of the last purushaarth.

 “Our discriminative faculty is so much over-shadowed by the hankerings of the mind that we have become quite blind to the real value of things concerned with in life. As a matter of fact, everything in life is for our ultimate good; only we have to learn their proper utilisation so as to turn them to our advantage.” – (Complete works of RamChandra, Vol 2- Ram Chrandra of Shahajahanpur,UP)

Somerset Maugham ends his book, ‘The Razors Edge’ with “The difference between the sublime and the foolish is that of a Razor’s Edge”.  That’s what life is I think, with Dharma in place it can be a life of a sublimity, else of one living in a fool’s paradise. Life may remain successful, infused with joy, wealth and prosperity; yet the goal may elude us, the true goal of life. 

The 4 Purusharth’s are interlaced; Dharma being the foundation on which the edifice of life stands defining the choices we make, and who we become.

 

http://www.ekatvam.org/liberation/dharma-artha-kama-moksha.html

http://swamij.com/purusharthas.html

King or Pawn

King or Pawn

KING or PAWN

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

William Shakespeare

Did you know that chess is our gift to the world? Some 1500 years ago! Our predecessors played this game to devise war strategies. In the 6th Century during the Gupta Empire time, it was known as Chaturanga, which translates to four divisions (of the military): the infantry, cavalry, elephantry and chariotry. They evolved into our modern-day Pawn, Knight, Bishop and Rook. From India, the game travelled to Persia and was a part of Persian nobility. When Arabs conquered Persia, the game travelled its way into the Muslim land. For the Arab Muslims, the word ‘ch’  and  ‘ng’ were negative terms and thus came into being our present-day name ‘Shatranj’. ‘Shah’ means king in Persian and Mat means ‘helpless’; the king is helpless and thus defeated; this term is used even today; ‘Check-mate’  in English and ‘shah aur mat’  in our country. 70% of our country men play this game. No, no; relax. I belong to the remaining 30%.

Despite instigating an ill feeling and acting as a catalyst to many fights, I always preferred to play Snakes and Ladders and shied away from Chess. My chances of winning this game were never in question; how badly and how miserable would be the loss and how I would salvage my bruised ego, these were the worries.

I tried hard to feign interest whilst my siblings waged war; 64 squares of black and white and the power struggle to trap the King. It never was a quick game though (like it is said that it used to be in the good old olden days); some tactical maneuvers and a ‘check-mate’; game over; that would have been to my liking. Rather, it went on forever, a long- drawn strategic planning ensued; my clever siblings continued to plot and scheme and bore the audience to death with their tortuous thinking and eyes boring a hole into the board, willing to burn the opponent’s King. Yet, I persisted. The more I watched the more the game revealed itself to me. I realised that the most powerful piece around which the whole game revolved, the king, verily, happened to be the most powerless piece. The queen had all the powers, could move in any direction, any number of squares and a force to reckon with. If the queen is trapped and ousted from the game, a quick closure was imminent.

The Queen, Knights (horse) and Rooks (elephant) and the Bishops (camel) all are powers to protect the king and help their Queen trap the opponent King. Yet, they are confined to that singular power vested on them; a horse cannot play the role of an elephant and the bishop cannot jump two and a half squares like the knight. They all are forced to play their part, die their part; trapped in it unto death. A bit better than the life of the helpless King; nevertheless, a handicapped life. The surprise super powers in the game though, were the Pawns; the soldiers. The queen if dead, she was out of the game, the knight the elephant could play just their part, they did not have the power to become a queen, or any other power. But a pawn, had the potential to become a queen, the most powerful piece in the game, give a losing game a fighting chance and a victory too, maybe. A pawn trudges, inches its way slowly up to the opponent’s side, 6 squares away from either protecting his own King or on the way to becoming a power player!

 

What Shakespeare says reveals itself in this game. The powers have greatness thrust upon them; the knight, bishop and rook. But for some unknown reason the game is designed thus; it symbolises these powers as animals, lower forms of creation. They are born to a nature, very early in life, adapt to their intrinsic nature but the growth stops there. That’s why animals function the same throughout their life cycle. That’s their boon or curse (whatever one chooses to consider it as). The greatness thrust upon these powers in chess is the same, don’t you think so?

Same goes for the King! He is born to greatness, by virtue of birth, the King’s first born ascends the throne and wears the Crown. Likewise, the poor queen is also unwittingly caught in the game. By virtue of being the king’s wife; she has greatness thrust upon her and she too must play her part. Both may suffer or enjoy their part, yet they have to live up to the role they have been assigned. Now, where is the handicap, you may ask. Can the King ever be anyone other than a king? No! They are unfortunately born to that nature and will die within that nature itself. That is there fate, greatness which they were born with and will die in.

Some achieve greatness: is those Pawns, the soldiers in the game, standing in the frontline; guarding the powers. Both, my sister and brother were easy to sacrifice the pawns in the first half of the game; but as they started to lose their powers; the focus shifted. They kept a close watch over the remaining soldiers; slyly inching the corner most pawn up and up into the opponent’s side; hoping they could revive the dead queen; regain power. The pawn has the potential to become someone great; someone who he is not born into, a garb not thrust upon him, can be earned by this pawn. Is this not the same for us; the middle class; or the common man? We all are born to a nature, yet, only we have the ability to transcend our nature. We may fail; yet we can aspire for success. Like pawns, we are born to a nature, but need not leave this world in the same garb; we have the power to choose, aspire to become someone worthwhile. We are a few steps away from our cherished dreams and aspirations; and step by step, we move closer to achieving our aspirations.

The unnoticed pawns in this game fought by powers and super powers; working their way up, from the periphery; and having the potential to come out a winner; achieve greatness. Fascinating game; intricately woven craft, daring us to seek out the simplest truth!