The First Aim: Dharma

Young Mother Sewing by Mary Cassatt

The regulating moral principles of the Universe are described in the ancient Vedic texts to be the four Purusharthas, ususally translated as “aims of human existence.” Specifically, they are defined as Dharma (duty), Artha (wealth), Kama (desire), and Moksha (liberation). If we are interested in spiritual evolution, they are guidelines to comport ourselves properly. Let us first examine the concept of Dharma or responsibility, the most difficult to understand in our current Western society.

The role we play in our families and society and the right conduct that follows is what is known as the dharmic path. Dharma is what we must do; the inner compass guides us. Duties and responsibilities that come with parenting, guardianship, teaching, providing or caregiving are examples and they change as life progresses. In the Gita, Krishna counsels reluctant Arjuna and reminds him that he is a warrior and, therefore, must fight. “It is better to do one’s own duty, although imperfectly than another’s duty perfectly,” Krishna explains.

According to Vedic Astrology, three houses, or bhavas in Sanskrit, are considered dharmic. They are the first house of the physical body, the fifth house of children, the ninth house of Guru. Influences on these houses are telling. A capable astrologer looking at an accurate birth chart can and will offer guidance to an individual who might be perplexed with the role he is to play at any point in life. Living without making one’s own authentic contribution can make life appear pointless, and multifarious problems will arise. Consideration of the Purusharthas, therefore, becomes an important part of sadhana or spiritual practice. How much of an impact are you willing to make and how much of the collective burden can you shoulder?
The next aim, Artha, will be examined next month.