Purushartha and Ashrama Vyavastha are closely linked with each other. These help in the conduct of human activities leading towards Moksha. Thus Ashrama and Purushartha systems run parallel to each other. Just like four Ashrama, there are four Purusharthas which are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.
Man is a thinking animal and all of his actions have some end or purpose behind these. We can distinguish between right and wrong behaviour on the basis of social values which are prevalent in society. Society lays down the standard of behaviour and permits human actions which are in right direction.
The standard of behaviour also restricts human actions which are socially considered incorrect and improper. The theory of Purushartha determines the values and a measuring-rod according to which human actions are to be performed or a avoided.
Literally speaking, Purushartha means those actions which are proper and correct. The aim of life of an individual is determined by the doctrine of Purushartha. It also decides the course of life of man and lays down norms and values for the behaviour patterns.
Purushartha means “Purusharthate Purushartha”, which are the efforts made by the individual to achieve the aims, goals and ultimate values of life. The ultimate end of Hindu culture is to attain ‘Moksha’ or salvation and hence, man should behave in such a manner that this aim may be achieved. By Purushartha we mean the pursuance of those actions which lead to the fulfillment of socially approved values and goal.
According to P.N. Prabhu, “The theory of Purusharthas concern themselves with the understanding, justification, management and conduct of affairs of the individual’s life in relation to the group in and through the Ashramas”. We speak of those Purusharthas as the psychomoral bases of the Ashrama theory. Because on the one had, the individual receives a psychological training through the Ashramas in terms of lessons in the use and management of the Purusharthas, while on the other hand, in actual practice, he has to deal with society in accordance with these lessons.”
Prof. K.M’ Kapadia says, “According to this theory there are four Purusharthas or aims of life- Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. He is of the opinion that, ‘the theory of Purushartha thus seeks to co-ordinate material desires and spiritual life. It also tries to satisfy the sex of instinct in man his love of power and property, his thirst for an artistic and cultural life, his hunger for reunion with paramatman. It comprehends life as a whole, its hopes and aspirations, its acquisitions and enjoyment, its sublimation and spiritualization”
It is clear that Purushartha, according to Hindu Sastras, is the basis of Human life and it is to be regarded as basis on which the life of a man rotates. It is an amalgam of this worldliness. It coordinates the activities of a man for the realization of spirituality as well as for the maintenance of day to day life. The theory of Purushartha thus covers the total life of man. It finds concrete expression through the Ashrama system.
There are four Purusharthas or aims of life namely Dharma., Artha, Kama and Moksha.
The word Dharma is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘dhri’ which means to hold together or to preserve. Hence, the social implication of Dharma as a principle to maintain the stability of the society is brought out in various classical Hindu texts.
Dharma is so called because it protects all. Dharma preserves all that iscreated. Dharma, then, is surely that principle which is capable of preserving the universe. Dharma is for the welfare of mankind. It protects and preserves all human beings. Hence, Hindu view of Dharma is that it is the force of power which protects man from all kinds of dangers.
K.M Kapadia is of the view that Dharma provides a link between Artha and Kama. According to him, “Dharma is knowing that Kama and Artha are means and not ends “ He believes that if a person devotes all his energies to the satisfaction of basic urges then life becomes undesirable and even dangerous. Therefore, some power or force is required to regulate and control mankind. Dharma provides direction to the acquisitive and emotional drives in man and by enjoying life in this manner; Dharma brings about harmony between temporal interest and spiritual freedom. It provides a code of conduct through which man has to conduct his day-to-day life.
Artha means the economic and the material aspects of life. According to Zimmer, “it includes the whole range of tangible objects that can be possessed, enjoyed and lost and which are required in daily life for the upkeep of a household, raising of a family income and discharge of religious duties.” According to P. N. Prabhu, “Artha is to be understood as referring to all the means necessary for acquiring worldly prosperity such as wealth or power”.
According to К. M. Kapadia, “Artha refers to “the acquisitive instinct in man and signifies his acquisition, enjoyment of wealth and all that it connotes”. The old Hindu thinkers allowed the pursuit of wealth as a legitimate action.
Apart from this, Artha is desirable because it unfolds the spirituality of man only when he is not economically starved. A man has to maintain a household and perform the Dharma as a householder. Hence, Artha is necessary for the maintenance of life and the maintenance of Dharma.
Kama refers to all the desires in man for the enjoyment and satisfaction of the senses including sex and the drives to which man is prone to.
N. Prabhu writs, the term “Kama” refers to “the native impulses, instincts and desires of man; his natural mental tendencies, and finds its equivalent, we may say in the use of the English terms, ‘desires, ‘needs,’ basic or primary motives “According to him, the collective use of the term Kama would refer to the totality of the innate desires and drives of man.
Hence it is clear that Kama refers to the basic impulses and desires of man and it may also be used in a broader sense to include the motivation of man which is socially acquired. Hence, due importance is also given on Artha and Kama. These, when pursued in accordance with Dharma are the right functions of a man.
According to К. M. Kapadia, “Kama refers to the instinctive and emotional life of man, and provides for the satisfaction of his sex drives and aesthetic urges. Kama as the satisfaction of the instinctive life is recognized as one of the aims of marriage, along with Dharma and procreation”. Sex refers to procreation and it is regarded as the lowest aim of marriage. According to old classical Hindu thought, Kama does not mean sex life alone. It means emotional and aesthetic life also.
Another belief of Hindu thinkers is that it is necessary to satisfy the basic desires; their suppression will ultimately be a great source of hindrance in the attainment of salvation. Hence it is necessary to allow the satisfaction of sex for the healthy development of personality.
The theory Purushartha does not prohibit physical pleasure. On the contrary, Kama is prescribed for the development of inner and outer life of man.
The good of man consists in the harmonious co- ordination of the three, “Hence, it is clear that the well-being of man depends upon the harmonious blending of these three – Dharma, Artha and Kama. These three combined together are called Trivarga.
The ultimate end of life is to attain Moksha. When a person performs the above mentioned three Purusharthas he can think of salvation. According Kapadia, “Moksha represents the end of life, the realization of an inner spirituality in man. Some thinkers believe that Moksha is the most important Purusartha and remaining three are only means while Moksha is end in itself.