Along with dharma (right action), artha (social security), kama (basic comfort) and moksha or freedom – are commonly considered the four purushartha, the four most important pillars of human life’s  structure.

The Sanskrit word Purushartha is, actually, made of two words, purusha and artha. Purusha is commonly translated as man; its meaning, however, can be stretched to include woman also. So Purusha is both, man and woman – human.

Artha can mean wealth, money and even meaning. It is something that gives meaning to your life.

So the four Purushartha together give meaning to life. Now, you don’t have to be a Balinese to agree that these are, indeed, the four most important things in life.

These are the so-called pillars of human life’s structure.

We all need to know what is right and what is not right to do. We all do need some kind of social security, comfort and freedom. These are the basic and common needs of all humans.

How do we pursue these needs?
How do we acquire them?

The ancients advise us to start with dharma. One must know what is right, and what is not to right to do. Along with such knowledge, one must also acquire the necessary skill and proficiency to undertake the chosen course of action.

“First things first,” advises the renowned motivator Stephen Covey. First of all, we must pursue dharma. Without the wisdom to know what is right and what is not, we cannot succeed in life. And to develop such wisdom, it is necessary that we have a sharp mind and willingness to learn.

Wisdom is the fruit of learning. We learn from books. We also learn from observing others and their life experiences. Most importantly, we learn from our own life experiences.

For the first few years of our life, we learn from observing others. That is what we did when we were children. We could not read; we could not write; but we could observe. Reading and writing come later – first observation.

Children, who lack this faculty of observation are generally not very curious. The do not ask too many questions. We may consider them to be the quiet type.  We may even be happy about it, since they do not bother us as much as the questioning type does. However, this is not desirable. Children who are less observant not only grow to be less wise, but also less dynamic.

This is the reason why we have so many motivators these days. Those of us who were less observant in our childhood cannot do without them. We need to be motivated, and pushed to pursue our goals in life, to accomplish and achieve anything.

Observe your child and check how observant he or she is. An observant child is not naughty or mischievous child, but one who is always asking,”what is this? what is that?”. It is such a questioning mind that helps a child blossom to a full human. Without such a questioning mind, we remain subhuman.

A questioning mind, however, cannot be enslaved. So there are communities, societies and social systems that are not in favour of a questioning mind.  They despise intelligence. They need a compliant mind that can be directed and ruled. Rulers everywhere, and in any field, are against intelligent people, for they cannot be enslaved.

Purusharthta, as the ancients put it, is not for slaves. Other than slavery, they have not choice in life. Slavery is the only meaning of their lives. They cannot pursue dharma, artha, kama and moksha. They are not free to do anything. They have been enslaved so long that they not longer value, or even understand, the meaning of freedom and independence.

Unfortunately, slavery is not an old and dead tradition. Slavery is as rampant and thriving today as it was in the day of Moses. We have an altogether new genre of rulers now. Where governments are not tyrannical, economic, social, religious and other similar institutions become the new rulers. They can control the governments from behind the scenes and remain invisible to our eyes.

To pursue the four purushartha is to break the chains of slavery, and free our minds. But as I have said, if we have been enslaved for too long, we may not even understand the meaning of freedom. We may even enjoy slavery, and find it comfortable. It is for this reason that, from time to time, we need a Moses or a Muhammad, a Buddha or a Krishna, a Washington or a Gandhi to show us the way out of slavery.

These messiahs, prophets, men of god, avatars or whatever you call them are actually “free people.” They know the meaning of freedom. They are people with sharp minds and super intelligence. They can pursue the four Purushartha and live life on their own terms. And they are willing to share with us the kind of freedom that they enjoy. They are reaching out to us to show us the way out of slavery.

Yes, that is what they exactly do. They “show” us the way to freedom, to independence, to liberty, equality and justice for all. We still have to walk the way. They cannot walk for us.

Anand Krishna is a spiritual activist and author of more than 120 books, several in English. Visit his websites, and This article is an extract from his book with the same title. For more about his books and activities call Aryana or Debbie on 0361 7801595, 8477490.

By Anand Krishna for The Bali Times