Making Sense of It All – World Drama, Purusharthas, and Craving

Both Ramakrishna Paramahansa and Ramana Maharshi remarked, “The world is a drama of woman and gold.” Hinduism points out that the four purusharthas (the four ends of men) are “Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha.” Dharma is the righteous way of living; artha is means that helps us attain our material well-being, such as wealth and power; kama is, of course, pleasure-seeking; and moksha is liberation from the samasaric cycle of births and deaths. So, if we had to draw a parallel between the purusharthas and what Paramahansa and Maharshi remarked, then quite obviously artha maps into gold, and woman maps into kama – feminists please note that when “woman” is said to map into kama it is only said from the perspective of men, and so, for women the correct word that maps into kama would be “men”.

Now, it is very easy to see that the pursuit of artha and kama is what the world drama all about. Of course, the pursuit of moksha also adds quite a bit of drama to the world, but to the extent that the more you pursue moksha the more you tend to withdraw from worldly activity it could be seen as not contributing that much to the drama of the world. What about Dharma? Pursuit of Dharma again does contribute to the drama of the world, but only to the extent that the adharmic pursuit of artha and kama creates conditions where efforts have to be made to ensure that Dharma is established. So, if all men pursued artha and kama through strictly Dharmic means or pursued moksha (which by implication can necessarily be only pursued by dharmic means), surely the world drama will almost grind to a halt because there will be very little need for things such as police, courts of justice, army, censor boards, political battles for justice, etc., because most of those things spring into being to reign in and punish adharma committed by those in their pursuit of artha and kama.

At this point it will be quite appropriate, in my opinion, to dwell on Buddha’s Second Noble Truth – “Craving is the cause of suffering.” Buddha seems to be veering towards a more bleak and kill-joy kind of living where he would have one not pursue artha and kama at all, whereas Hinduism allows you to pursue artha and kama as legitimate goals of life as long as you stick to Dharmic principles in their pursuit. So, although the end goal of life recognised even by Hinduism is moksha and so it seems to point in the same direction as Buddha because that implies that at some point you have to turn your back on mere pursuit of artha and kama even if it be by dharmic means, Hinduism also recognises that not all people are at such an evolved state of mind to be able to pursue moksha all at once, so it allows them some breathing space by allowing them to pursue artha and kama within the constraints of dharma so that eventually they, too, might evolve enough to seek moksha. However, as long as one is pursuing artha and kama one is always subject to the temptations of acquiring them through adharmic means, as we often see in our societies which a lot of people complain as being corrupt and immoral, and hence Buddha’s point that craving causes suffering is well taken because where there is craving it can and often does lead one astray into an adharmic way of living.

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