THE YOGA TALKS AT YASODHARA
KARMA YOGA TALK # 2

Purushartha
THE FOURFOLD PURSUIT

Having seen that life is goal oriented, what does one do? Not only yogis, but wise men from various traditions have suggested that we counter goal orientation with some special motivation. There is a Sanskrit word, "purushartha" which can be defined as "objects legitimate to pursue." In the East, you hear the expression "the fourfold motivation." They are not really four goals; they are the purushartha"the objects which are legitimate to pursue." Whether there is something above and beyond them which may be grander, or ultimate, is not the point. The "purushartha" are the immediate objects legitimate to pursue. The fourfold motivation qualifies as "purushartha". It is not four separate motivations, but rather a single motivation, like four strands bound together. Although each of the strands has a Sanskrit name, they are not unique to the East; they are universal.

is the name for one such strand. The dictionary lists quite a number of different meanings, "the order of duties of rules and regulations," the "social order, as division into classifications like "householder", student, recluse, (renunciate). These are all artificial divisions. After all, people usually do not fit into the pigeon holes allotted to them by political, moral or religious authority. Simply because a man is born into a Brahman family doesn’t, in itself, give the quality of a Brahman. I need not be studious, simply because I have become someone’s student. Simply because I hold house doesn’t mean I live a householder’s life. Or, living a householder’s life, I need not hold a house. There is always a certain amount of coercion in all this. Coercion, in turn, breeds conflict. In any conflict, it’s a game of chance regarding who wins. Sometimes the authority wins, and sometimes a rebel. It’s a seesaw, which can go on eternally.

The most usual translation is the rather loaded word "righteousness," and because that’s so loaded with meanings, the meaning we’ll adopt is simply "order." One could argue that this is splitting hairs. From the pulpit you hear "righteousness," and from the Prime Minister, or President, you hear "order." In any case, in order to avoid confusion, let’s simplify it further. When the word "dharma" is used, what’s being suggested is that one of the major goals should be to generate and sustain order in your life.

Two of the strands of the four may surprise you. They are given names "artha" and "kama." Normally, "artha" is taken to mean "material possessions," or ‘wealth," while "kama" is generally taken to mean "the pursuit of pleasure or enjoyment." They considered both of these valid motivations. They surely wouldn’t have to convince anyone! Anyhow, they must have realized that some of this was inevitable, and so they included it.

The fourth strand is given the name "moksha," or "liberation," and it’s regarded as total freedom in which there is no enslavement of any kind. It is difficult to discuss moksha without returning to our models of energy moving in consciousness, the circle and the spiral.

In moving away from the center (point of origin), the spiral, or goal orientated motion, seems only to travel farther and farther away with each rotation. However, whether you believe it or not, no matter how from the center the spiral travels, there is a force, emanating from the center, which is intense, which pulls on the spiral, pulling it back towards the center, towards itself. And, in much the same way, no matter how powerful the temptation to reach out to these goals may be, the center [of consciousness] is pulling you back. That constant pull towards the center is there throughout our life! It doesn’t disappear because we are engaged in other activities.

During the day, your consciousness spreads out, out, out, as far out as you can reach. Since the center is constantly pulling you back, there is a tug of war throughout the day. You push, and the center pulls. Perhaps this is one explanation of fatigue, because it is otherwise difficult to understand why fatigue has to happen at all. If we are able to eat and breathe, and otherwise constantly supply the energy that is getting burned up, why must we eventually feel so worn out? Perhaps fatigue happens because you are willfully driving yourselves, pushing, defying the constant pull back from the center.

Perhaps this battle of push and pull also explains why you sleep. Perhaps, at one stage, the center inevitably wins the battle. Perhaps after a long period of externalized motion, when through fatigue, there has been a weakening of the motion of the spiral, the center is able to pull you back, and, because you still don’t want to be aware of the center of consciousness, you fall asleep.

The movement away from the center is not a like a conventional circular outward spiral, and this is because of the constant pull exerted from the center. The spiral moves back and forth, towards and away, or if you would like it put in human terms: up and down. You seem to be climbing away, but still you come back. You push towards the self-assumed goal, and at the same time, feel the pull of center. Of course, "Up and down" may not be as suitable to describe this motion as are the words: "push and pull." After all, in the cosmos, what is "up" and what is "down"? And therefore, it’s more suitable to say "push and pull," or "for and against," "towards and away." All our lives, we are torn by these two: "towards and away." (In Raja yoga, you will find what is called "ragadvesa" or, "the inner torment created by for and against," or what is stated as "I like this, and I don’t like that." Later on, we’ll be discussing this again, because, as you shall discover, it is one of the main themes of Raja yoga.)

Against the backdrop of all that we have discussed so far, you can see that this terminology ("towards and away", "for and against," and "push and pull,") which we have used to discuss the action of the spiral, may be used to further our understanding of "predisposition of the personality." For example, in the case of people for whom order in life is more important than wealth, the pull towards wealth is not as strong as the pull towards order. On the other hand, some people are able to sacrifice a lot of pleasure for wealth. In their case, the pull towards wealth is not as strong as the pull towards pleasure. Of course, as to the relative strengths of each arc within the spiral, infinite variations are possible.

If a chart were drawn of these arcs, it would somehow have to depict that every arc not only touches the personality with, but at the same time also touches the cosmos. In Hatha yoga we said that macrocosm and microcosm were the counterparts of each other. We are like receivers which tune to various stations or channels through which, in total, the entire universe is broadcast. In the case of the subject of karma, it is important to see that each action, represented by one’s spiral, or spiral movement, touches the personality and also the external world, universe, cosmos.

So that if you translate a particular arc as saying: "I must become wealthy!" it touches the personality, and expresses not only the acquisition of wealth in action, wealth, but also expresses its equivalent reaction. First, like a horse with blinkers, you sanction ("by hook or crook") wealth as the goal of life. That goes out as the action motivated by desire to become wealthy. However, at the very same time, that action also "touches" or spreads out in the external world, in the cosmos, in its own way. You may not see it, but that’s another matter. Whether or not you see it happen, it still happens.

The arc touches the microcosm, quite literally, and therefore, creates and leaves an impression at that point of contact. The internal effect, the microcosmic effect of that spiral is regarded as "vasana" and "samskara." These two words are often thought to be interchangeable. However, vasana is psychologically deeper. You can think of vasana as the conditioning, while samskara is outward growth of that conditioning. If vasanais the "body," samskara is the "dress."

After creating the vasana and samskara internally, the spiral continues, and as it leaves the microcosm with all the energy- motivation, it also goes out into the external cosmos, the macrocosm and becomes... what is regarded as destiny, fate, and reaction. Most people regard this macrocosmic effect as the sole definition of the word "karma", but of course, that is only part of the story.

Within the context of vasana and samskara, what is meant by the word "dharma" is not cosmic order. Cosmic order is beyond the ego-sense, and therefore, not something that the individual can create in his/her own mind. In fact, cosmic order, which in Sanskrit is given the name "retham," is almost equivalent to "moksha," or "liberation." Within the context of vasana and samskara, "" means that order which has been imposed (or superimposed) by the human mind, i.e., rules and regulations.

You can see that all societies try to divide themselves into distinct "classifications." One society may use the word "castes," another may substitute "guilds," another various "strata":

intellectuals versus non-intellectuals
administrators versus non-administrators
traders versus non-traders
or
the business men (the multi-nationalists)
versus
all the rest of us!

But no matter what words you use, it all comes down to the same thing, "division of society."

Having created classifications, divisions, someone assumes a position of authority (usually someone who is powerful enough to make himself accepted as an authority). Most people are pleased to have someone in authority. In fact, there is only authority because you accept it. If you didn’t accept authority, it wouldn’t exist! A particular scientist is an authority on the nature of the universe simply because you have accepted him as such an authority. It is the same with all people in authority. If you were to brush them aside, much as you would do snow that lands on the shoulders of your overcoat, the authorities would all fall away like so many snow flakes. You don’t do that, because you like to have, and therefore, want to have someone in authority. You put them there, and then crawl to them on your knees. Someone who assumes this authority lays down the rules, the duties, and responsibilities. You should be aware that this is most often the real context in which dharma is to be viewed.

In this context, people who find themselves among the "privileged" never quote the laws of dharma when it goes against them. For example, a Brahman or swami may quote the dharma in order to let it be known that all should respect him, fall at his feet in his presence, and that kind of thing. But does he also read to you from the same book about the duties of a monk who has renounced the world, a sanyasi? No, if had to do that, he’d probably run away, or jump in the lake! He uses the law of dharma to let you know that he’s superior, or born superior!

And so, this is the type of which is subject to perversion. When perversion takes place, it leaves a stamp of perversion within the human mind, which inevitably creates the karma of reaction. In total, this makes three distinct aspects of karma. First, there is the action itself, with its motivation. Secondly, there is the impression that is left in the individual’s own mind or personality, and thirdly, there is the reaction they (these two) bring about in the cosmos. It’s not all that different from the simple law of physics that you learned in school: "every action is followed by its equal but opposite reaction."

This is true of all motivation, and of all action. It’s not true of moksha, because moksha is not a goal as such. But you can see that it does apply to all the rest. In the second strand of the fourfold motivation, , you are told that it is all right to earn wealth. However, regardless of what the scriptures say or don’t say about how to earn it, it's very difficult to prevent perversion. You can always introduce a rationalization to justify why a certain kind of earning is all right. It also leaves the taste for wealth, power, prestige, acquisition, possession. It creates the habit in me. And, it brings about a reaction externally. That this is also true of , the pursuit of pleasure, I think needs little if no comment at all. It’s a case of the more the merrier, till a breakdown occurs, and that’s that.

The great sage Sri Shankaracharya, once sang a song about a young man who lived a life of enjoyment, and who inevitably grew old. The song mentions that although body had grown old, the desire within him hadn’t; it was still as vital as ever. The old man sat at the edge of the lake, still dreaming of the "good old days." He was beyond doing anything about his desire physically, so what else could he do? He sat at the waters edge, and went on "chewing" his desires, dreaming of them.

Dharama, , and have been called "valid goals of life," because they were seen to be inevitable. However, those who stipulated rules and regulation to govern this fourfold motivation, thought it fit to point our that it is only all right to pursue and , wealth and pleasure as long as both remain within dharma and moksha. They said: "Think of wealth and pleasure as a stream, or river. You must build two strong banks on that river: one is , and the other is moksha." They hoped that one day, there would be an awakening to the fact that your life is going come to an end, an awakening to the fact that throughout your life you have been hunting for wealth and pleasure without ever being satisfied with all that you have enjoyed. In other words, they hoped that the pull towards the center would one day be strong enough, that like nightfall and sleep, we would suddenly collapse into the center, and look for, and find liberation. That was terribly optimistic of them, I think. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so hard on them. Suffice it to say they were great optimists.

If you are serious students of yoga, seriously interested in the fourth strand, freedom, you need not be as interested in the samskaras, as you need to be in the vasanas. This is because it does no good worrying over whatever reaction is going to invariably take place. If a bullet has left the barrel, it’s going to reach its target, if not now, sooner or later. And so, the yogi doesn’t waste any energy over it. It is far more important to ask about the impression that is currently being created, right at the moment (right now!) by the motivated action, by the selfish action, by the ego-motivated action, and to question about how to deal with that. If you have killed one hundred people, and wish to only worry about the payment in kind for each one of those murders, you will have a very long wait indeed before you have put that worry behind you, because, obviously you can’t die one hundred times in one lifetime.

In spite of the fact that some reaction is coming, what the most important thing to deal with is the habit of aggression that in turn becomes the habit of murder. And so rather than worry about what may or may not come back as the reaction, and when and how it may happen, the correct emphasis for the student is on the internal tendency, and the reason is obvious: once the taste has been created, that tendency craves repetition. How tendency, which demands and craves repetition, is dealt with becomes the most important factor in the life of a yogi.

THE YASODHARA YOGA TALKS

H-OM-E

Copyright 1997