Duty, Desire, Wealth & Liberation

Duty, Desire, Wealth & Liberation

This series unravels the dharmic dialogue between Narada Muni and Raja Yudhishthira in the Sabha Parva of Mahabharata. Part IV dealt with balancing dharma and artha, Part V follows.

Narada Muni through his questions repeatedly brings back the primacy of dharma, righteousness or duty, in this context, while nudging Yudhishthira towards setting the highest standards of a good reign. Previously Narada had dropped hints about selfless actions, pursuing dharma without compromise and also good practices in wealth management. Narada had ended the previous question by laying equal emphasis on progress and prosperity. He time and again reminds Yudhishthira that his role as a king needs to be seen as an example for the subjects of his kingdom.

Now, Narada Muni moves on to asking Yudhishthira, ‘are you giving equal time to dharma, artha and kama?’ So far, Narada had only spoken about dharma and artha, the third purushartha is kama (desire) and the fourth is moksha (liberation). By bringing kama or desires into focus Narada is prompting Yudhishthira – and us – to reflect on questions around our own life. ‘Why am I born?’ ‘What is the purpose of my birth?’ ‘What do I achieve while living?’ and so on. It will reveal to us, eventually, that we are born because of our vasanas (inherent desires and thought conditions). Our unfulfilled vasanas and karma ensure our manifestation in this life. While we are born and alive as a human, we must know how to exhaust these vasanas wisely and well.

But to exhaust the vasanas without creating new ones, or to do so without any karmic effect, we have to follow dharma. When we perform righteous actions, it not only exhausts pending desires, it does not generate any new ones either. Given our births are human beings, we have to work intelligently to exhaust or sublimate our vasanas and karmas, to fulfil the purpose of this lifetime. Only by giving importance to kama, can we satiate the three goals in life. Be rooted in dharma. If a desire doesn’t fall in the matrix of dharma, drop it, eliminate it or sublimate it.

If we pursue dharma sincerely, manage artha wisely and exhaust kama intelligently, we are on the path of seeking God and attaining the fourth goal- moksha.

Narada Muni has not asked if Yudhishthira is giving equal time for dharma, artha, kama, and moksha. He has clearly mentioned only the three goals in life, because the fourth is the goal of life and will automatically fall in place if the first three conditions are met. Nobody can ‘give time’ for moksha. It is an urge and it has to be there in the seeker continuously. It is a feeling, it is a want, it is mumukshutvam, it has to be in one throughout.

This has been beautifully explained by Swami Chinmayananda in an anecdote. A disciple once asked Swamiji, ‘How much time should I meditate in a day?’. Swamiji replied, ‘Only twenty fours!’. The disciple asked again, ‘What?! Twenty four hours?? How is that possible?’. Swamiji answered, ‘The half an hour that you sit in meditation is dependent upon the quality of your life in the remaining twenty-three and half hours.’ A mumukshu, or a seeker, is a round-the-clock seeker. Such a person is seeking God through dharma, through artha, while exhausting kama. A person leading such a balanced life must be considered as highest among those evolved. That person has lived their life the best. These are noble ways of living and all of us must aspire to follow the same.

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Chinmaya Udghosh