Virtue, Wealth & Pleasure




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TOP        =======UNDERSTANDING HINDUISM========


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Poverty is a state of sinfulness

Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha

Virtue, Wealth, Pleasure and Emancipation

Ashramas - four stages of life

In the domestic mode of life these are allowed
From the Mahabharata, Santi Parva
Section CXCI

Brigu said: In the domestic mode of life these are allowed, viz., the use and enjoyments of floral garlands, ornaments, robes, perfumed oils and unguents; enjoyment of pleasures derived from dancing and music, both vocal and instrumental, and all sights and scenes that are agreeable to the sight; the enjoyments of various kinds of viands and drinks belonging to the principal orders of edibles, viz., those that are swallowed, those that are lapped, those that are quaffed and those that are sucked; and the enjoyment of pleasures derivable from sports and every kind of amusement and gratification of desires.

Virtue, Wealth and Pleasure

In the domestic mode of life, those who are of pious conduct, who desire the fruits of virtuous course of behaviour with spouses in their company, have this mode of life ordained for them. In it Virtue, Wealth and Pleasure may be obtained. It is thus suited to the cultivation of the triple aggregate. Acquiring wealth with irreproachable acts, or with wealth of high efficacy which is obtained from recitation of the Vedas, or living upon such means as are utilised by the regenerate Rishis, or with the produce of mountains and mines.

The householder's mode of life (Grihastha Ashrama) is
regarded as the root of all the others (Brahmacharya
Ashrama , Vanprastha Ashrama, Sanyasa Ashrama).
[More details about the four Ashramas are featured elsewhere on
this page].That man who in the observance of this
householder's (Grihastha) mode of life seeks the
acquisition of the triple aggregate (viz., Religion, Wealth and Pleasure), with that of the great end of the three attributes of Goodness, Passion and Darkness, (Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas) enjoys great happiness here and at last attains to the end that is reserved for persons that are virtuous and good. Even that householder who observes the duties of his mode of life and who abandons sensual pleasure and attachment to action, does not find it difficult to obtain heaven.

Without profit or wealth, both virtue and
(the objects of) desire cannot be won

Mahabharata, Santi Parva, Section CLXVII

Vidura said: Study of the various scriptures, asceticism, gifts, faith, performance of sacrifices, forgiveness, sincerity of disposition, compassion, truth, self-restraint, these constitute possessions of Virtue. Do thou adopt Virtue. Let not thy heart ever run away from it. Both Virtue and Profit have their roots in these. It is upon Virtue that all the worlds depend (for their existence). It is upon Virtue that Profit and Wealth rests. Virtue is foremost in point of merit. Profit is said to be middling.
Desire, it is said by the wise, is the lowest of the three.
For this reason, one should live with restrained soul, giving his attention to Virtue most. One should also behave towards all creatures as he should towards himself.

Arjuna said: This world is the field of Action. Action, therefore, is applauded here. Agriculture, trade, keep of cattle, and diverse kinds of arts, constitute what is called Profit. Profit again, is the end of all such acts. Without Profit or Wealth, both Virtue and (the objects of ) Desire cannot be won. This is the declaration of the Sruti (Vedas). Even persons of uncleansed souls, if possessed of diverse kinds of wealth, are able to perform the highest acts of Virtue and gratify desires that are apparently difficult of being gratified. Virtue and Desire are the limbs of Wealth as the Sruti declares. With the acquisition of Wealth, both Virtue and the objects of Desire may be won. Like all creatures worshipping God, even persons of superior birth worship a man possessed of Wealth.

Even they that are attired in deer-skins and bear matted locks on their heads, that are self-restrained, that smear their bodies with mire, that have their senses under control, even they that have clean shaven heads and that are devoted Brahmacharins (celibates), and that live separated from one another, cherish a desire for Wealth. Others attired in yellow robes, bearing long beards, graced with modesty, possessed of learning, contented, and freed from all attachments, become desirous of Wealth.

Others, following the practices of their ancestors, and observant of their respective duties, and others desirous of heaven, do the same. Believers and non-believers and those that are rigid practisers of the highest Yoga - all certify to the excellence of Wealth.

He is said to be truly possessed of Wealth who cherishes his dependants with objects of enjoyments, and afflicts his foes with punishments.

(Arjuna said: Povery is a state of sinfulness.)
[Arjuna's views about poverty and Wealth are reproduced
elsewhere on this page]

Nakula and Sahadeva said: Sitting or lying, walking and standing, one should strive after the acquisition of Wealth even by the most vigorous of means. If Wealth, which is difficult of acquisition and highly agreeable, be earned, the person that has earned it, without doubt, is seen to obtain all the objects of Desire. That Wealth which is connected with Virtue, as also that Virtue which is connected with Wealth, is certainly like nectar. For this reason, our opinions are as follows:

A person without wealth cannot gratify any Desire; similarly, there can be no Wealth in one that is destitute of Virtue. He, therefore,who is outside the pale of both Virtue and Wealth, is an object of fear unto the world. For this reason, one should seek the acquisition of Wealth with a devoted mind, without disregarding the requirements of Virtue. They who believe in the wisdom of this saying succeed in acquiring whatever they desire. One should first practise Virtue and then seek gratification of Desire, for this should be the last act of one who has been successful in acquiring Wealth.

Bhimsena said: One without Desire never wishes for Wealth. One without Desire never wishes for Virtue. One who is destitute of Desire can never feel any wish. Without Desire the diverse kinds of action that are seen in the world would never have been seen. For these reasons, Desire is seen to be the foremost of the triple aggregate (of Virtue, Wealth and Desire).

Emancipation is productive of the highest good

Yudhishthira said; Without doubt, all of you have settled conclusions in respect of the scriptures, and all of you are conversant with authorities. These words fraught with certainty that you have spoken have been heard by me. Listen now, with concentrated attention, to what I say unto you.

He who is not employed in merit or in sin, he who does not attend to Profit, or Virtue, or Desire, who is above all faults, who regards gold and a brick-bat with equal eyes, becomes liberated from pleasure and pain and the necessity of accomplishing his purposes. All creatures are subject to birth and death. All are liable to waste and change. Awakened repeatedly by the diverse benefits and evils of life all of them applaud Emancipation.

We do not know, however, what Emancipation is. The Self born and divine Brahman has said that there is no Emancipation for him who is bound with ties of attachment and affection. And since he who has withdrawn himself from the triple aggregate may succeed in winning Emancipation, it seems, therefore, that Emancipation is productive of the highest good.

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Poverty is a state of sinfulness
From the Mahabharat-Santi Parva
Section VIII

Arjun Said: It is seen that a poor man, even when he stands near, is accused falsely. Poverty is a state of sinfulness. It behoveth thee not to applaud poverty, therefore. The man that is fallen, grieves, as also he that is poor. I do not see the difference between a fallen man and a poor man. All kinds of meritorious acts flow from the possession of great wealth like a mountain. From wealth spring all religious acts, all pleasures, and heaven itself. Without wealth, a man cannot find the very means of sustaining his life. The acts of a person who, possessed of little intelligence, suffers himself to be divested of wealth, are all dried up like shallow streams in the summer season. He that has wealth has friends.
He that has wealth has kinsmen. He that has wealth is regarded as a true man in the world. He that has wealth is regarded as a learned man. If a person who has no wealth desires to achieve a particular purpose, he meets with failure.

Wealth brings about accessions of wealth, like elephants capturing wild elephants. Religious acts, pleasures, joy, courage, wrath, learning, and sense of dignity, all these proceed from wealth. From wealth one acquires family honour. From wealth, one's religious merit increases. He that is without wealth has neither this world, nor the next. The man that has no wealth succeeds not in performing religious acts, for these latter spring from wealth, like rivers from a mountain.

In santi Parva,section LXXXVIII, Bhishma said:

The king should always honour those subjects of his that are rich and should say unto them, 'Do you, with me, advance the interest of the people.' In every kingdom, they that are wealthy constitute an estate in the realm. Without doubt, a wealthy person is the foremost of men (occupying a very superior position). He that is wise, or courageous, or wealthy, or influential, or righteous, or engaged in penances, or truthful in speech, or gifted with intelligence, assists in protecting (his fellow subjects).

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Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha

Virtue, Wealth, Pleasure and Emancipation

Explanations drawn from the teachings of
Swami Nikhilananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math

The affirmative attitude of Hinduism toward life
has been emphasised by its recognition of four
legitimate and basic desires:

1. Dharma or righteousness

2. Artha or wealth

3. Kama or sense pleasure

4. Moksha or freedom through communion with God
    or the Infinite.

These four attainments of life are collectively known
as Purushartha

Of these, the first three belong to the realm of worldly values; the fourth is called the supreme value. The fulfilment of the first three paves the way for Moksha.

Dharma (Virtue)

Dharma or Virtue is the fundamental means by which to attain the other three goals. Dharma is founded in Truth and it is the support of the universe. But the majority of people in their ignorance forget the first and the last, and run after worldly pleasures, often resorting to unrighteous means. As a result they suffer all through their lives. Misery is the inevitable result of adharma (opposite of dharma).

Observing this sad plight of the people, Vyasa says in the Mahabharata:
"Artha and Kama, which all people desire so much, can be attained from Dharma itself. Why then do they not follow Dharma?"

Sri Shankaracharya said:
"Dharma is the law of conduct by means of which man attains worldly prosperity as well as final beatitude or Moksha".

The key to individual and social ethics of Hinduism is the conception of Dharma, whose full implications cannot be conveyed by such English words as religion, duty or righteousness. Derived from a root which means to support, the word signifies the law of inner growth by which a person is supported in his present state of evolution and is shown the way to future development. A person's Dharma is not imposed by society or decreed by an arbitrary God, but is something with which he is born as a result of his actions in previous lives.

Dharma determines a man's proper attitude toward the outer world and governs his mental and physical reactions in a given situation. It is his code of honour.

Dharma is the basis of both individual progress and social welfare.

Artha (Wealth)

Dharma should be strictly adhered to for the attainment of worldly prosperity. Wealth must be earned or acquired according to Dharma.

Kama (Pleasure)

The object of the third legitimate desire is Kama, or the enjoyment of sense pleasure. This covers a vast area- from the enjoyment of conjugal love, without which the creation cannot be maintained, to the appreciation of art, music and poetry. Sense pleasures, if not pursued according to Dharma, degenerate into sensuality.
Wealth and sense pleasure, which are only means to an end, are valuable in so far as their enjoyment creates a genuine yearning for spiritual freedom in the mind of the enjoyer.

Moksha (Emancipation)

The fourth legitimate desire, equally irresistible, is related to Moksha, or freedom from the love and attachment prompted by the finite view of life. Man, who in essence is spirit, cannot be permanently satisfied with worldly experiences. After fulfilling all his worldly desires and responsibilities a man still wants to know how he can suppress his inner restlessness and attain peace. So at last he gives up attachment to the world and seeks freedom through the knowledge of the spirit.

From The Mahabharata, Salya Parva
Section LX.

Balarama (who was conversant with the rules of morality) said:

Morality is well practised by the good. Morality, however, is always afflicted by two things, viz., the desire of Profit entertained by those that covet it, and the desire for Pleasure cherished by those that are wedded to it. Whoever without afflicting Morality and Profit, or Morality and Pleasure, or Pleasure and Profit, follows all three, viz., Morality, Profit and Pleasure, always succeeds in obtaining great happiness.

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Ashramas - four stages of life
Explanations drawn from the teachings of
Swami Nikhilananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math

A person's duties, in the Hindu tradition, are determined by the stage of life (Ashrama) to which he belongs. Life, which is regarded by Hinduism as a journey to the shrine of truth, is marked by four stages (Ashramas) each of which has its responsibilities and obligations. These four stages of life are:

1. Brahmacharya Ashram (first 25 years)
    Student life -observing celibacy

2. Grihastha Ashrama (25 to 50 years)
     Householder (married life)

3. Vanprastha Ashrama (50 to 75 years)
     Scriptural studies and meditation on God

4. Sanyasa Ashrama (75 to100 years)
    Cultivation of God-consciousness - Monastic way of life

Brahmacharya Ashram (first 25 years)

The first stage of life covers the period of study, when a student cultivates his mind and prepares himself for future service to society. He lives with his teacher and regards his teacher as his spiritual father. He leads an austere life and conserves his energy, spurning the defilement of the body and mind through evil words, thoughts and deeds. He shows respect to his elders and teachers, and becomes acquainted with the cultural achievements of the race. Students, rich and poor, live under the same roof and receive the same attention from the teacher and his wife. When the studies are completed, the teacher gives the pupil the following instructions, as described in the Taittiriya Upanishad:

Speak the truth. Practice Dharma. Do not neglect the study (of the Vedas). Having brought to the teacher the gift desired by him; enter the householder's life and see that the line of progeny is not cut off. Do not swerve from the truth. Do not swerve from Dharma (path of Virtue). Do not neglect personal welfare. Do not neglect prosperity. Do not neglect the study and teaching of the Vedas. Do not neglect your duties to the Gods and the Manes. Treat (revere) your mother as Goddess. Treat your father as God. Treat your teacher as God. Treat your guest as God.

Whatever deeds are faultless, these are to be performed - not others. Whatever good works have been performed by us, those should be perform