Chaturvidha Purushartha – The four aims of a human life and how it relates to health
There are four aspects or facets of human life: dharma, artha, kama and moksha. They have to do with living one’s purpose, having a stable foundation in the world, wisely fulfilling desires, and freedom from the constraints of one’s false identities. Each of these is a part of life. While it may be true that ultimately the goal of life has only to do with final liberation (moksha), the others are virtually essential steps along the way. Recognizing this is one way of holding the suggestion to live “in” the world, while not being “of” the world.
Artha (security) has to do with providing for the hunger, thirst, safety needs that are inherent in living in a physical body. In our modern world, this generally means having money to provide the essentials. Even the wandering monk who receives food and clothes from the charity of others is a part of this, as the food and clothes were undoubtedly a part of the economic process in one way or another. Artha recognizes this level of physical or material need, which is not contrary to spiritual life.
It is the level of that need and the consciousness of what is truly needed that sheds light on what is security and what is just fear.
Kama (enjoyment) has to do with the fulfillment of desires in the world. Without deep, latent desires (samskaras) there would be no incarnation. “Kama” is different from “karma.” The meaning of “karma” is “action” and refers to the playing out of our deep impressions of attraction and aversion. Kama is the enlivened desire that springs forth from those latent conditionings. To say that these are not there, and that they all must be renounced is virtually not practical. Desires must be acknowledged and reasonably fulfilled with mindfulness so as to move towards freedom from them, not adding to a continuous cycle of fulfilling and intensifying.
The first two aims is where most all people are unconsciously stuck in our culture. Our culture unfortunately does not support the higher aims of a being as our culture’s foundation is a profit based paradigm weaving in a programing that work is what life is about. Most people spend their lives from a fear base, running after their desires and those desires are basically based from the fears created by their upbringing into this cultural paradigm of sales and marketing to make you believe you are not good enough or there is always something better. There is a lack of awareness of contentment in what is, what you are, and what you have. This is further supported by the high divorce rate and short life of a marriage now-a-days, the highest rate of obesity in the world, high rate of diseases and other obvious facts and figures.
Dharma (higher purpose of life) has to do with fulfilling our life in ways that are consistent with the whole of the flow of the universe. It is a process of alignment, whereby one moves steadily, wisely, and with clear mind in the natural flow of Truth, God, Divine, or whatever one chooses that naturally intuited reality. Dharma has been called natural law, harmony, truth, duty, wisdom, and the inherent nature of things. The word “Dharma” is from dhri, meaning to hold together, to sustain. To live in dharma is to live with our individual nature to be in accord with the whole of the flow of things. Dharma is not in the mind, it is not what you desire to be or the path you desire to be on. It is a higher purpose, a higher truth. It has been called duty in this context.
Moksha (liberation or freedom) is the final liberation from all of the deep driving impressions that continually play out in the mind and the world, that keep causing us to come and go from bodily form. It means that the deep conditionings no longer bind. It is freedom from the bondage of our ropes of karma that seem to bind us. Moksa is the direct experience of the Absolute Truth or Reality, along with the total setting aside of all false identities of who we think we are. Self-realization, the direct experience of our true nature as pure consciousness, Purusha, or Atman is one stage. That experience, plus the total, permanent transcendence of the conditionings is moksha.
The four are not easy to do, to live in our daily life in the culture we live in today where life is about work and culture is based off of materialism and profit making. They are points of awareness, aspects of both our being and the sadhana (spiritual practices) that we each live on our way to the highest goal of human life.
It is said in Ayurveda by Achyarya Charaka in Charaka Samhita Chpt 1 verse 15 – 17 that good health stands at the very root of the accomplishment and even ability to acquire these in your life. Diseases are destroyers of health, well being, and life.