Tag Archives: Upanishads

Satya then Rta then Dharma

Varuna, guardian of Rta

One must be very careful when reading directly, without the guidance of an Acharya, the commentaries of Sayana, Vidyaranya, and even the Holy Vedas. This is because Brahmin priests themselves undergo many years of training merely to become competent in one Veda. Mastering all four in one lifetime is another matter altogether.

This caution and humility when reading primary sources is also required because, as we have seen with our historical sources, colonialists and neo-colonialists have been and are still tampering with our texts. Because Acharyas in the Agraharas and Mathas, by and large, are less susceptible to material inducement,  their whole lives are dedicated to the traditional (and correct) meaning of words and schema of Dharma. Just as false parentage has been alleged about the best of Brahmins, Maharishi Vasishta, who per the orthodox tradition is a manasaputra of Brahma, so too have many wrong interpretations been attributed to our great Acharyas of the past, by this gang. The words of Adi Sankara are often taken out of context giving incorrect meaning and interpretation. This is highly detrimental as egotists will then assume they have perfect knowledge and misguide the innocent and illiterate.

We have seen such wrong definitions extend from Dharma, into Rta, and Satya. The time has come to correct, not based on our own readings, but actual Adhyatmika Gurus.

Swami Sanmatrananda wrote on that here [emphasis ours]:

“The word rta has been used in various contexts throughout the corpus of Vedic literature. Two famous examples are: ‘rtam pibantau sukrtasya loke; the two drinkers of rta who have entered into this body’ and ‘rtam vadisyāmi satyam vadisyāmi; I shall call you rta, I shall call you truth’.  In his commentary, Acharya Sankara has interpreted this word thus: ‘rtam satyam-avasyambhāvitvāt karmaphalam; rta is the fruit of actions, it is true because of its inevitability’, and ‘rtam yathāśāstram yathākartavyam buddhau supariniścitam-artham; rta is an idea fully ascertained by the intellect in accordance with the scriptures and in conformity with practice.’

Often we incorrectly use the two words rta and satya synonymously. But satya or Truth is eternal, whereas rta, being the fruit of action, deals with matters that are transient in the ultimate analysis.” [1]

This analysis is correct because it is in consonance with the words of Sri Krishna. The  Gita does not contradict the Veda, but in actuality, gives us the correct interpretation of the Veda.

Men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various fruitive activities for elevation to heavenly planets, resultant good birth, power, and so forth. Being desirous of sense gratification and opulent life, they say that there is nothing more than this.

But alas, for some frogs in the well, the words of science, scientists, and scientism (peppered with some slokas of course) apparently is more “credible” than the words above of  the 8th Avatar of Lord Vishnu. Therefore, let us explain.

These remarks do not deprecate the Holy Veda, and those who practice the karmakanda, but merely ensure humility of those engaged in ritual. Vedic practice and yagna is done to ensure Rta, in which man is permitted to participate in the Cosmic Order. It is for this reason Rta is emphasised in the Chaturveda. Common Brahmins may perform yagna for fruitive action, for themselves and yajamanas, but the great Rishis of old performed yagna for the benefit of all mankind, and indeed, all creation. That is the difference and why the latter are so venerated, and rightly so.

This is evident in the confusion of priority between Rta and Satya. It has become commonplace for some to write that Rta is truth in Thought and Satya is Truth in Speech and Dharma is Truth in Deed. This pithy bromide may seem cute and comfortable, but it is incorrect.

Circles of SatThe core of our tradition was, is, and always will be about Satya.

Krishna instructing Yudhisthira to say “Ashwattama attaha” was not Truth in either action, speech, or thought, but it was meant to defend the Truth, since victory for the Kauravas would mean their cheating and untruth as a lifestyle would be commonplace.Duryodhana and Shakuni were habitual liars who thrived on deception. Therefore, in order to preserve the Absolute Truth, that compulsive Truth-Teller Yudhisthira represented, Krishna had him tell the transactional lie.

“To lay man, both Rta and Satya mean Truth and Law. But according to the Nirukta, they also mean water. Let us look at their distinction.

What happens or befalls us, even if bitter, is Rta (right), because that is the Rta, Cosmic Order (i.e. Truth in Action), as part of karma and belief consequence. It is the truth or cosmic principle/order of karma justice and rain cylce.”

“On the other hand, Satya is principle-based, or what should happen. The Vedas are Satya. They are Rta too, because in accordance with their word alone, the world eventuates and evolves”

“Devas (gods) collectively carry out Rta. Accept whatever bitter and untoward has befallen, as right and actual (Rta), but follow the Vedas (Satya) to set it right. You cannot change the past, but future you can.

Satya (the Vedas) is law or canon; Rta, order or execution of law. Together they form Cosmic Law and Order. “ [3]

That is why Rta is emphasised in the Vedas. Vedas are themselves Satya, the very Breath of Supreme Brahman, the Absolute Truth. Karma-kanda is focused on the fruit of the action.

If Satya is the law and Rta is the execution of the law, what then is Dharma?—upholding of the Law. Rta preserves Satya, but  Satya is superior to it. Dharma upholds Rta, but Rta is superior to it. To switch the order and place Rta above Satya is wrong, in theory, action and intention. Where Dharma is the letter, Rta is the spirit. Where Rta is the letter, Satya is the Spirit. It is the spirit of the law (Justice) that gives law its legitimacy. Law without Justice is Tyranny…as is Rta without Satya.

The Devas carry out Rta, that is why we as manavas (humans) perform yagnas in honour of the devas, so that that Agni, Indra, Surya, Varuna, etc, may carry out the natural order for the benefit of mortal life. In fact, Varuna is considered the guardian of Rta. The Devas in turn worship Mahadeva or Harihara. Indra and the Suras (Devas) represent positions that carry out aspects of the cosmic order. That is why Bali Chakravarti was defeated by Vishnu as Vamana, because despite being a just and honourable king, Bali was attempting to overturn Rta to take over the universe. In reward for his justness and generosity, Bali was blessed to be the next Indra (the current one is Purandara).

Satya is the Law, Rta is the Order which implements the law, Dharma is the Upholding of the law..

It is Satya that is the origin of Rta. And it is Rta which provides an order or a common blueprint for understanding what Dharma requires at a given moment of time.

Lokayatas were materialists, of which there was a prominent atheist strain called Charvakas.  Charvakas, 1.0 or “2.0“, are not qualified to give upanyasas, as spiritual discourses can only be delivered by real Pandits and Adhyatmika Acharyas, not atheists.

They may assert that they are adhikarins by “birth” or “scholarship”, but they are not as they are disqualified by lack of saadhana and sraddha, and are susceptible to incentive and emolument (foreign or domestic). After all, a materialist has no time for tapas. These modern Charvakas emphasise Rta for precisely the same reason—they have no time for Satya, which is the embodiment of Para-Brahman. A “non-traditional” scholar has noticed this and spoken out against the dangers of such navel-gazers.

Shraddhaavaan labhate jnanam

Anyayam is also commonly used for injustice. But the core meaning of nyaya is logic and of tarka, reasoning. Hence, anrttam does not replace asatya  in the schema. That which violates the Cosmic order is naturally untrue. The wise see this connection and do not inject their own meaning. Journalists-Philosopher and Public Poetry Performers are not  Adhyatmika Acharyas for precisely this reason.

“Guessing” about why Rta appears in the Veda is disqualification from teaching such material at all. Only a materialist thinks Rta is more ancient than Satya, for he naturally thinks the Chaturveda are separate from the Upanishads. The Upanishads (jnana-kanda) state the philosophy of the Chaturveda. The Bhagavata Purana emphasises upasana kanda. The absolute Truth is only truly understood in the absolute End. These spiritual children clearly still have a long way to progress.

The transactional truth is naturally beneath Rta. But the Absolute truth is naturally above it, and that is Satyam-param.

Rta itself is divided into the Cosmic order, the Natural order, and the Societal Order.

It is because a clique of casteists desires to impose their convoluted and bigoted conception of Societal order (which ignores gunas), that they attempt to impose Rta as supreme over Satya. After all, if Order is supreme over Truth, if hierarchy is supreme over love, then no matter how sinful they are, they may accrue power. Those who prescribe Rta above Satya do so because they conceive of a rigid and wrong order.  The ancient brahmanas and true acharyas knew better, and also discussed the importance of guna along with birth. Pride can undo the very great, and it was the pride of Parashurama which resulted in his being punished by Rama. It was the pride of Ravana which resulted in his being destroyed by Rama. The same lays in store for this clique.

Image result for rishi rna

That is the importance of Satya (and guna) over Rta. It is not that hierarchy does not matter. In fact, that is the natural order, which extends to societal order. Younger respects older, student respects teacher, praja respects raja, son reveres mother. When a topsy turvy order such as “genetic attraction” is created and advocated, it is anrta.

Cosmic Order, Natural Order, Societal Order


[5, 15]

Rta is  the Cosmic Order, the Natural Order, and the Societal Order. But it is also Spiritual and Moral as it is concerned with notions of justice and harmony.

Rta contributes to the maintenance of balance between the micro and macro levels of existence.” [5]

If the essence of Dharma is righteousness, the essence of Rta is harmony. If the essence of Rta is harmony, the essence of Satya, the essence of Truth is love (prema). But Prema is not Moha.

This universal love in the hands of hippies is the object of (justifiable) derision. After all, love is not naïve, but rather true love is  knowing (in all its forms, whether familial or otherwise). Without knowledge of a person’s true nature, one is mere showing love at someone, rather than actually loving someone. This is no earthy bromide or cloying cliché, but a reality. After all, just as a mother who loves her child scolds it for eating too much candy, so too does love between two individuals require seeking the other person’s good rather than what is merely pleasant. Shreyas over Preyas.

This is the Absolute Truth as understood by all the enlightened Saints. It is why upasana/bhaktikanda is the last portion of the Veda. It is because after discipline through ritual, and after understanding through knowledge, we feel a universal love engendered by a sense of connectivity and communion with the world. The hippy, or the dogmatic, will force a superficial “Christian love”. But real love is not top-down, but bottom up. It’s not something you recite like a parrot or use as a weapon, but something you actually feel.

The intellectually inclined preferring abstraction, naturally scoff at such notions. In their minds, how can Absolute Truth be something so simple, so elementary, and primitive as love. But then, explain why all the Enlightened figures, from whether Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Mahavira, or Nanak take human birth?

Why did Rama suffer separation from his only wife only to lose her again, but continue to rule Ayodhya? Why did Krishna accept the curses of Gandhari and preside over the end of his lineage and clan? Why did the Buddha continue to minister to men and women despite attaining Nirvana?—or Mahavira, Kaivalya? Or the Sikh Gurus in such a terrible time for Bharatavarsha?

Absolute Brahman is pure thought, and that thought is Love. Desire to not only receive but to Give love.

But it is not for nothing that individuals searching for love reject “perfect matches” based on biodata, asking the universe why they have yet to gain their “one true love”. They too have to be worthy of what they wish to receive. Only after an individual becomes worthy of the love they seek, do they eventually receive it. It is only after mastering Dharma do we understand Rta and realise its origin in Satya.

It is only out of compassion rooted in love for mankind, and the suffering it endures on account of its own sins, that great Souls walk upon this earth suffering undeserved misery and humiliation, so as to show men and women how to live virtuously. The best teachers are not hypocrites who live dissolute  lives in youth or old age (or both). Rather the best teachers, like the best leaders, do so by example. How to accept what is accorded to us, not because it may be what we want at a given time, not even cause its what we deserve, but because it is what is best for all humanity, for all of creation. This is the bittersweet truth of not only Satya, but also Rta. The pain of one individual pales in comparison to the misery of the entire cosmos. This harmony, this Cosmic order, is Rta.

But order cannot exist on its own. Order cannot exist for its own sake. And order itself is not the Absolute Truth, how could it be? Only fools who mutilate already mutilated translations of Sri Adi Sankara or Vidyaranya, think it so. This is why journalists, avadhanis, and glorified translators cannot assert agency and authority to creatively interpret Dharma. Instead, what must be done is to respect the teaching of those qualified to interpret and explain Dharma, and teach in consonance, teach in harmony with what they say. These are our real Adhyatmika Acharyas.

The value of Dharmic instruction is not determined by precision of quotation or diligence and plethora of citation, but on Truth and Clarity. An instructor must teach not for his own amusement or as a matter of jaded occupation, but as a matter of duty. The student has a duty to diligently listen, the teacher has a duty to patiently, correctly, and clearly explain. It is not the realm for “the delicate genius” or self-declared “polymath”.

It is argued that Rta is immutable. True. Rta gives the Laws of Satya. Laws may not change but the applications can and must to preserve harmony. That is the relationship between Rta and Dharma.

Rta is emphasised in the Chatur Veda because the focus of Karma-kanda is Rta. As explained by a practicing Brahmin Pandit , “It gives man a chance to participate in keeping order”. The ritual offerings in yagna  are given to the the presiding deities who maintain the Cosmic order assigned to them by Brahma.

The absolute Truth is referred to as “Satyam Param”. And Satyasya Satyam, the original truth. [6, 10.2.26]

Rta is not just cosmic, societal,and spiritual order, it is also moral order. Rta is the rejection of chao, the rejection of might makes right, the rejection of matsya nyaya.

Rta fundamentally is about transcending calculations of situational individual interest in the name of long term societal & cosmic interest. Rta is about determination to stand up for what’s right, because it is right. It is the moral order not merely because it is divine commandment, but because the spirit of Rta emanates from a desire to do justice and seek the good of all beings and all creation, rather than just a few.

When the moral order is overturned, when wrong itself is not only seen to be right, but audaciously and shamelessly said to be right, then such a society is not only set for destruction, but deserves it. When younger dictates to elder, when child demands obedience from parents, when sishya lords over guru, such a world is in the throes of anrtam.

War is peace

Anrtam is not mere untruth, but rather the rejection of truth. It is the rejection of the sentiment and spirit of doing right so that wrong can be couched in the form of a topsy-turvy upside down immoral order. Such a new and such a world order is eminently disgusting, deceitful, and above all, exploitative. Fools, with relative might, stupidly think their power will last (or seek to maintain it). Shameless dogs and wretches merely respond to the changing fortunes like leaves in the fall wind. Forget the dangers of such a world, what right-thinking, right-minded soul would want to live in it? What deity could preside over it? How could any who would deign to associate himself with it consider himself good? He may point to the letter (of their false codes and laws), but they know they have violated it in spirit.

When men behave like women and women behave like men, and humans behave like beasts, and all three copulate interchangeably, it is anrtam. The state of chaotic and topsy-turvy order. It is not only Dharma which is dying in such a world, Rta itself has now been pierced. Dharma exists to uphold Rta. That is what gives it its meaning. The essence of this moral order is not about caste, it is about right and wrong. Protection vs exploitation.

The same brahmana whose very word was once synonymous with Truth, now barters learning for wealth, power, and women. The same kshatriya who once protected his subjects now seeks to feed on their wealth, their daughters, and their very lives . The same vaisya whose duty was to provide economic service to society now carves up society into commodities for his economic benefit. When younger brother plots to overthrow a just or non-wrong doing elder brother, this is adharma as it violates rta. But when sinful parents assist him in this and say it is “dharma”, that it anrtam, as order itself has been pierced and flipped upside down. When such a younger child then demands the obedience of parents and the thralldom of gurus and declares whatever he does is right, because it is he who is doing it, that is anrtam.

Duryodhana violated Dharma, because he said knew Dharma but did not wish to practice it. Rta  had not yet become topsy-turvy. It was not anrtam, but adharmam. But we live in such a degraded era where modern Duryodhanas enshrine their evil ways as  ‘dharma’. A society can limp along with the destruction of Dharma and stand perilously close to the cliff. But it does not fall over the cliff until Rta itself is pierced. It was when all the elders from Bhishma and Dhritarashtra to Drona and Kripa themselves asserted Duryodhana had a right, that Rta was threatened. They forgot to ask if what Duryodhana did was right. That is anrtam. A topsy-turvy order where the right of a Duryodhana came before the duty of Dignity of a Woman was created by these so-called wise men and “Acharyas”. Fake and Fool-Acharyas were there in the Dvapara and are here in the Kali. And when Satya is extracted and subordinated to Rta, then the Kali Yuga is truly deep. Rta that exists for its own sake is not Rta. Rta exists as an expression of Satya, because of that single thought. That single cit, that is Prema.

The desire not to harm simply because another being  is deserving of dignity. That is Satya. It is because of Satya that Drona, Karna, and Duryodhana could all be killed in a manner that violated a specific (visesha) Dharma of battle, in order to preserve the Great Saamaanya Dharma. But what is Saamaanya Dharma? It is a desire not just for self-interest, or simple a desire for non-chaos, but a harmony imbued with the spirit of love for all creatures and the dignity each is entitled to. A place for everyone and everyone in their place. This harmony is Rta. The problem is, some poets styling themselves as Pandits don’t know their place, and should be put back in it.

“A spoon does not know the taste of soup, nor a learned fool the taste of wisdom.”

It is because of the Satya-Prema not just for Draupadi, but for all women, royal or common, Brahmin or Chandala, that Dushasana had to be so severely punished. How dare a man violate the dignity of all women by disrobing one in public?! It was not merely adharma, or mere anrta, but asatya. It was asatya to say that a married woman staked in a foolish wager could be disrobed in public because she had been made a dasi. No man still has the right to do that to a woman, whatever a her status, whatever his status.

And that is the problem today. What is wrong is itself being called ‘Dharma” and passed off as such. Anrtam is not merely chaos as mere order is not Rta but Krama. Anrtam is the presiding of a chaotically topsy turvy order. One that asserts that what is true is false and what is false is true: “Draupadi could be wagered”. That is anrta, and above all, that is asatya, and why Satya is the most ancient of all the concepts and realities, and the origin of Rta and Dharma.  Satya is not merely the transactional Truth. It is the absolute Truth as well: Satyam-Param and  Satyasya Satyam.

tasya haitasya puruṣasya rūpam yathā māhārajanaṁ vāsaḥ, yathā pāṇḍv-āvikam, yathendragopaḥ, yathāgnyarciḥ, yathā puṇḍarīkam, yathā sakṛd-vidyuttam; sakṛd-vidyutteva ha vā asya śrīr bhavati, ya evaṁ veda. athāta ādeśaḥ na iti na iti, na hy etasmād iti, na ity anyat param asti; atha nāma-dheyaṁ satyasya satyam iti. prāṇā vai satyam, teṣām eṣa satyam.[2]

Tasya haitasya puruṣasya rūpam: This Puruṣha within us manifests himself in the subtle body…

…What is its name? It is the Truth of truth, Reality of reality, Being of being. It is the Soul of soul; it is the Self transcendent to the self. Prāṇā vai satyam, teṣām eṣa satyam: The individual self, of course, is real; anything connected with the individual self also is real. But, this is more real than the individual selves, more real than the mind and the understanding and the Prāṇas and the senses. It is the ultimate Reality; it is the Supreme Being



  1. http://www.hindupedia.com/en/Valmiki_Rama
  2. http://www.swami-krishnananda.org,mundaka 3-1, brihadaranyaka 2-3
  3. http://www.holyvedas.info/rta-and-satya.html
  4. Bhagavad Gita. http://asitis.com/2/42-43.html
  5. http://www.exoticindiaart.com/book/details/rta-cosmic-order-IDD686/
  6. Srimad Bhagavatam. http://prabhupadabooks.com/sb/10/2/26

The Purusharthas



Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. Words that are known to almost every serious Dharmic person, since almost birth. Perhaps the ultimate irony is that a spiritual and cultural tradition long critiqued for religious extremes of self-abnegation and fatalism on the one end and Kamasutra and Khajuraho on the other, has always been one of balance. This is where the criticism of knowing more and more about less and less becomes highly relevant, as those using the outsider (etic) lens have studied the tradition only from the basis of a specific external framework. [5] The result is not objectivity, but obtuseness. The theory is force-fitted to the data. Or the data itself is self-selecting, with research areas being divided and sub-divided into oblivion.

That is why it is important that a tradition first be studied holistically and systemically, before moving on to more specialized areas and sub-parts. As the core of Dharma has to some degree been discussed, we may now move on to another central concept: PurusharthasThe Four Aims of Life.

Some of the favourite responses of youth of all generations have been “no one told me this before!”, “there is no guidebook to life!”, or my personal favourite “my body didn’t come with instructions!” [name that movie]. But the rejoinder is in fact “yes” to all of the above. You were told this before, there is a guidebook to life, and your body did come with instructions. You just chose to ignore all of the above because your motto to date has been “if it feels good, do it!”. In all fairness though, perhaps the channel or the communicator of these ideas may not have been the best or most effective.

The natural next query is “well, if we’re not supposed to do x, y, z, then why give it to us to begin with?”.

It is precisely this line of thinking that has been used by those with agendas and ulterior motives since the dawn of time. Through sophistry, casuistry, false equivalence, and half-information, they have sought to misinterpret and  misguide (much like modern-day “indologists”) the naive or unschooled in order to advance their own purposes.

And there begins the importance of The Purusharthas.

It is not “see, but don’t touch”, but “touch, in the right circumstances”, it is not “touch, but don’ t taste”, but “taste, only if it doesn’t harm someone”.  It is not “taste, but don’t swallow”, but “swallow, only if it doesn’t harm you”.

It is not that sensory pleasure is in itself bad, but when it becomes a fixation, when it becomes an obsession, then we become subject to it, we become a slave to it. And when we become subject or a slave to the dictates of our senses, then consideration for the safety and well-being or dignity or respect of others or our family name goes out the door. Without Dharma, Artha and Kama become subject to Asura, and Moksha goes by the wayside.

That is the brilliance of the chariot metaphor in the Bhagavad Gita. The Soul is Arjuna, the Charioteer is Krishna, the senses are the horses, and the body is the chariot. With Krishna (who not only represents God, but Dharma itself) guiding the chariot, the horses are properly reined in and we smoothly traverse the journey of life attaining our objectives and reaching our destination. But without a good charioteer, the horses (a.k.a senses) run wild, and the chariot overturns, and our life is ruined. That is how misery in this life and the next, and the next, is fermented.


This is the danger of becoming a slave to our senses. And this is why the root of all happiness is in victory over the senses. When we achieve victory over the senses (Indriya-vijayam), then we need not worry or feel guilty on those occasions when we do indulge in sensory pleasures. While other traditions treat sex as something dirty, in the Dharmic tradition, when done correctly, it is not. Even Acharya Chanakya wrote that:

Na jithendhriyaanaam vishayabhayam | 262

Those who have control over their senses are not afraid of their indulgence in sensual delights. [1,p. 160]

And that is why Dharma, both the spirit (inner) and the letter (outer), exists. With Dharma as the guide, with Dharma as the Rules of the Game, we can engage in play (in this material world via this corporeal birth) without self-harm and harm to others. And that is also why Dharma is the most important of the Purusharthas. This is because with mastery of Dharma, we then know how to handle artha (wealth) and kama (pleasure and love) when they come to us. And rather than moksha being something distant that we hurriedly and belatedly seek in our sixties or seventies, it becomes something we prepare for along the way, all our life. What’s more, through Dharma, we understand that our quest for moksha should not cause harm or neglect to others and lead to Adharma.

But of course, victory over the senses, and even practice of Dharma is far more difficult than it may sound here. The former takes many lifetimes for most jeevatmas, and the latter involves many falls even among the most disciplined and dharmic of souls. That is also why ahankar is the greatest impediment to enjoyment of the purusharthas. Aham kar (I am doing). Aham (the great, I am). This thought is in fact the seed of our destruction because it ignores the reality of “we”. When there is only aham, we are only accountable to ourselves and what we hold in importance. When there is hum, then “we” think of our obligations to others. That is why we take only what we need, or enjoy only what is proper.



Dharma is the foundational aim of life because it guides all others. It provides us with the Rules of the Game of Life so that we may navigate it happily and attain the ultimate goal of liberation from samsara. Too often individuals believe they can either live a miserable but moral life, or a sinful but happy life. Dharma teaches us that happiness and morality are not mutually exclusive. Even Acharya Chanakya, proponent of Lokayata, and ruthlessly pragmatic, himself wrote “Sukhasya moolam Dharmah”, the root of happiness is Dharma. This is because Kama (sensory pleasure & love) and Artha (wealth/material gain) are not immoral. It is only when desire for either of those two becomes excessive, that we become immoral, and in the long run, unhappy. As Swami Vivekananda reportedly said

What is poison?— Anything in excess

Dharma is the compass that allows us to navigate the map of life. By following it, we can continue on the right path, while enjoying the pleasant sights and sounds and experiences of life. As per Dharma, sex is not wrong. As per Dharma, even enjoying sex is not wrong. Dharma in fact celebrates sexual union of husband and wife as a microcosm of the union of Shiva and Shakti. It only cautions against sexual excess, and advises both husband and wife to experience sex under the guidance of Dharma, and through the bond of matrimony. In fact, that is what the act is meant to create: pair-bonding.

Similarly, the once magnificently wealthy civilization of India did not condemn wealth, why would it? It merely advised against miserliness and greed. That is why Acharya Chanakya wrote “arthasya moolam rajyam, rajasya moolam indrivijayam”, the root of wealth is power, and the root of power is victory over the senses. Therefore, Dharma exists not to deny us pleasure, but only to ensure pleasure and wealth are enjoyed without harming others or ourselves. Do not take what is not yours, that is the essence of Dharma.


Artha is in fact very important to the functioning of society. It allows men (and women) to provide for their families, permits governments to ensure security, law and order, and well-being for the people; and above all, it allows individuals to finance dharmic causes.



Traditionally, Artha was to be pursued even before Kama, or at least the means to achieving it, to be secured before pursuing Kama. This is because as all men know, having a woman in your life can be very expensive! But beyond that, possession of Artha means being able to successfully undertake one’s duties and obligations. How can we run off and seek pleasure when our parents are unsheltered? How can we engage in reckless abandon when our children are starving? That is the value of artha.

So important is wealth, that Sanatana Dharma propounds the worship of wealth so as to not only acquire it, but to have the sense to use it wisely. That is why we worship wealth in the form of Lakshmi, so we do not lose wisdom (Buddhi).


Wealth comes in different forms. As embodied by the symbolism of Ashtalakshmi, there are 8 traditional froms of wealth: Dhana Lakshmi (Money & Precious metals), Dhaanya Lakshmi (agricultural wealth), Dhairya Lakshmi (courage), Veerya Lakshmi (valour), Vijaya Lakshmi (victory in life), Vidya Lakshmi (scholarly wealth, i.e. education), Rajya Lakshm i(political wealth, empires), Gaja Lakshmi (animal wealth), and  Santhaana Lakshmi (family wealth & progeny) . This is why we worship the Goddess of Wealth, because she is the bestower of all these different forms of Artha, we ask for her grace so that we may value, and deploy wisely what we have. After all, “a fool and his money are soon parted”. Dharma ensures that charity begins at home, but that money is also used charitably. It is also why Dharma stipulates that women be respected, because women of the family, especially one’s wife, represent Griha Lakshmi (Lakshmi of the House).

As can be seen in the coin above, Artha when combined with Dharma, allows us to use wealth wisely. It also encourages us to spend within our means (unlike the current model of debt-financed consumption). Dharma teaches us the value of money.  When we know the value of money, the real value of money, we use it wisely and for the benefit not just of the senses, but of society at large.

Selfishness is not a virtue. How could it be? Only the severely stupid suffering under the  illusion of knowledge, think it so. Selfishness is in fact the Real Root of all Evil. Sophists, casuists, and the half-educated forever tout the import of “Self-interest”, but they forget that even Adam Smith advocated Enlightened self-interest and also emphasised the importance of benevolence.

The man who spends wisely, but liberally, is the man whom others enjoy being around. The man who doesn’t pinch every penny, who doesn’t nickel and dime his friends, is the man whom others seek out as a friend. The woman who respects her husband’s earnings and who spends within the family’s means, is the woman who is in turn respected as the protectress and matriarch (present or future) of her family. This is because, as all honest and self-made businessmen and businesswomen know, business is not about a number.

Mahatma Vidura , the enlightened Prime Minister and half-brother of Dhritarashtra, himself noted this important fact that true profit is holistic and systemic, rather than extractive. Accordingly, he advocated a balance among the Purusharthas as can be seen below in a quote from his celebrated Vidura Niti.

He that followeth virtue, profit, and desire in proper seasons, obtaineth hereafter, a combination of all three.

He that desires the highest success in all matters connected with worldly profit, should from the very beginning practise virtue [Dharma], for true profit is never separated from Heaven [2]



Pleasure comes in many forms. Because the most literal meaning of Kama is defined as the act or aim of desire (iccha), Kama, like Artha, has many categories. There is of course the most obvious sensual pleasure. In fact, Kama has become so associated with the sensual that it is frequently conflated with Rati (the erotic). But Kama is greater than that and actually means much, much more.

In some contexts, it means Love, as we know from the famous Art of Love. What most do not realise, however, is that the Kamasutra is in fact a manual on how to win the affection of and marry a good wife. Therefore, Love or Affection too is a form of pleasure. In fact, due to its expansiveness to not just refering to the affection of a lover, or a mother, or our family, or even our fellow citizens, it is frequently the most addictive form of pleasure. The desire to be loved by all is a universal one for all normal people. While the erotic pleasures are primarily chemical in nature, the desire for affection is an emotional one. Therefore, affectionate love too is subject to Dharma as Prema cannot become Moha.

MaslowMaslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is said to be a digested form of Indic teaching. While this may in fact be the case, it is nevertheless instructive here to understand the pyramid of Kama.


As can be seen with the 7 chakras of traditional Yoga Philosophy, there are varying degrees of spiritual evolution. Most people are focused on the Muladhara, which is responsible for the primal drives to reproduce, etc. More spiritually aware beings are focused on the Ajna so that they may eventually open the Sahasraara Padma (Thousand Petalled Lotus), which is the topmost chakra, and connects us with the Divine. The mundane pleasures of the Muladhara far exceeded by the ecstasy achieved when the Sahasraara Padma is opened. But the Muladhara also contains the Kundalini, therefore, the same energy responsible for primal drives, when applied intelligently, rises up to open up the highest levels of spirituality–that is the logic of Tantra (or more correctly, Kaula).  Rather than chasing after lower level pleasures for our entire lives, like children craving candy, we are told to exercise self-restraint and engage in moderation.  That is also why we are told to guard our thoughts and desires. This is because as we desire, so we become.

Sa yathaakaamo bhavati, tat kratur bhavati, yat kratur bhavati, tat karma kurute, yat karma kurute, tat abhisampadyate. [4, 272]

The best known paraphrase is as follows:

As your desire, so your will. As your will, so your deed. As your deed, so your destiny.

This famous line from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV, 4, 5) discusses the importance of guarding not only our actions, but our thoughts and inner-most desires as well. That is why a good person can still do a bad thing. He may exercise self-control, but if he is mentally chasing after lower level or forbidden pleasures, he will eventually commit the acts to obtain them. If he continues to repeat the bad thing, that he ultimately becomes bad. As our deeds, so our character. As our character, so our destiny…

That is the Law of Kama. Because Kama is subject to Karma, it should be guided by Dharma. When this is so, we can happily engage in sensual pleasures without fear of sin.

But ultimately, even sensual pleasures have their time limit—that is why we age. There is nothing sadder than an octogenarian still clinging onto the pleasures of youth or lusting after one with youth. A life dedicated to only pleasure is one that is bereft of accomplishment. Looking back on one’s life, it is the achievements we count, not the individual units of utility we drew from each pleasure. What have we done with our life? Whom have helped? Where are we remembered fondly? That is what matters not only for a fulfilling life, but also for one that will ultimately takes us to the Ultimate Truth.



Veda, Dharmasastra, Bhagavad Gita, Dhammapada, etc, all of these guide us to ultimate Liberation. Jeevanmukti, Kaivalya.

Moksha is the highest Purushartha because it is the one that takes us to the Ultimate Reality. Artha and Kama are both fleeting and linked to the ephemeral material world. Dharma guides us through the material world, but Moksha is the ultimate aim for all living beings.

The endless cycle of births and deaths is the root of our suffering. Because we are attached to assorted pleasures, the attachment itself (moha) becomes bondage. It is the source of our grief, the source of our pain, the root of our troubles, because we mistake the fleeting for the ever-lasting.

Wealth cannot be taken with us into the next life. Youth and Beauty are impermanent. Even family moves on after we are gone. Therefore, it is best to pursue a life full of Love of and Prosperity, but also one that recognises the importance of spirituality and tapas (ascetism). By thinking of Moksha throughout our lives, rather than just at the very end, we we can be best prepared to attain it, as well as the sensory pleasures of life along the way.

Therefore, young or old, man or woman, Four Ashramas or Eightfold path, all individuals should aspire towards Moksha. It is Moksha that frees us from the bonds of samsara and the grief of moha. It is the path to Moksha, Dharma, that guides us through life so that we may enjoy Artha and Kama while ultimately attaining Moksha.


The concept of the Purusharthas exists to guide us through the ocean of life. Merely chasing after wealth and pleasure takes us through numberless iterations of births and deaths. The truly full life recognises that Artha and Kama are certainly important (after all, all work and no play…), but is also aware of the necessity of Dharma and the ultimate liberative quality of Moksha.



As stated by Mahatma Vidura, he (or she) that seeks out Dharma, Artha, and Kama in proper measure and season, ultimately obtains all three and attains Moksha–that is the fullest life of all. The one that wisely seeks out all four of the purusharthas rather than just one, is the life that breaks the cycle of endless births and deaths and reaches the Divine and everlasting. All work and no play makes Jack a Dull boy.  But all play and no work makes Jack a dumb boy.

A life wisely spent is one that first learns Dharma (and Niti) at a young age, then obtains Artha (beginning with Vidya artha) from 6-16 or 26 (depending on our educational path), then Kama (from 18 or 28, etc), and then concentrates on Moksha (from at least age 50 on, if not sooner). Because none of us knows exactly how long we will be on this Earth, it is best to have all four in our mind as we journey through life. A life focused purely on Moksha may neglect the rest of society. A life focused purely on Kama, destroys it. Therefore, individuals must seek harmony among the purusharthas.

In summary, the Purusharthas are the Four Aims of Life because life is not meant to be aimless. Merely meandering through each ashrama (stage/phase of life) is no way to live and will merely lead to endless lives. Idleness, after all, is the mother of all vice. Idle minds lead to idle lives. For society to function, for the world to function, all must contribute. All must be producers of some sort, not just of produce, but of knowledge, or arts, or music, or good government, or wealth, or re-contextualisation of philosophy. When we consume the fruits without toiling to produce it (or something else), we do not know its value.

That is why Artha and Kama are both subject to Dharma. Dharma mandates not that all are subject to an unaccountable king or priest, but ensures that the king and priest perform their obligations and duties to society with humility. A king (or politician) who only believes he should enjoy wealth and pleasure, will inevitably seek to appropriate the Artha (wealth) of the state and prey upon prajas for pleasure. That is the root of corruption.

Corruption is not some black magic ailment that magically appears in society. Corruption occurs when The Purusharthas are not in balance. A life that pursues Artha and Kama while paying mere lip service to Dharma, will not, cannot, attain Moksha.

The best education is the one that is rooted in Dharma and informed by Niti. This grants us viveka (ability to distinguish between right and wrong) and allows us to separate bad information from good.

But the fullest life of all is one that seeks Dharma.

There is a famous story about King Vikramaditya of Ujjain. The ever vigilant king was also a famed adherent of the truth. One night, when he was silently guarding his capital incognito, he saw a beautiful woman, verily a Devi, clad in red, leave the city. He stopped her, asking, “Oh Devi, who are you and why are you leaving?“. She responded, “I am the Goddess of Power. I am leaving this city as the citizens have become criminal, and it is no longer a fit abode for me”. “I understand“, replied Vikramaditya .

Then, another beautiful lady, clad in gold, began leaving. Vikramaditya asked her too “Oh Devi, who are you and why are you leaving?“. She replied, “Oh Maharaja, I am the Goddess of Wealth. I am leaving your capital as the citizens have become corrupt, and it is no longer a fit abode for me”.  “I understand“, Vikramaditya relented again.

Finally, a third beautiful lady, clad in white, began leaving. Vikramaditya asked her too, “Oh Devi, who are you and why are you leaving?” She replied, “Oh Rajan, I am the Goddess of Truth. I am leaving your people as they have become immoral”. This time Vikramaditya said “Oh Devi, please do not leave. I can live a life without Power and Wealth, but I cannot live a life without Truth. I beg you, please stay in my kingdom“. The Goddess smiled, and said “So, be it.”.

Soon, the Goddess of Wealth returned. Surprised, Vikramaditya asked “Oh Devi, why have you returned?“. She replied “I am the Goddess of Wealth, I reside where Truth resides”.  Then finally the Goddess of Power returned. Amazed, Vikramaditya asked “Oh Devi, why have you returned?”. She replied “I am the Goddess of Power, I reside where Wealth resides”.

The moral of the story, of course, is that power, wealth, pleasure, all can be given up in the name of Truth (of which Dharma is the expression), because they are dependent upon it. This is because men and women of character can lose every material possession in the world, every opportunity for pleasure, every right of power, but keep their character is in their own hands. If character is lost, then all is lost. That is the thinking of the Dharmic Man and Woman, so they prize their character, their Dharma, above Artha and Kama, and even Moksha, because they know Dharma is the path to all three, and therefore, a balanced and harmonious life that is ultimately fruitful.

But if all this is not enough. If you still only care about acquisition of Artha & Kama. If you are not interested in Moksha, don’t have time for Jnana, and care not for the Adhyatmika, let me end with the Laukika for all you materialistic pragmatists.  The essential reality of The Purusharthas was contained in the very same Epic Poem that contained the transcendental Song of the Lord you heard above.

The essence of the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Purushartha was summed up as follows by Maharishi Veda Vyasa himself:



  1. Chaturvedi, B.K.Chanakya Neeti.Diamond: New Delhi.2015
  2. Vidura Niti. p.150
  3. Rangarajan, L.N.. Kautilya. Arthashastra. New Delhi: Penguin.1991
  4. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanisads. London: Unwin Brothers. 1968
  5. Malhotra, Rajiv. “Insiders versus Outsiders: Who Speaks for Our Heritage?”. Infinity Foundation. 2016 http://rajivmalhotra.com/books/the-battle-for-sanskrit/insiders-versus-outsiders-who-speaks-for-our-heritage/

On Dharma II: Rta vs Rna


Of late it has become fashionable for some profit-minded pseudo-intellectuals to cite Rna or indebtedness as the motivation for dharma. This is incorrect. Because our very existence in this world is a test of character, our own selfish obligation is not meant to be the ultimate motivation for action. Rather it is to seek the good of society and the world itself, samaj kalyan and lok kalyan. It is a selfless motivation, not a selfish one. It is this obsession with Rna, with personal or selfish obligation, that continues to create small minds motivated by fruitive action. To them performance of personal yagna is the be all and end all of Vedic knowledge. This is incorrect. True yagna is as follows:

The yagna of the Brahmana is his puja&punaskara on behalf of society, the yagna of the Kshatriya is his protection of society, the yagna of the Vaisya is his honest wealth creation & charity for society, and the yagna of the Sudra is his work, service & craftsmanship on behalf of society. All these yagnas are not done for merit, power, money, livelihood, but ultimately, for true knowledge of reality (jnana). The vast majority of individuals may not realise this, but that is the true fruit of the yagna they are conducting. In action itself they begin to learn the nature of the world, ultimately preparing them for understanding the totality of reality. It is also for this reason that not only before our important rituals but also before any important work, such as teaching/learning, starting an important task, or even a work of art, we begin with a prayer.

puruso vaava yajnah, tasya yaani catur-vimsati varsaani, tat praatah-savanam, catur-vimsaty-aksaraa gaayatri, gaayatram praatah-savavam tad asya vasavo’nvaayattaah, praanaa vaava vasavah, ete heedam sarvam vaasayanti.” Chandogya Upanishad. ch.3,s.16, sl.1

“I.Verily, a person is a sacrifice[yagna]. His (first) twenty-four years are the morning libation is offered with a gaayatri hymn. With this (part of the sacrifice) the Vasus are connected. Verily, the vital breaths are the Vasus, for they cause every-thing here to endure”[1, 394]

It must be remembered that even if told so, many individuals do not feel obligation to their parents, let alone the universe, for whatever reason: tough life, selfish natures, etc. Such people do not voluntarily pay off personal financial debts, so what of the cosmic? That is the danger of having public performers and glorified translators, foreign and domestic, teach “dharma” without the requisite saadhana and shraddha. As such, if people are educated about Rta in terms of Rna, they will not see its value and will be misguided.    

If they are educated in terms of truth (Satya) and self interest (sva artha) over time their nihith svaartha (unrestrained selfishness)will disappear, becoming asvaartha and nishkama karma.

I maintain my parents today, so that my children may maintain me tomorrow. I respect the wives of others so that they may respect my wife. I help others in need, so that they may help me when I am in need. That is how a community, that is how a society is built & preserved. Thus, what begins in self-interest, eventually graduates to selflessness. The truly perfected being does all this out of Prema, love for fellow members of society, rather than self interest; nevertheless, proper Dharmic motivation under Rta and Satya is the starting ground for this, not Rna.

Therefore, protection of Rta is not premised on obligation to the Universe, which accords to us whatever fate. But rather, it is premised on a selfless desire to protect and preserve fellow members of creation. True, those who are not spiritually inclined may act out of self-interest, but that is the starting point. Nishkama karma is the end point to which all souls in whatever lifetime must graduate. That is what must engender dharma. Drona, Karna, and Kripa all cited Rna as the basis for their actions. All were on the wrong side of the Kurukshetra.

They believed their selfish salvation (whether material or spiritual) lay in clearing off that personal debt to Dhritarashtra and his sons, and only fools lionise these characters on the basis of sentiment rather than satya. That is the danger of focus on Rna, as personal Rna becomes easily conflated with universal Rna. This misinterpretation leads to wrong action and ultimate destruction of not only individuals, but also societies, and civilizations.

In contrast, Dharma is the expression of Rta, which originates in Satya. Satya is in fact Brahman, and the essence of Brahman is love, Prema. All the great saints recognise this. This difference is not a nitpick, but rather, an important distinguishment between what must and must not motivate us. Thus, preservation of Rta is not due to Rna. Rather preservation of Rta must be for its own sake, because it is the expression of Satya. It must be due to either the love of truth, or the love of order (as it ensures justice, yuktata), or from rational recognition of its benefits and general utility to society as a whole, rather than Rna, which benefits only individuals and causes adharma. The souls of individuals are bought with Rna (debt) as Duryodhana bought the soul of Karna with the kingdom of Anga. Krishna himself warned of this danger to Karna.

Debt is the path to and shield of tyranny. It is why ambitious ahankaris who crave not only kingdoms but undue recognition and monopoly forever trumpet the horn of Rna. Because they chase after the rightful position of others, they obsess over Rna, rather than cherish Rta and Satya. They may talk of the need for the truth to be told, but in actuality fear it, lest they be discovered for what they really are.

That is why Rta and Satya are more important than Rna, and why Dharma is not about Rna, it is, and always was, about Rta. While the two may seem to be related concepts, Rna is about personal debt, but Dharma, Saamaanya Dharma, is about the common good. Dharma doesn’t ask “what is my financial obligation here”, or “gurudakshina there”. It asks, what is the interest of society? Rnis start from the personal—obsessing about ritual and tradition above right and wrong—and then, if there is time, think about the rest of society. Rituals do matter, but those who understand Rta recognise that our duty, our svadharma, is determined by saamaanya dharma—and we must determine the best course of action based on society’s needs. Chennaites did precisely that in the recent flood.

What’s more, many confuse the existence of the Chaturvarna as representing the hermetical sealing off of society into different orders—preventing interaction. This is incorrect. While there are certain samskaras maintained at different times and places, society represents an organic whole. Ritual and tradition do matter, but they are not the be all or end all or the heart of Dharma. Rta and Satya are. Achara is the first Dharma, but not the most important Dharma (Rta and Satya are). Though it is true historically the coherence of society was maintained by establishing social orders performing various functions, this doesn’t mean cutting off social interaction completely. Individual kulacharas do not represent different religions. Rather they represent different duties within the same religion. Religion, or more correctly, dharma, creates order within society that is parallel to law, vyavahara. Because breakdowns in law and order occur from time to time, it is a strong moral culture, Sanskriti, and ethical dharma, that prevents matsya nyaya (big fish eats little fish), during such periods.

In our age, the Kali age, the age of disorder, guna is not always aligned with birth. Therefore, the spiritual characteristics, gunas, of individuals, matter more than caste birth (or alleged“aptitude”). It is ahankar that drives individuals to insult and oppress people for their caste, in the end, destroying both them and society. It is ambition and profit that causes individuals to obsess about Rna. Rta + Respect for others of all backgrounds is what must come first.

Ultimately, we preserve Dharma and Rta not because of obligation to the universe, or because we have a selfish debt to pay, but because preservation of Dharma and Rta benefits all of us collectively and protects us and society. This in turn makes civilized life possible for the individual and all mankind.

That is the end goal of Dharma and Rta…and Satya.



  1. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanisads. London: Unwin Brothers.1968
  2. Subramaniam, Kamala. Mahabharata. Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. 1965
*For silly Rnis who think Dharma is about Rna. Do real “tapas”: Read, read, read, read, read, read, read