The old sages were wise enough to see that all problems and the nature of our suffering fell into four categories: Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. These Purusharthas are considered the goals of human existence and successfully managing them leads to a balanced, meaningful life.
In Vedic Astrology, each bhava corresponds to one of these 4 goals of life and gives insight into which areas you’re most involved in. Parashara has also given us many yogas (planetary combinations) that indicate what path one is walking and how well one is doing on that path.
Understanding your problems in this context is helpful in addressing them. Knowing how these 4 goals of life fit together can help you achieve some balance or strongly walk one path so you get fulfillment in at least one area. If you want some perspective, the majority of people are not fulfilled in any of these 4 goals. If you’re doing well in two, you’re doing better than most.
Read the following summaries of each purushartha to find out which one is a strength or weakness for you:
Dharma (corresponds to 1st, 5th, and 9th Houses)
Issues with finding meaning, purpose, and morality. You may be greatly inspired but have difficulty committing to what inspires you and walking the path of dharma. Those on a strong dharmic path naturally follow what inspires them and can easily find meaning in what they do.
It is no coincidence that the Bhagavad Gita begins on a battlefield with Dharma being the first word. Arjuna is confessing to Krishna his internal battle, the confusion of what is the right course of action. Dharma means truth. What is your truth? Yes, following your inspiration is part of it, but another part is becoming attuned and completely comfortable with your own nature.
Staying true to your own nature and being at peace with it is where our internal battles are won. It’s being so secure in your individuality that you have no reason to overcompensate, hide your beliefs, get defensive, or try to keep up with other people. Many people project a lot of hypocrisy because they are not aligned with their true nature.
Some questions you can ask yourself if you’re confused about your Dharma:
- What constitutes your true individuality? Not just what is unique and special, but what is that essence about you that has not changed throughout your life?
- What is your role in society? What gifts do you have that can be used to help humanity or uplift others without compromising your beliefs/purpose?
- If you died tomorrow, what would you want to be remembered by? What would you want to be known for above all else?
- What gives you true and lasting happiness?
Christ also summed up the importance of Dharma when he said “If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.” In short, Dharma protects you. It protects you from the unhappiness of leading a false life that does not serve your highest goals and aspirations. Krishna also taught us that Dharma protects when it is protected.
Artha (corresponds to 2nd, 6th, and 10th Houses)
Meeting your material responsibilities in this world. Maintaining a healthy body that can function in your environment. Struggles with work, money, and material prosperity fall into the category of artha.
The reward of Artha is a healthy body that allows you to take action in this world and material resources to meet needs. Artha is the foundation one needs in order to fulfill kama or dharma. It is the skillful management of your resources. The Artha houses have to do with social responsibilities as well as the unenjoyable, but necessary tasks required to live a good life. Those with positive influences to the Artha houses will enjoy the fruit of prosperity and good health.
Those struggling on a path of Artha will have issues maintaining a healthy body and getting material needs met. Health and prosperity have a lot to do with being in balance with nature, especially your own nature. It’s important to remember that the greatest prosperity naturally flows after using your innate gifts and talent.
Artha can be damaged by too much focus on Kama that leads to overindulgence or mismanagement of resources. Problems with Artha can also occur by not valuing the things you have talent for. The 2nd house not only shows how a person makes their money, but it is also a house of self-value.
Learning to manage debt, taking appropriate action (not procrastinating) and fulfilling material responsibilities, are all Artha lessons.
Kama (corresponds to 3rd, 7th, and 11th Houses)
Our overall ability to fulfill desires. Issues around Kama can include fame, prestige, popularity as well as relationships with other people, sex, indulgence, and achieving titles.
The truth is that our unfulfilled desires are responsible for a huge chunk of our unhappiness and discontentment with life. A desire is not good or bad, it is merely what it is; a desire. If you’re on a path of Kama, as many are, you are primarily motivated by getting your desires fulfilled. There may have been times when you sacrificed a career move for a relationship, or you chose to study a subject that would give you more recognition when it wasn’t your highest passion. These are just some examples of the Kama-motivated person.
It’s ok to have desires. After all, our desires are at the root of our progress – both spiritual and material. It is often our desires that propel us to action to accomplish anything in this life. However, if you are firmly on a path of Kama and prioritize it above all else, it’s ultimately a path of unhappiness. Even with strong Kama yogas that give success with obtaining desires, the problem is that they’re never-ending. It’s no coincidence that two of the yoga-breaking houses are Kama houses 3 and 11. When desires are not kept in check, it causes problems with Artha, Dharma, and Moksha.
In the Astrological chart, the 11th house is the house before the final Moksha house. It is our last desires that come before liberation. Ideally, desires should be acknowledged and reasonably fulfilled with mindfulness. You should move towards freedom from them, instead of a continuous cycle of wanting more and more.
Moksha (corresponds to 4th, 8th, and 12th Houses)
Those experiencing the feeling of “what’s the point of it all?” It is freedom from material and emotional suffering. Moksha can lead us to look for liberation from all other categories through healthy or unhealthy means.
The Moksha path tends to be the most transformative and difficult. People involved in the Moksha houses can experience a lot of pain as life’s circumstances tear them away from their attachments or puts them through some traumatic experiences. Moksha is simple freedom from material and emotional burdens. Ideally, it is the mental peace that comes after letting go of attachments and desires – a very hard thing to do on Earth. What is more often the case is that it creates a lot of psychological battles within a person who then chooses various methods of escapism.
Signs of struggling with Moksha involves spending too much time on activities that remove you from the stresses of life or having to think about anything. Watching TV, reading a novel, playing video games, taking vacations are some examples of activities that allow us to temporarily escape. Addictions are common for those with negative afflictions to their Moksha houses.
Those struggling with Moksha-related issues really need to revisit their Dharma. Understanding your nature and following your inspiration (and not someone else) gives psychological peace. You cannot attempt Moksha without first following your Dharma.
Should you pursue Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha sequentially, or simultaneously?
Notice how life begins with Dharma (1st house) and ends in Moksha (12th house). These four goals also correspond to our ages and different chapters of life. Though you’ll always be doing a bit of each, the first part of life should be focused on attuning to your own nature and finding your inspiration. Then, getting a career to build a material life and meet your immediate needs. The next stage is being more able to pursue additional desires and pleasures, like marriage, luxuries, things you want but don’t need. Finally, as you approach your golden years you should be ready to pursue a simpler, purer, more detached life dedicated to contemplation and inner peace.
Walking a path of Dharma naturally sets you up for greater balance and success in all other areas of life. Krishna spoke extensively on Dharma and prioritized it above all else. Artha, Kama, and Moksha become more problematic when not regulated by Dharma.
If you were to approach a Vedic Counselor, part of your discussion would be assessing which of these areas is working or not working in your life. The birth chart shows which area will flow with ease or struggle, but with awareness, mindfulness, and appropriate action you can improve all of them.