Religion is the means of realizing dharma, artha, kama and moksa. These
four are called purusarthas.
In Tamil, dharma is called “aram”; artha is known as “porul’; and kama
and moksa are called “inbam, “and vidu respectively. “Artha” occurs in
the term “purusarthas”, but it is itself one of the purusarthas? What a
man wants for himself in his life- the aims of a man’s life- are the
purusarthas. What does a man want to have? He wants to live happily
without lacking for anything. There are two types of happiness: the
ephemeral; and the second is everlasting and not subject to diminution.
Kama or in barn is ephemeral happiness and denotes worldly pleasure, orldly desires. Moksa or vidu is everlasting happiness, not transient
pleasure. It is because people are ignorant about such happiness, how
elevated and enduring it is, that they hanker after the trivial and
momentary joys of kama.
Our true quest must be for the fourth artha that is vidu or moksa. The
majority of people today yearn for the third artha that is kama. When
eat you are happy. When you are appointed a judge of the high court you
feel elated. You are delighted when presented with a welcome address by
some institution, aren’t you? Such types of happiness are not enduring.
The means by which such happiness is earned is porul. Porul may be corn,
money, and house. It is this porul that is the way to happiness. But the
pleasure gained from material possessions is momentary and you keep
constantly hungering for more.
Moksa is the state of supreme bliss and there is no quest beyond it. We
keep going from place to place and suffer hardships of all kinds. Our
destination is our home. A prisoner goes to his vidu or his home after
is released. But the word vidu also means release or liberation. Since
are now imprisoned in our body, we commit the grave mistake of
believing that we are the body. The body is in fact our goal. Our real
home is the bliss called moksa. We must find release from the goal that
our body and dwell in our true home. God has sentenced us to goal (that
is he has imprisoned us in our body) for our sins. If we practice virtue
will condone our sins and release us from the prison of our body before
the expiry of the sentence. We must desist from committing sinful acts
that our term of imprisonment is not extended and endeavor to free
ourselves and arrive in our true home, our true home that is the Lord.
This home is bliss that passeth understanding, bliss that is not bound
the limitations of time, space and matter.
Lastly, I speak of the first purusartha, dharma. Dharma denotes
beneficent action, good or virtuous deeds. The word has come to mean
giving, charity. “Give me dharmam. Do dharmam, mother, “cries the
beggar. We speak of “dana-dharma” [as a portmanteau word]. The
commandments relating to charity are called “ara-kattalai”in Tamil.
Looked at in this way, giving away our artha or porul will be seen to be
dharma. But how do we, in the first place, acquire the goods to be given
away in charity? The charity practiced in our former birth- by giving
our artha- it is that brings us rewards in this birth. The very purpose
owning material goods is the practice of dharma. Just as material
possessions are a means of pleasure, so is dharma a means of material
possessions. It is not charity alone that yields rewards in the form of
material goods; all dharma will bring their own material rewards.
If we practice dharma without expecting any reward in the belief that
Isvara gives us what he wills- and in a spirit of dedication, the
tainting our being will be removed and we will obtain the bliss that is
exalted. The pursuit of dharma that brings in its wake material rewards
will itself become the means of attaining the Paramporul. Thus we see
that dharma, while being an instrument for making material gain and
through it of pleasure, becomes the means of liberation also if it is
practiced unselfishly. Through it we acquire material goods and are
helped to keep up the practice of dharma. This means that artha itself
becomes a basis of dharma. It is kama or desire alone that neither
itself nor becomes an instrument of fulfilling some other purpose. It is
the water poured on burning sands.
Worse, it is an instrument that
destroys everything dharmic thoughts, material possessions, liberation
All the same it is difficult, to start with, to be without any desire
altogether. Religion serves to rein in desire little by little and take
step by step, from petty ephemeral pleasure to the ultimate bliss. First
we are taught the meaning and implications of dharma and how to
practice it, then we are instructed in the right manner in which
goods are to be acquired so as to practice this dharma; and, thirdly, we
are taught the proper manner in which desires may be satisfied. It is a
process of gaining maturity and wisdom to forsake petty pleasure for the
ultimate bliss of moksa.
Moksa is release from all attachments. It is a state in which the Self
remains ever in untrammeled freedom and blessedness. The chief
purpose of religion is to teach us how this supreme state may be
We know for certain that ordinary people do not achieve eternal
happiness. The purpose of any religion is to lead them towards such
happiness. Everlasting blessedness is obtained only by forsaking the
for petty pleasures. The dictates of dharma help us to abandon the
pursuit of sensual enjoyments and endeavor for eternal bliss. They are
also essential to create a social order that has the same high purpose,
liberation of all. Religion, with its goal of liberation, lays down the
of dharma. That is why the great understand the word dharma itself to