The word Purushārtha means Human Goals. Purusha refers to a human being (male / female). Hence the word Purushārtha can be translated to Manushyārtha. And the word Artha in Sanskrit has several meanings e.g. ‘meaning’, ‘wealth’. In this context it refers to a Goal, destination.
Arthyate Sarvaihi Manushyaihi Prārthyate Iti Artha
That which is sought after by every human being. Therefore any human goal is called Artha.
Hence Purushārtha primarily means Human Goals. The word Purushārtha by itself is used in other secondary meanings also in the Shāstram Shāstrams - Free-Will, Choice, Effort or Endeavour [Prayatna]. By using the word Purushārtha we convey an important idea that these are goals sought after only by human beings, not animals or plants. And because of the availability of Purushārtha, the human beings become different from other animals or plants. And because of the Purushārtha, the human beings are considered superior to all the other living beings.
And how come human beings alone have these Purushārtha? What faculty of human beings makes him endowed with this unique opportunity to have Purushārtha ? The Shāstrams themselves declare, human beings are no doubt very similar to animals and plants in several respects. There are lots of common features [Sadharmyam], but there is one unique feature that makes the human being superior. This is presented by the Shloka
Āhāra Nidrā Bhaya Maithunam Cha
Sāmanyametad Pashubhir Narānām
Bhuddhir Hi Tesham Adhiko Visheshaha
Buddhya Vihīnaha Pashubhir Samānaha
Human beings and other beings are similar in several respects :-
- all seek food,
- taking rest or sleeping,
- fear of the external world : sense of insecurity and therefore trying to protect self,
- propagation of one’s own species,
- The differentiating factor is intellect, faculty of thinking, judging, reasoning, projecting the future, farsightedness, planning for future and working for the betterment of the future – the rational faculty.
Since Buddhihi alone makes a human being superior or different from animals, without this faculty of intellect (if you do not have or do not use) the human beings are as good as animals only. And therefore Buddhihi is unique. Because of this extra faculty only, we are extremely self-conscious also, capable of self-judgement, capable of comparing ourselves with other human beings of the same species. The animals are not capable of this. Once a complex is developed, there is a thinking of improving oneself in the future and therefore planning for the future becomes a natural consequence of Buddhihi faculty. Hence, self-consciousness, self complex development, self judgement, and therefore projection of the future hoping that one will be better off. And for the improvement of the future, one starts planning. The plans is cut into several levels of immediate goals and long term goals.
Only humans are capable of having this tendency. All the animals and plants have an instinctive lifestyle. Their entire life is governed by instincts whereas human beings are governed not only by instincts but predominantly by the capacity to choose their future. And because of this choice, the human being entertain a lot of goals and these are called Purushārtha.
The next question is how many such goals are possible ? Any number of such goals are possible, but they can be classified into four categories – Chaturvidha Purushārtha. Any goal to be accomplished will come under one of these four only.
The four goals are:
This starts early in life. In this context, it refers to security. Anything that is procured for the sake of security comes under Artha. By security, only sheer physical survival is being referred to. Right from birth one instinctive and natural urge every living being, including human being, has is the urge to survive. And anything that is procured for the security of the self, those objects which contribute to the security, physical survival will come under Artha. This helps in removing the sense of insecurity. Broadly these are
- Clothing : this includes clothes for self, helmets for security, seat belts for security, breathing filters.
- Health : fighting all forms of diseases
Anything that is procured to take care of all these four to safeguard the survival comes under Artha Goals. In the beginning, it refers to the security of the self at present. Then it refers to security of the future. This is because in old age, one cannot work or earn and the level of security is not there. In the olden days children were the security for the old age. Taking insurance against the future has to be taken into consideration. Then comes the next layer of security. Once a few things or people have been possessed for security, the next worry is about their security i.e. security of security.
Thus for most of our life, we are busy providing for security. Anything that we do provide for our security comes under Artha Purushārtha or Abhaya Praptyartham – freedom from fear.
The animals also want security but they instinctively take care of this. The Lord provides for this by giving them special properties e.g. skin, hunting skills etc.
Once security is taken care of, there is no threat of survival. Once Artha is taken care of, the next step is Kāma Purushārtha
1.2. Kāma Purushārtha
Kāma means all forms all forms of comfort that is not needed for security but when present, can be enjoyed. When present, one is more comfortable or luxurious. All forms of entertainment are Kāma Purushārtha. No entertainment is needed for survival. Any form of music, dance, drama, TV, travel are examples of Kāma Purushārtha.
This is also sought by animals by instinctively going after comfort. The animals naturally go to shade when under the sun. But in case of human being because of his superior intellect, he plans and entertains himself. Among most of the human being kind, the Artha Purushārtha takes so much time and effort that even passing on to Kāma Purushārtha is difficult.
1.3. Dharma Purushārtha
Dharma Purushārtha can be defined as an invisible form of wealth. This is generally translated as good-luck or good-fortune. When the word luck or fortune is used, it is not something that is sought, but it seems to contribute to one’s well being. This can be in the form of providing Artha or Kāma. It seems to be an invisible form of wealth contributing to your benefit. Hence in Sanskrit it is called Adrushtam (one that cannot be seen) and in Tamil Adishtam.
This Dharma can be acquired by appropriate means (which will be discussed later). Since Dharma or good-luck or fortune is something that is achievable by appropriate method, Dharma also becomes a human goal. It can also be translated as Punyam. This Dharma contributes to our well being in two fold ways
One way is, Dharma contributes to our well being in this very life itself, by providing Artha and Kāma. Therefore Dharma is very useful in this life because it contributes to one’s well being in addition to one’s own effort that also contributes to the Artha and Kāma.
Secondly Dharma also contributes to our next birth. This is particularly applicable to the initial stages of life. During births, the initial few years are certainly not under our control. This includes what type of parents, what family I am born into, what environment, type of upbringing. These factors during the initial stages of life, are certainly not under our control. These are supposed to be determined by Dharma. The Dharma that one acquires now, not only helps in this birth but also in the initial few years of one’s next birth. This is by providing good parentage, environment, food, clothing, good values etc. A child’s life is heavily determined by the invisible wealth called Good Luck.
The initial few years of human life is so important that it can even determine the future adult life. Many of the emotional conditions in the adulthood are heavily determined by the childhood. Therefore, adult life is determined by childhood life, childhood life is determined by Dharma Purushārtha of the previous life. Thus Dharma directly influences one’s present life, influences the future childhood life and Dharma indirectly affects one’s future adult life also. Hence Dharma is extremely important. There is an appropriate way of earning [Sampādanam] Dharma.
Hence Artha Kāma Dharma is otherwise called Dharma-Artha-Kāma. Dharma is the subtle powerful one and is enumerated first. These three human goals have many things in common and put together, they are called Preyas. Preyas means Dharma + Artha + Kāma. Also called Bhoga. Anything that is acquired deliberately, legitimately, with planning is called Preyas.
1.4. Moksha Purushārtha
This is the fourth human goal. Moksha is also known by the name Mukti or Shreya. Moksha can be translated as freedom. This is an inner freedom, freedom from slavery with regards to Preyas or Dharma-Artha-Kāma.
How is a man a slave to Preyas or anything in this world? Any object or person in this world enslaves us in two ways.
- An object can enslave by its very absence. When that particular object or person is not there and one feels an absence, emptiness or worthlessness then that object is capable of enslaving us. Because of this, we are obsessed with that object’s absence. In Sanskrit it is called Shūnyatā Dvārā Abhāvaha Badhnāti.. There is a feeling of missing or lacking or vacuum.
- An object can also enslave by its very presence. Things bind us by their presence by creating burden, strain or tension.
- Some objects create problems by their absence and presence. E.g. money.
This slavery with regards to Preyas or external goals is a bondage. Freedom from this slavery, or Self-mastery. I am no more a Dāsa but am a Swāmi. Sāmitvam means that when things are absent, there is no vacuum and when things are present they are not burdensome. Moksha means comfort with and without Dharma-Artha-Kāma. This inner strength, inner maturity, inner mastery is called Moksha or Shreyas.
The first three (Dharma-Artha-Kāma) are secondary Purushārtha while the last one (Mokha) is primary Purushārtha. In the former (Preyas), slavery continues, while in the latter (Shreyas) alone one is no more a slave of anything.
The above are the Chaturvidha Purushārtha.