Dharma, Kama, Artha, Moksha As Four Main Concepts Of Hinduism

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Hinduism is one of the widespread religions in the world. It is considered the third largest religion after Christianity and Islam, and some scholars even call it the oldest religion with the roots dating back more than 4000 years. It is mostly practiced in the countries of Southeast Asia especially in India so almost 90 % out of 900 million followers of this religion live in India. What makes Hinduism special is that it does not have any founder, thus, it is difficult to trace its origins. Some followers even claim that it is eternal and always existed. Hinduism embraces many traditions rather than being single religion, therefore, it is also called “a way of life” or “family of religions”. In addition, Hindus follow principles of many sacred writings, and they improved their beliefs and system of worship from these scriptures. The sacred texts of Hinduism are named “Vedas” that encompasses different subjects from nature to everyday life and behavior. Hinduism defines goals of human being as Purusharthas,and soul purpose of a person is to fulfill these Purusharthas. There are 4 Purusharthas in Hinduism which are called Dharma, Kama, Artha, and Moksha.

Each religion has formal rules that are followed by its believers. In case of Hinduism, moral laws that are followed by Hindus are called Dharma. So, it can be asserted that if a person lives according to the rules of Dharma, he or she lives righteous life. It is obvious that Dharma is very crucial for Hindus because it is not about worship, but duties which they have to perform as a member of Hindu society. In addition, there are two aspects of Dharma: “sanatana dharma” and “yuga dharma”. Sanatana dharma is related to eternal obligatory duties that are not subject to change. All Hindus regardless their social status, gender, and caste have to obey those rules if they want to live righteous life. Sanatana dharma laws include duties as being honest, patient, with goodwill, not injuring others, and this kind of laws are very similar to laws written in Quran and Bible. The only problem with “Sanatana Dharma” is that it can conflict with “Svadharma” which is related to particular duties of Hindus depending on their caste and social status. This conflict is depicted in Hindu sacred texts “Bhagavadgita” so it suggests that in such cases svadharma should prevail. For example, if a Hindu person is born in warrior’s class, his duty is to fight if there is a battle. Therefore, he is permitted to kill someone even if general laws “sanatana dharma” says do not injure others. Sacred texts suggest following personal duties because Hindus believe that the soul is eternal, even if a warrior kills a person, his soul will not be dead, and it will transfer to another body. “Yuga dharma” is another aspect of Dharma which is not eternal, but valid for Yuga, and it is subject to change. So, it can be said that “Yuga dharma” changes depending on traditions, social values, and ethics. A Hindu monk mentioned Yuga Dharma in his writings in this way: “Even in India, the minor laws have been changing all the time. Customs of one yuga, have not been the customs of another, and as yuga comes after yuga, they will also change (Vicekananda, 2016)

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In Hinduism, Kama is considered as desire for pleasure that derives human behavior. Kama is referred as a god of love, and it is translated as “love”, “passion”, and “desire”. Even though the word Kama is mainly associated with passion to love, but, in general terms, it is also about desire and passion to anything else. For example, desire to sing a song or passion to travel can also be related to Kama. So, we can say that for Hindus it is socially acceptable to love and have passion to someone. In Hinduism, Kama is considered important for existence so like good food is necessary for well-being of body, good pleasure is essential for the healthy existence of a person. It can be mentioned that desire to have pleasure is not shameful for Hindus. When fulfillment of desires is governed by righteous intent and action, these desires are considered to be acceptable part of life. Another important thing about Kama is that it must be transcended in favor of the higher spiritual and moral purposes. When Hindus follow Kama, they should not ignore other three important goals of life, especially Dharma. Hindus scriptures mention that when Dharma is ignored, Kama and Artha can create chaos. Kama is the least important goal among all four because it is about enjoyment and pleasure. It can make people to live unethical life, make them carelessness and commit wrongful deeds. For example, a person can kill someone whom he considers as an obstacle to his enjoyment of life. Therefore, it is suggested that Kama should be followed considering Dharma and Artha.

Artha is the safety of having material ease that one needs to live in the world with comfort. This word is translated as “wealth” or “property”. This means that Hindus should pursuit wealth and it is acceptable to want to be wealthy. The reason why it is acceptable is very simple: each individual needs to have money and property in order to live, have family, and raise children. Therefore, Artha is considered as a noble goal. However, seeking artha, sometimes, can make people to commit unrighteous deeds. Therefore, the same as in case of Kama, Artha should be followed together with Dharma. The interesting fact about Artha is that it is differently perceived by upper classes and lower classes. As it is known, in Hinduism caste system prevails, in which people are divided into several social classes. For people of upper classes artha is a destiny because they are born to be rulers and kings. Thus, they have to follow artha and try to have power and wealth. For people of upper classes it is not only goal, but more like duty. It is impossible to imagine a ruler who does not have wealth. However, in case of lower classes, artha should not be followed as a mean to gain power and move into upper caste. In Hinduism, it is believed that if a person is born in particular caste, then it is his destiny, and he cannot change it. Therefore, people of lower cases have to accept their destiny and seek artha only for the purpose of feeding themselves and their family.

Moksha is fourth and the most important goals in Hindus life. However, before understanding Moksha one should know what samsara in Hinduism is so Samsara is a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Hindus believe that when person dies his soul is transmitted into another body, and his new life depends on deeds that he did before. If one lived righteous life his/her will rebirth as a human being and have good life, but if one lived unrighteous life, then he/she can be reborn as an animal and live bad life. Moksha is the final aim behind Hindu religious belief, practice and it is a form of Hindu salvation. It is actually freedom of cycle of birth and rebirth. The ultimate goal of each Hindu is to reach Moksha, and it involves different paths to obtain Moksha. There are 4 main ways through which Hindus can take to achieve Moksha. First one is “Jnana-Yoga” that requires liberation from illusionary world of perceptions, thoughts and creation of knowledge relationship between the soul and Brahman. Second is “ Dhyana-Yoga “ and its aim is concentration so one can achieve the real self within itself and become one with Brahman. Third way to achieve Moksha is the practice of “Bhakti-Yoga” which involves to choose a particular goddess or god and to worship them throughout one’s life in words, actions and deeds. Final path is “Karma-Yoga”, it demands doing all your duties properly throughout your life. It doesn’t matter which path one choose, important thing is to achieve self-control, letting go of desires and serving others selflessly.

To conclude, four main goals of Hindu life: Dharma, Kama, Artha, and Moksha are discussed. Working with these 4 Purusharthas helps humans to create a satisfyingly balanced, good life at the most holistic level. They suggest a way for assessing your life, making reasonable decisions and knowing your goals that bring meaning to your spiritual experience. It can be noted that Kama and Artha should be pursued together with Dharma in order to reach ultimate goal Moksha. However, it is not easy to reach Moksha so it requires many years of hard work to reach it.

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