Hinduism does not preach denouncement of worldly life and its pleasures. Desires and passions do exist in every person. Hinduism is alive to the reality that it is not easy to get rid of desires overnight. Thus individuals are encouraged to follow Purushartha – active life. It tells individuals to make efforts, earn, and then enjoy the material comforts, not only for self and family, but share the same with other members of society.
Individuals are encouraged to attain contentment so that no desires are left. The only restriction is Dharma, that the charter of duties towards the concept of “let others also live” within the constraints of local environment are not violated. According to Hinduism, attainment of ‘Moksha’ (total satisfaction) through Dharma is the ultimate goal of life for every individual.
Activism towards goals
There is no moral sin in Hinduism. No fruit is forbidden. Each person is free to experience as much sensory pleasure and accumulate as much wealth as he or she desires, provided no hurt is caused to anyone in the process. Only after satisfying desires a person can finally liberate from material wants.
Thus individuals should pursue following four objectives in life through their own efforts:-
- Dharma – discharging obligations towards Environment and others,
- Artha – Generation and replenishment of resource,
- Kama – Sharing sensory pleasure, and
- Moksha – Reaching absolute contentment.
Dharma implies discharging duties and obligations towards others through rightful thoughts, means and actions. Actions should be moral, ethical and conducive to harmonious environment in the society.
Humans and animals are alike to live for themselves. All living beings comply with their individual charter of duties ‘to live,’ but when humans pledge to let others also live, they are said to be observing Dharma.
Humans are superior species committed to additional obligation of ‘let others also live’, and therefore, observance of Dharma is primarily a human responsibility.
आहार निद्राभय मैथुन च सामान्यमेतस शाभिर्वरीणम्
धर्मो ही तेषामधिसो धर्मेणहीनाः पशुभिसमाना ।।
The above verse from Hitopdesha explains that instincts of hunger, sleep, fear and sex are alike in animals and humans. Only Dharma is distinct in humans. A person without Dharma is also an animal.
Certain codes have been evolved by humans to facilitate the concept of ‘let live.’ A prominent feature of this code is to preserve the environment in its natural form and replenishing the resources that have been consumed or destroyed. Dharma ensures humans and animals follow live and let live.
The package of Dharma contains obligations to be discharged towards family, society, country and local environment. Those obligations have been evolved over passage of time through experience, experiments and updating done by ancestors, and handed down to following generations through scriptures, custom and traditions. They have to be observed even in the face of personal difficulties. No one should be allowed to violate codes of Dharma as long as he enjoyed the fruit of environment and society. Dharma is supreme goal as it can generate feeling of total satisfaction, even when Artha and Kama had been absent in the life of an individual. Selfless performance of duties is most satisfying goal.
Artha means material wealth, but that is not an end in itself. One must earn enough wealth in order to raise a family and maintain basic necessities of the household. Wealth must not be for hoarding, but for sharing with those, who are poor, needy, handicapped or less fortunate. Dharma and Artha must be coordinated, in order to earn decent living. Regarding material wealth, Hinduism commends – earn with hundred hands but donate with thousand hands.
शत हस्त समोहरा सहस्त्र हस्त संकिरा
Hinduism sounds a word of caution also that whenever limits of Dharma are crossed in pursuits of these objectives, disastrous consequences are bound to follow, and therefore, over indulgence in everything is bad.
Kama is satisfaction of sensuous and sexual desires. It includes satisfaction of genuine human aesthetic desires such as enjoyment through art, music, savory food, sports, conjugal love, filial affections, clothes, and jewelry. Pleasures are necessary to add purpose and zest to life. In Hinduism desires are not to be suppressed, but must be satisfied in a controlled fashion, within the constraints of Dharma.
Freedom from sensual desires and passion is necessary for attaining total satisfaction. But there must be proper coordination of Dharma, Artha, and Kama. For any reasons if coordination is not possible then it will be wiser to abandon first Kama, since people with meager resources can also live fully contented life. Many times, after the death of spouse, even resourceful persons do not seek another spouse simply for the reason to discharge obligations towards off springs. They live a happy and contented life. Thus under no circumstances Dharma is to be abandoned.
Moksha is the ultimate state of total contentment and satisfaction, when no desires are left unsatisfied. No efforts are required for this. The state of Moksha is the ultimate result of individual’s thoughts, dealings and actions in life. Attainment of Moksha certifies a successful life. Only few lucky people reach this state in life time. Most often people end up chasing only the first three goals and deviate from Dharma. By and large atheists, pessimists, discontented, jealous, cruel, diseased, sensual, edicts, measure-less and practicing unnatural life style cannot attain Moksha.
It is pertinent to state that Dharma, Artha, and Kama are to be pursued through individual efforts. Service, charity, and enjoyment at the expense of others seldom brought peace to anyone. On the contrary it often resulted in disgrace.
Excess of everything is bad and it applied to goals also. Unfortunately most of the people remain in the pursuit of Artha and Kama all through their life and instead of Moksha they end up in frustration and ignominy.
A person is always guided by his inner personality, to set the proportion of above said ingredients to work out a personal menu of his goals, but the duty towards others should never be crossed. Pursing Artha and Kama without observance of Dharma is sin and crime leading to disastrous consequences. Dharma (discharging own duties under every circumstances) alone is capable to lead a person to Moksha (total satisfaction in life). Artha and Kama are to be pursued within limits of the environment where the individual resides.
It is noteworthy that almost all the ascetics and Rishies had lived a happy life with families even while they lived at their Ashrams in the forest. They never indulged in escapism. The gods and goddesses are always viewed in happy state with their spouse and have plenty of resources. Hinduism is neither puritan in nature nor practicing any moral policing. It offers a practical approach to life for the betterment of the individual as well as society where he lives in.
Chand K Sharma
(Next: Splashes – 20 / 72 – Stages in Human Life)