This series explores the four human pursuits or the Purusharthas in Eastern philosophy. Understand how each desire we have on a human level can lead us to liberation of mind and enlightenment. We discuss:
- What are the Purusharthas?
- Difference between Kama, Artha, Moksha and Dharma
- What does it mean to live your Dharma?
- How to know what your sacred duty is.
Debra Maldonado 00:28
Hello, welcome to season number seven of Soul Sessions with CreativeMind. I am Debra Maldonado, here with the great Dr. Rob Maldonado. We’re excited to explore a new series in spiritual psychology. This series is about four human pursuits, the Purusharthas. Before we begin, I want to remind you to make sure you don’t miss an episode of Soul Sessions by clicking on the button here if you’re watching us on YouTube. If you’re listening to us on Spotify, iTunes, or another podcast service, make sure you subscribe to our channel and not miss another episode. Let’s talk about the four human pursuits.
Robert Maldonado 01:20
I wanted to start with a quote by Houston Smith, the author of World Religions. He says, “If we take the world’s enduring religions at their best, we discover the distilled wisdom of the human race.” That’s the spirit we’re approaching this work with. When we distill, when we look at the best of these world’s religions and spiritual traditions that have endured for thousands of years, we start to get a sense of the wisdom that sustains them, that gives them their staying power. There’s a deep wisdom there that we want to take advantage of, we want to bring it and translate it into a spiritual psychology that we can use, that can be applicable to anyone seeking transformation, wisdom, knowledge, peace of mind.
Debra Maldonado 02:27
What I love about it, it’s so practical that it’s almost too simple to think that it’s really that profound. But if you learn the Eastern philosophy from the root of the philosophies, reading it directly from the books, you’ll find such profound wisdom. We hope to bring that to you and help you see it as very accessible and very doable to apply in your life. We’re talking about the four human pursuits, we’ll be talking about them in this series. We’re going to focus on one, but the four are dharma, kama, artha, and moksha, which is my favorite. It is not a drink at Starbucks, it’s something much more profound. Let’s review what each of those four are. We’re going to be talking about dharma today. Let’s start with kama.
Robert Maldonado 03:24
Kama is the pursuit of pleasure. It’s a human pursuit because we need to enjoy the world. Our senses are designed to take in the beauty, the pleasure of life. It should be a human pursuit. It should be something that we think about, that we make sure we’re enjoying our life.
Debra Maldonado 03:53
It’s basically the root of our conditioning, pursuit of pleasure, the ego moves toward pleasure and away from pain. But we’ll talk about a higher way to pursue pleasure in one of our next episodes. Artha is the pursuit of wealth. It seems odd when people hear it’s a human pursuit that can also be spiritual.
Robert Maldonado 04:20
Artha, in general, is the idea of success, proper work, doing your purpose as your work or your work as a higher purpose. It includes, of course, material success as well as money, notoriety, fame, having a good name, a good standing in society.
Debra Maldonado 04:50
The last one, before we get into dharma, is moksha. It sounds like one of those mocha frappuccino drinks, but it actually is liberation, which means you’re actually liberated from your human pursuits. All these other three are human pursuits. Then moksha is the liberation of those. Liberation of the body, liberation of the ego, higher states of consciousness.
Robert Maldonado 05:20
We certainly see this in a lot of the Eastern traditions, the ones that grew out of the Upanishads. Liberation, salvation, enlightenment, Nirvana, liberating ourselves from the human condition, or transcending it at least, is at the heart of these traditions.
Debra Maldonado 05:42
The heart of relieving suffering in our lives, liberating ourselves from the pain of grasping for the earthly possessions, feeding the ego, letting it all go. If we can do that in our lifetime, it’s amazing to do it while we’re alive versus waiting for the last moment, where we finally feel liberated. We want to do it earlier, so we can enjoy being in the body and having also liberation. Let’s start with dharma. I used to think dharma was more like your life purpose, this is my career I want to pursue. But you have a closer definition of dharma.
Robert Maldonado 06:27
We’re approaching it as a spiritual psychology, as a philosophy, not so much a religious practice, but from our perspective. Dharma then becomes the righteous, spiritual principles that persist throughout the ages. Your particular dharma is harmonizing with those principles, how you’re going to tie, how you are going to yoke, how you’re going to connect, what you do as an individual to those higher spiritual principles. That duty, that practice of connecting yourself to those higher principles is your particular dharma. Now, why we say it’s particular? There’s a great quote in the Bhagavad Gita, chapter 18, verse 47. It says, “It is better to do one’s own dharma, even though imperfectly, than to do another’s dharma, even though perfectly.” Here we see the implication that you have an individual dharma, your individual actions and how they connect you or disconnect you, keep you from harmony with those higher spiritual principles. That’s your dharma. It’s your particular way of connecting to your spirituality and practicing it.
Debra Maldonado 08:04
Could you give an example to get a clearer picture of what’s your dharma versus another person’s dharma?
Robert Maldonado 08:12
Most of you know that in ancient India, and even today there’s some of that, the society was broken up into different sects. There were the Brahmins, the priests, then the Kshatriyas, which were the warriors. Both were in the ruling elite class, but their dharmas were very distinct. If you were born into a family of Brahmins, you were meant to practice teaching higher law, spirituality, reading the Gita, teaching the Upanishads. Those activities were considered to be part of your dharma, part of your sacred duty. If you were a warrior, very different lifestyle, now your life was about weapons, fighting, understanding the principles of warfare, always in the sense of protecting society. What was your particular dharma? Your caste gave you a sense of a particular lifestyle, therefore your dharma, your sacred duty was very different than someone born in another caste.
Debra Maldonado 09:39
How is that different from a purpose?
Robert Maldonado 09:42
It’s related obviously, because purpose is your individual path of work and taking action in the world, fulfilling your duty as an individual, your individual mission. But dharma, because it’s connected to higher spiritual principles, is always about how you are connecting to those principles. If you were a warrior, your path was to learn warfare and to practice martial arts. Those activities were connecting you to those higher spiritual principles because you would dedicate that practice and those activities, your individual purpose, to that divine duty you had as a warrior.
Debra Maldonado 10:48
I’d think what you’re explaining would mean that the purpose is what you do. Dharma is how you do it. What you do is I’m a teacher, I’m a student, I’m a healer, I’m a warrior, I’m a priest. Dharma is using that purpose in a way that is applying dharma to it, which is I’m dedicating this to my higher purpose.
Robert Maldonado 11:23
It was, psychologically, it still is, your sacred duty as a human being in general. We can say the generic dharma for all of us is self-realization, to realize the true nature of our human life.
Debra Maldonado 11:48
It doesn’t matter what we choose, as long as we’re choosing it in dedication to self-realization or understanding the self. It’s not doing it poorly, “I’m going to do this because I think it’s my purpose, but I’m not doing it right.” As long as you’re doing it in alignment with “I’m dedicating this to my higher purpose,” it doesn’t matter what you do. It’s not like you have an imprint, this is who you are, you have to do it a certain way, it has to be perfect. It’s how you do it through that non-attachment, through seeking knowledge, through your actions. Is that how you would say it?
Robert Maldonado 12:27
There’s a deep implication here. It’s better to do your purpose, even though you’re messing it up, you’re screwing up because you’re on your individual path. For example, maybe I could make a better living being a banker, or an investment guy, or on Wall Street. But I’d be going against my deeper sense of self and what I feel to be my duty and my purpose in life, which is my dharma. Therefore, even if I did something else better, it wouldn’t really be on my path, it wouldn’t be fulfilling my dharma, doing my purpose, therefore, it’s not worth it. But those of you that feel you have a particular purpose in this life, go for it. Because even if you’re not doing it as perfectly as you might be able to do other things, it’s the best you can do with your life. The teaching in the Gita, and the Gita is considered the distillation of the Upanishads, that wisdom is saying each and every one of us has a particular purpose in life. That particular dharma is what you’re meant to be doing. If you do it, you’re on your spiritual path. If you do not do it, even if it goes well for you, you’re not using your life in a proper way.
Debra Maldonado 14:12
You will be unhappy.
Robert Maldonado 14:15
That’s another question, but you won’t be fulfilling your dharma. That in itself has implications because as we look at the other elements like moksha, meaning liberation, salvation, enlightenment, it isn’t going to lead you towards that. When we look at the totality of these human pursuits, in combination they give us the full life, the full experience of ourselves and the fulfillment of our lives.
Debra Maldonado 15:42
The big question is — I’m sure everyone’s sitting there wondering me to ask this question — how does someone know their sacred duty versus it’s not their duty?
Robert Maldonado 15:55
Especially now, we’re not born into caste systems anymore. We’re still born into classes, into different cultures, but that itself doesn’t give us our sacred duty. It’s the internal journey. From a psychological perspective, we have to do that inner self-inquiry to find ourselves. It requires a little bit of time to make time for that, it’s an important piece of your life to figure out what is it that I’m supposed to be doing here. Then an answer will come, but it has to come from within you. In Jungian terms, this means you’re connecting your conscious waking life to the deeper unconscious mind. He says, as you do that, as you enter and knock on the door of the unconscious mind, the unconscious will give you a symbol, a sign. It’ll give you a vision, essentially, of what your purpose is, what your dharma is.
Debra Maldonado 17:14
I see this all the time, I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 20 years, I’ve seen many entrepreneurs get really excited about starting something new, living the career they like. But they’re not making progress, they’re failing at it, they’re not getting clients, the money’s not coming in. They feel very discouraged. They feel as though this is not my thing. This is not my purpose because if it was my purpose, it’d be much easier. What I really want to underscore is that your purpose isn’t easy. It’s actually hard. It’s easy to not live your purpose. It’s easy to go for something that seems to flow. There’s this big misperception that when you’re in your purpose, when you do what you love, everything falls into place. It doesn’t. When you do what you truly love, you’re going to be challenged. Dedicating all that struggle, dedicating the setbacks, the fears, the hesitations, bad luck that comes in, are all opportunities. You say to yourself, “I believe in this, I want to do this, nothing’s going to stop me”, that’s what’s going to persevere. When you use the higher knowledge, dedicating it to even this failure, “I’m going to dedicate it to knowing higher knowledge,” you’re really undoing that ego attachment to getting the quick fix, the quick happy result. You’re able to really succeed in a deep way, you’re carving out this new you that’s not the little ego anymore. But I see so many people give up, or they push, saying “I guess it’s not meant for me.” They let the world decide who they are. I’ve done this with myself all the times I’ve tried to put myself out there, start and stop. Then finally, just not give up. “I’m going to use this for my spiritual growth. I’m going to dedicate all these struggles, all this confusion, all these challenges, all these fears that I have to learn about myself, dedicate it to that dharma. This is going to help me connect to the self.”
Robert Maldonado 19:31
Your dharma helps you. There’s another principle mentioned in the Gita that is making your mind one point. What should you point your mind towards? That’s your dharma. If you know your dharma, your sacred duty, you always have something to point your mind towards. Why am I suffering? Why am I going through hardships? Why am I succeeding? What is the purpose of me generating abundance, wealth? Everything goes towards that dharmic principle, that higher purpose. You always have that direction for your life.
Debra Maldonado 20:13
Wouldn’t it be that if your one pointed mind is “I want to liberate my mind, I want to individuate, as they would say in Jungian philosophy, I want to become my true self,” that’s the prize versus the short term “win or lose” when it comes to a goal you’re trying to reach? If you hold that vision of “if I can grow from this, then it’s always a win.” What would you say?
Robert Maldonado 20:44
When we talk about artha, success, we’ll get to the point or to the understanding of what the purpose of money is. If we work for money, we’re serving the money. Whereas if we dedicate it to our dharma, our higher purpose, then it is serving us, which is the proper way to position wealth and abundance.
Debra Maldonado 21:14
I think we already know what our sacred duty is in a way, we have a sense. Sometimes, we may think that’s not it because we don’t want to pursue it in some way, or the way to pursue it is difficult. But it’s the difficult path that we need to take. We want something that challenges us because that’s what’s going to build our awareness. We have to question and have wisdom that arises from those struggles, not from when everything flows and is easy. We forget that it’s not that quick fix, bulldozing my way through life. I want to wrestle with it, I want to see what I’m made of. Those challenges shape us. They can either shape us into more conditioning, or they can shape us to break free of that conditioning.
Robert Maldonado 22:12
In our spiritual teacher training, we talk about the different paths dharma takes for each and every one of us. For example, there are four different paths in yoga, the four different yogas. There’s inner journey of meditation, of looking inward, of sitting still and stilling the mind as much as possible, which is Raja yoga. There’s Karma yoga, where it’s the opposite, you’re taking action in the world. Through selfless action you practice a higher form of yoga that leads to the same place essentially, as the person that meditates. Then there is bhakti yoga, which is the path of devotion. Bhakti is meant to worship, devote their life to the higher ideal, as a deity or as an ideal, or as an image even, that you dedicate your practice and your efforts to. Again, making your mind one-pointed in that way. But it’s a very different path than the others, than the action or the meditation. In bhakti yoga, you are practicing devotional yoga. Finally, the Gyana yoga, which is this higher knowledge. But it’s not for everyone, obviously.
Debra Maldonado 23:55
You read the texts, you study them. It’s getting it on an intellectual level and absorbing, asking yourself questions, questioning things, wrestling with the scripture. The action, the Karma yoga is really good to take action and test it out. How much do you understand this knowledge? How do you apply it? I think those two are really great, if you’re going to take two passes, they are probably the most accessible to people versus the meditation. Devotion too, a lot of religious people in Christianity worship Jesus, that’s bhakti yoga, the love of Christ, the love of God, that kind of devotional. There are many paths, but only one goal, and the goal is to realize that you’re a divine being.
Robert Maldonado 24:52
They all lead to the same place. This philosophy, this way of breaking it down and understanding it as spiritual psychology, helps us understand that we’re not all meant to follow the same path. But we’re all going in the same direction, our goal is always the same, it’s liberation, enlightenment, Nirvana, individuation, as Jung would call it, in the purely psychological sense, which is a form of self-actualization. You’re making the most of your life, you’re not wasting your life pursuing unworthy goals. That’s the philosophy encoded in the Upanishads. The Gita talks about the purusharthas, it means you are dedicating your human existence to the right pursuits, pursuing them in the right way.
Debra Maldonado 26:02
Most people think it sounds like we lose the enjoyment of life if we put all our life in this way but actually, we enjoy it more if we understand that the only reason we suffer is because our mind misperceives the reality. If we’re able to see the world with pure awareness, we’re able to enjoy the beauty, relationships are much more rich and much more valuable because we are pursuing from the higher place. We’re in pain when we’re pursuing it from those lower places of greed, fear, lack, grasping. It feels good maybe for a quick fix but definitely not lasting happiness. We’re going to continue this series to go deep into kama, artha, and moksha in the following episodes, but for today, think about what your dharma, your sacred duty is and whether you’re expressing it. Express it even if you express it badly, dedicate it all to your self-actualization. I’m dedicating this so I can know myself. I’m dedicating this to reach a higher level of consciousness. I dedicate this to God or to the divine in me. Whatever words resonate with you to help you take it off the ego’s agenda and put it in a higher agenda of your pure self.
Robert Maldonado 27:34
We’ll see you next time.
Debra Maldonado 27:34
We’ll see you next time; enjoy our podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe in the corner here. If you’re on Spotify or iTunes, there is a button to subscribe as well. We’ll see you next week on Soul Sessions.