The Essence of Dharma
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on February 11th, 1973)

The duty of man depends upon the aim of life. Whatever we are supposed to do in our life is directed by the purpose for which we are existing. Aimless activity is unthinkable. All our efforts, professions and works are somehow or other directed toward the achievement of an end, a goal or a purpose. Unless we are conscious and clear about the aim of our life, it would be difficult for us to determine the nature of our duties in life. In India especially, ethics are based on metaphysics. The conduct of life is rooted in the concept of existence.

Now, the purpose of life, or the aim of life, is again dependent upon the nature of the universe. How is the universe constituted? On that depends very much the aim of our existence, of our life, and consequently, the nature of our activities. We must know to what family we belong, what sort of atmosphere we are living in, what the tradition of our society is. On that depends the way in which we have to conduct ourselves in life. Likewise, we may have to find out the nature of the universe as a whole in order that we may know what our function in life is because we are inextricably involved in the structure of the universe. We are a part of the cosmos, and the laws that operate in the cosmos naturally have a say in the matter of our personal existence. We cannot do something contrary to the law of nature, of the universe, just as we cannot do something contrary to the principles of our own family or our society.

Thus, our little activities in day-to-day existence hang themselves on the vast concept of the cosmos. This is the peculiarity of Indian philosophy. Everything is connected with the cosmos. We cannot breathe unless we know the nature of existence as a whole. Even the smallest of our performances in life, whether religious or secular, is dependent ultimately on the structure or pattern of the universe. All our activities are spiritualised in this manner.

The culture of Bharatavarsha, India, is spiritual in the sense that everything is connected with the universe. There is nothing which has no relevance to the cosmic processes of nature. If we install a newly made door, well, there is a prayer offered and a religious ceremony. If we build a house, of course, there is a very large ceremony indeed. If a marriage takes place, if a child is born or if someone dies, there is a religious ceremony. If a wife is pregnant, there is a religious ceremony for it. If new furniture is purchased for the house, we choose an auspicious day and have a prayer offered. There is nothing unconnected with religion in India. We cannot wear a new sari or even a new shirt except on an auspicious day. Religion has gone to such an extent that even a shirt, even a buniyan, is connected with religion.

The idea is that though not all people in India are properly educated in the matter of religion, they are born and bred in a tradition which is so religious and spiritual that God’s presence is taken for granted. Though today, due to the materialist way of thinking, people have begun to question the existence of God, originally it was not like that. It was a God-fearing and God-loving nation, and primarily and fundamentally it is that even today.

The structure of existence, the nature of the universe, was taken for granted as having a very intimate relationship with every activity of one’s life. No activity is irreligious or unspiritual because no activity is outside the universe. The reason why every action is spiritual is precisely because of the fact that no action can be performed outside the purview of universal law. This is an introductory remark concerning our duty in life.

The structure of existence, the nature of the universe, is the determining factor of all activities of human life, so all life is spiritual. There is no such thing as unspiritual life. It does not exist, and it is impossible. Anything that is universally related is spiritual. You may be wondering why I am connecting spirituality with the universe; it is a very pertinent question indeed, to which I will return a little later on. Why should universality be connected with spirituality? Even physical science accepts that everything is connected with the universal whole, but it is not spiritual, so why am I connecting spirituality with the universal nature of things? This is a point we shall discuss shortly.

In Indian psychology, philosophy and culture, the universal relations have been taken for granted as relevant to every activity in human life, and the duty of man was called a dharma, an obligatory attitude on the part of every individual in regard to his or her cosmic relations. There is no one in India who has not heard of the word ‘dharma’. They will say, “This is not dharma.” He may not know what dharma is, but he will speak the word dharma. It is not dharma, not logical, not justifiable, not justice. That is what he means by saying this is not dharma. Justice is connected with dharma, dharma is connected with duty, and duty is connected with the universe. See how things are connected, how beautifully they are related! Our activities are connected to the universe; therefore, in order that our activities be tenable, acceptable, justifiable and good, they must bear a relation to the universe. If our action, our conduct, our attitude does not bear a relation to the universe, it cannot be called dharma. If our conduct has a relevance only to our little family of a few members and has no connection with anybody else in the world, it is local dharma, not samanya dharma, and it is not ultimately justifiable.

If we do something to save our family, to protect our family, we are doing the dharma of our family. But suppose in protecting our family we are harming some other family; that will not be ultimately justifiable. We may pay Paul, but we cannot rob Peter for the sake of that. We cannot commit burglary for the sake of helping poor people. Helping poor people is justifiable and necessary, but we should not do it if the funds are collected by burglary. So good on one side should not imply bad on another side. We have, therefore, a concept of samanya dharma and vishesha dharma. Vishesha dharma is the conduct which is justifiable on a specific occasion, but samanya dharma is the conduct which is justifiable on all occasions.

How do we know what action is justifiable and what is not? There are some people who have laid down a principle. If a particular character, attitude or conduct of ours can be imitated by everybody else in the world with impunity, well, we can regard it as a justifiable action. Suppose you tell a lie. Would you like everybody in the world to tell lies? If you yourself would not like it, then it is not justifiable. Suppose everybody in the world is a thief, without exception. Would it be all right? We will naturally say it is not all right; therefore, theft is not justifiable. Incontinence universally practised is not justifiable. So anything that is universally applicable with impunity to everyone is often regarded as a test of dharma or justifiable action. The principle, however, ultimately is that it should be universally applicable and the law operating in the cosmos should determine action.

There is also a principle of dharma laid down by certain other moralists that things should be regarded as ends rather than as means because the universe does not contain only means. It contains ends. Every part of our body is an end in itself and not a means to some other; it has a justifiable existence of its own. Therefore, every individual in the universe should be regarded as justifiably existing on his own or her own status. Every person has a status of his own or her own. We do not exist because of somebody else.

Now, the attitude of connecting one person with another person is not samanya dharma, or an ultimately justifiable attitude. I am not an instrument of your pleasure in any manner whatsoever; therefore, you cannot regard yourself as a purpose, and myself as an instrument towards the fulfilment of that purpose. So the moralist’s canon is that an attitude which can be regarded as justifiable, good and moral or ethical regards a thing as an end in itself, and not as a means to something else. It is true that we use things as a means, but towards a higher end. When you use a particular person or a thing as a means to a certain fulfilment, even that is towards the fulfilment of an end which is in view, and not merely for the fulfilment of the character of one’s being the means.

The third principle of morality is that the urge for doing good is a categorical imperative. A categorical imperative is a philosophical jargon which simply means a ‘must’ or an ‘ought’ that urges itself forward from within ourselves without anyone telling us. We need not be told what is good. Our conscience will tell us what is good. That inward urge towards the rectitude of a particular action, the pricking of the conscience, as they generally say, is a good test of morality and ethical conduct.

All these tests ultimately depend upon the integrality of the cosmos. I began by saying that every action bears a relation to the structure of the universe, and the structural pattern of the universe is, therefore, the determining factor of the conduct of every intelligent being. Now, the universe being an end and not a means, and every part of it being connected with it in such a way that nothing can be regarded as a means, our activities also become ends in themselves when they are spiritualised. As a matter of fact, the karma yoga doctrine of the Bhagavadgita is nothing but regarding action as an end in itself, and not as a means to some other purpose.

When an action brings a result which is different from the structure of the action, then it is unspiritual and undivine. When an action is an end in itself, it need not produce a result. What we do is the purpose in itself. This is a peculiar structure of action which is promulgated in the Bhagavadgita, and which is difficult for the human mind to understand. We cannot understand what karma yoga is, however much we may wrack our head. Karma yoga is not simply unselfish action. How can we perform unselfish action? When action is unselfish in the true sense of the term, it will produce no result. If it produces no result, why do we do it?

We generally have a give-and-take attitude. When you perform an action, put a question to yourself: “What will it bring to me? Why should I do it?” This is a question which always comes up in one’s mind whenever one is asked to do anything. The action must produce a result, which means to say we are always accustomed to perform actions with an ulterior end or motive, and never in the spirit of karma yoga. Karma yoga is action which is an end in itself because it is spirit manifesting itself. The spirit is an end, and not a means.

Now I am slowly coming to the point as to why spirituality is connected with universality. If the universe is the determining factor of every conduct and action of an individual, the individual being a part of the universe, and it being clear at the same time that the fact of the individual’s bearing a relevance to cosmic existence also implies the universal determining action, then the nature of the universe remains to be explained.

What the scientists can understand is that the universe is a single force. What our modern scientists tell us, having understood it thoroughly, is that the universe is a complete continuum of a single uniformly moving force, of which every individual is a part. But what the scientists cannot understand is that the universe is conscious. It is not jada; it is not inert.

Now the question comes, “How is the universe conscious?” I will come to that point slowly again. The scientists’ viewpoint is that the universe is a single undivided continuum of force. Mark the word ‘undivided’, which means to say that there is nothing external to the universe, outside the universe. Even according to our top physicists of modern times, there is nothing external to the universe. The universe is one, and it is one in a very peculiar sense that it is an undivided continuum. A continuum is the nature of that particular pattern of existence wherein divisions cannot be imagined. It is like the flow of the Ganga, the mass of water in the ocean, or whatever you may regard as a suitable comparison for this state of affairs. The universe is a continuity and a pattern of flow of events which cannot be distinguished ultimately one from the other. That means to say, there is nothing outside the universe. I am repeating this again and again so that the point may become clear to your mind. There is nothing external to the universe, according to modern physical science.

Then, where is consciousness? Does consciousness exist, or does it not exist? If it does exist, is it part of the universal continuum or is it outside the continuum? We cannot say that it does not exist, because who told us the universe is a continuum of forces? It is the consciousness of the scientist that tells this. The inert physics or the unconscious universe does not speak. The universe does not say, “I am a continuum.” It is the intelligence of the scientist that says the universe is an undivided continuum. Does this consciousness or intelligence of the scientist exist? Naturally, the scientist has to say it exists. Does it exist outside the continuum or inside the continuum? We cannot say that it is outside the continuum, because there is nothing external to it. If it is internal, we create a division in the continuum. It has already been accepted that the continuum is such a state of affairs that we cannot imagine a division in it. There cannot be consciousness seeping into the structure of the cosmos like cloth which has been soaked in water. If we dip cloth in a bucket of water, every fibre of cloth is permeated by water. Yet, water is not cloth, cloth is not water. We cannot say that the cloth is a continuum. It is not. It has divisions within it. But the present day scientists discovered that the universe is an undivided continuum. So consciousness has no place at all in the cosmos, and yet it exists.

Here is the parting point with science. We bid goodbye to science at this point. While up to this time it was a great aid to us, in future it shall not be an aid to us because here is a thick wall or a black curtain in front of the scientist through which he cannot pierce, or which he cannot scale.

The universe contains a peculiar principle called intelligence or consciousness which is responsible for our thinking, and for our saying anything at all. Even to be a materialist, consciousness is essential. We must be a good conscious being in order that we may be a good materialist. It is the consciousness that says, “I am a materialist.” It is consciousness that says that only matter exists. Do you understand this mystery? It is consciousness that asserts that consciousness does not exist. Who makes this assertion that consciousness does not exist? Consciousness. Very interesting it is. Consciousness says that consciousness does not exist, because matter has no intelligence and cannot say this.

Now I am coming to another aspect of this question which is very intimately connected with the earlier one. The universe is a continuum, an undivided being, according to physical discovery. So is consciousness. Consciousness is a continuity. It is an undivided flow, as it were. It should not be called a flow, but for want of a better word I will call it a flow because it is permeating and pervading every bit of existence. But it does not pervade another object like water permeating cloth in a bucket of water.

Inasmuch as consciousness is undivided, there cannot be externality to it. Even a universe cannot exist outside it, but the universe exists. We are seeing it. So we have two continuities, two continuums – the universal continuum and the consciousness continuum. This double continua of consciousness and matter has led some people to imagine that there is an infinite matter and an infinite consciousness. This is the Sankhya philosophy of India, which says there is an ubiquitous and eternal matter and also an ubiquitous and eternal consciousness, Purusha. But what is that which is between the two? Nobody knows. This is a no-man’s land. As there cannot be a no-man’s land between consciousness and matter, Vedanta comes to the forefront and says, “Sankhya, you are wonderful. You have gone ahead of the scientists in positing the existence of consciousness. You have won a victory over the ignorance of the scientists. But you are also mistaken inasmuch as you have created an unbridgeable gulf between consciousness and matter. How does consciousness know that matter exists if there is no connection between the two?” If Sankhya is ultimately right, how does the Purusha know that matter is? The very fact that consciousness knows the existence of matter shows that consciousness pervades matter. It is not an unbridgeable gulf between the two.

The universe is such a mystery before us. It is a beautiful blend of object and subject – the object being matter, the subject being the spirit. We cannot as human beings understand what this beautiful blend is. Today I am not going into the subject of the nature of this blend of spirit and matter, as my purpose is something else. But Vedanta prescribes a solution for this enigma of the duality of spirit and matter, to which a hint is given in the Thirteenth Chapter of the Bhagavadgita, where the Absolute is described. The Absolute is both subject and object.

Jñeyaṁ yat tat pravakṣyāmi yaj jñātvāmṛtam aśnute, anādimat paraṁ brahma na sat tan nāsad ucyate; sarvataḥpāṇipādaṁ tat sarvato’kṣiśiromukham, sarvataḥśrutimal loke sarvam āvṛtya tiṣṭhati; sarvendriyaguṇābhāsaṃ sarvendriyavivarjitam, asaktaṃ sarvabhṛc caiva nirguṇaṃ guṇabhoktṛ ca; bahir antaś ca bhūtānām acaraṃ caram eva ca, sūkṣmatvāt tad avijñeyaṃ dūrasthaṃ cāntike ca tat (Gita 13.12-16). It is both inside and outside. What a wonder it is! This is the transcendent solution of the mystery between spirit and matter. We cannot understand it because it is subtler than our understanding. It looks very far because it is infinite, but it is very near because it is the Self of the thinker himself.

Avibhaktaṃ ca bhūteṣu vibhaktam iva ca sthitam, bhūtabhartṛ ca taj jñeyaṃ grasiṣṇu prabhaviṣṇu ca (Gita 13.17): Though things are divided, it is undivided within the divided being. Jyotiṣām api taj jyotis tamasaḥ param ucyate, jñānaṃ jñeyaṃ jñānagamyaṃ hṛdi sarvasya viṣṭhitam (Gita 13.18): It is inside our very heart. This supreme solution to the mystery and enigma of the dichotomy between spirit and matter is hidden within our very heart. How can we understand it? We cannot see our own eyes; we cannot see our own back. Such is the tremendous significance of our activities, our conduct. This is the nature of dharma.

Dharmasya tattvam nihitaṃ guhāyāṃ, mahājano yena gataḥ panthāḥ (Śrī Caitanya Caritāmṛta Madhya 17.186): We cannot know what dharma is because we cannot know what the universe is. We cannot know what the universe is because it is a blend of spirit and matter in a transcendent fashion in the Absolute. Therefore, the advice given to us is to follow the path of the great ones. Do not try to solve the mystery of dharma for ourselves. Dharmasya tattvam nihitaṃ guhāyāṃ: The secret of dharma is hidden within the cave, which means to say it is unknowable, very secret. Mahājano yena gataḥ panthāḥ: The right path for us would be the one which has been trodden by the great masters of yore. It is, “The footprints on the sands of time,” as the poet tells us of great ones. This is the supreme mystery of the cosmos.

Now, is the cosmos a place or a person or a spirit or a condition? What is the universe? The Bhagavadgita gives us four definitions. Sometimes the universe is regarded as a place. When Bhagavan Sri Krishna speaks of the Ultimate Reality as a kind of place, he calls it dhama tad dhāma paramaṃ mama. Yad gatvā na nivartante tad dhāma paramaṃ mama (Gita 15.6): Going where, going whither, people do not return; that is My abode. From this, we may sometimes be given to understand that the Ultimate Reality is a kind of place. But sometimes we say, “Aham ātmā guḍākeśa sarvabhūtāśayasthitaḥ (Gita 10.20): I am everywhere,” as if He is a person. Sometimes Reality is spoken of as a place or a destination to be reached as dhama, as gati, sometimes as a person, Purusha.

Puruṣaḥ sa paraḥ pārtha bhaktyā labhyas tvananyayā (Gita 8.22); Īśvaraḥ sarvabhūtānāṁ hṛddeśe’rjuna tiṣṭhati (Gita 18.61); aham ātmā guḍākeśa sarvabhūtāśayasthitaḥ (Gita 10.20). When Bhagavan Sri Krishna uses the words Ishvara, Purusha, Aham, it looks as if the Ultimate Reality is a person, but sometimes he speaks of it as an immanent spirit. The Atman is defined as an immanent spirit, indestructible, present in everything. But sometimes Sri Krishna depicts it as a transcendent spirit, as Brahma, as Parampada, and so on.

Fourthly, reality is defined as a state, a condition. It is not a person, it is not a place, it is not even a spirit as we think of it in an anthropomorphic manner. It is only a state. This is brought out by such terms as tithi. Tithi means a condition. Eṣā brāhmī sthitiḥ pārtha (Gita 2.72). This is a condition of Brahman. It is not a place of Brahman. It is a condition of Brahman.

Tithi is a peculiar term. All four aspects or definitions we will find in the Bhagavadgita: as a destination to be reached, as if it is a place; as a person to be loved, adored with bhakti; as a spirit to be contemplated; or as a condition to be realised. All these wonders we have in the Bhagavadgita gospel.

The universe, therefore, is everything. We can regard it as a person; it will speak to us as a person. We can regard it as a condition of consciousness. We can regard it as a place. Or we can regard it as a spirit. It is everything. Amṛtaṁ caiva mṛtyuś ca sad asac cāham arjuna (Gita 9.19): I am everything. Gatir bhartā prabhuḥ sākṣī nivāsaḥ śaraṇaṁ suhṛt, prabhavaḥ pralayaḥ sthānaṁ nidhānaṁ bījam avyam (Gita 9.18): Everything is that only. Tapāmyaham ahaṁ varṣaṁ nigṛṇhāmyutsṛjāmi ca, amṛtaṁ caiva mṛtyuś  (Gita 9.19): I am death and immortality both, day and night combined. Immortality and death are both shadows of this Supreme Being. Even immortality is regarded as a shadow only. It is not Ultimate Reality. Immortality and death are both shadows, as it were, cast by the Supreme Being. What is it? Nāsadāsī’nnosadā̍sītta’dānī’ṁ (Nasadiya Sukta 1): not existence, not non-existence. Existence and non-existence – both it is, and beyond that also.

Such is the grandest, supreme structural pattern of the universe. It is not so simple as physicists conceive. And that is the determining factor of our conduct in daily life. You can imagine how difficult it is to live in this world, and how difficult it is to conceive what dharma is, because dharma is nothing but the inward growth into the concept of this relevance of our personality with the cosmic existence. That is dharma. Inward growth is dharma. It is not an external performance of a routine or activity. Now, what is this inward growth? It is the growth into knowledge.

Yesterday we had a musical performance. The music was so beautiful; all were thrilled. While listening to that exquisite music, I was thinking of the levels of happiness explained in the Taittiriya Upanishad. The lowest happiness is of food and sex. That is human happiness. This is one unit of human happiness, says the Taittiriya Upanishad. We have got plenty of it, and so we regard it as a unit of happiness. Higher than that is the happiness of music and dance. That is Gandharva-loka. The Taittiriya Upanishad tells us that Gandarva-loka is higher than the human world. We will not think of food and sex when we are in the ecstasy of music and dance. Even a king will not think of it.

But higher than that is the realm of pure thought. That is Pitri-loka. The beauty of literature, for example, is higher than the beauty of music. When we read Shakespeare we will be simply transported. We will not like to hear music at that time because the mind is in a still higher realm. Or read some passages from the classics of Tamil scholars. I am not a Tamil scholar, but I have heard of the greatness of their masterpieces. Only those who know Tamil will appreciate it. Wonders are revealed in treasures of Tamil literature. Literature is higher than music, while music is higher than the pleasure of physical contact.

Higher than the pleasure of pure thought and literary beauty is the pleasure or the delight of knowledge, Brihaspati-loka. Higher than that is the pleasure or delight of spirituality. That is divinity, godliness. So ultimately the Upanishad tells us that spirituality is the highest happiness. Lower than that is knowledge. Lower than that is literature and learning. Lower than that is music and art. Lower than that is the happiness of physical contact.

So dharma is connected with this tremendous mystery of the gradation of happiness and reality. Gradation of happiness is gradation of reality; the higher the reality, the greater is the happiness. Reality is bliss, sat is ananda. Such being the case, dharma is an inward growth into the nature of reality. It is not performance of an external action. Dharma is, therefore, an awakening of oneself into the consciousness of a more intimate contact with being.

Now I come to another aspect of the subject. What is this being? Why do we say ‘being’? Because the universe is being. It is not becoming. Western philosophers and psychologists are wont to say that the universe is becoming, but Indian metaphysics tell us that it is being. If it is becoming, it should be a process. Hegel and Whitehead are the protagonists of this theory of process in the Western world. But what do they mean by a process? It is a movement, but a movement of what? Of the universe. Towards what? Movement is inconceivable without space, but space is a part of the cosmos, so we come a cropper. How can we conceive of a universe of process unless there is space intervening between the parts of the process? And when the space also is a part of the process itself, how can there be a process? So the universe is not process; it is existence. When space and process combine together, we have a being of the universe and not a becoming of the universe.

So dharma is growth of consciousness into intimacy with the being of the universe, and this being of the universe is God. What is called ‘the substance’ in the terms of Spinoza is also called the Absolute, or Reality, Brahman, Ishvara, or Jehovah. What we call God is nothing but this being of the cosmos behind the becoming of the process, and when we grow consciously into intimacy with this being of the universe, we grow in dharma, so the highest dharma is moksha. The highest dharma or duty of man would be to strive with every nerve of his being towards the realisation of moksha.

What is moksha? It is the liberation of the consciousness from the notion that it is outside the being of the universe. This is moksha. Moksha is, at the same time, freedom from bondage, contact with Reality, oneness with the universe, performance of one’s duty, and the realisation of the highest bliss. For us, moksha is everything. There is nothing except moksha that one can ask for.

Moksha is not a future attainment which will come to us tomorrow: “Today I will be a brahmachari, tomorrow a grihastha, the day after tomorrow a vanaprastha, the fourth day a sannyasi, and then I will think of moksha.” We have an idea that God is a future tense and a thing of the future, while He is eternal presence. He appears to be a future realisation on account of there being a concept of the gradation of reality. I am deliberately using the words ‘concept of gradation’ because reality by itself has no gradation. There are no degrees in reality. There are degrees only in the concept of reality.

So dharma, the duty of man, the subject with which I began speaking today, is that attitude of consciousness by which we gradually attune ourselves to the being of the cosmos. I have spoken sufficiently about what this being of the cosmos is. It is wonderful. Nothing can be more wonderful than that. And the Bhagavadgita is a grand masterpiece of text as a teaching on the nature of this reality.

The more I read the Bhagavadgita, the more I am wonderstruck because I continue to realise how little I know about it. This discovery concerning the four conditions of being occurred to me only yesterday. After thirty-five years of reading it, this idea struck me. It contains many more treasures which even in a hundred years we cannot discover. It was spoken by the Virat. How can we have any measure of the extent of the knowledge of the Gita?

So I appeal once again that everyone study the Gita thoroughly – not like a parrot, but with tremendous devotion toward the word of God that is before us. It is spirit. “My words are not words but spirit,” said Christ. “They are flesh and blood. They are literally true.” If the words of Christ are flesh and blood, not merely language spoken, so are the words of the Bhagavadgita. They are flesh and blood, vitality, knowledge flowing as nectar in front of us. Such is the Bhagavadgita. So may I appeal to you all to learn the Bhagavadgita thoroughly by heart, and study its meaning with reverence so that the mystery of it will be known for our ultimate spiritual benefit.

This is the concept of dharma, of the duty of man in the universe, the nature of which is thus explained. Dharma has sometimes been regarded as one of the four purusharthas: dharma, artha, kama, moksha. This is the sum and substance of Hinduism. The essence of the religion of India is summed up in a phrase: dharma, artha, kama, moksha. If you are asked by anyone what is Hinduism, simply say, “Dharma, artha, kama, moksha.” This is Hinduism: a blend of these four concepts of duty. Hinduism is always a blend. It is never a one-sided affair. It has no name. ‘Hinduism’ is not the name of this religion. It is the name that is foisted upon it by Westerners, not knowing what it is. We have no name for our religion. It is not founded by any person. It is universal, capable of absorbing everything into itself like a menstruum. It is sanatana dharma, eternal dharma. It is eternal religion forever applicable to all persons of all creeds and sexes.

Now, dharma, artha, kama, moksha, the concept of the fourfold duty of man, is also very interesting. Dharma is duty, dharma is religion, dharma is justice, dharma is law. Dharma cannot be translated. Artha is material value. Anything that is materially significant for life is called artha. It does not mean merely gold and silver or coins and currency notes. Any kind of material significance or value in life is called artha, while dharma is the law that regulates the acquisitions and operations of this material value and all other values. Kama is the fulfilment of the vital value, the emotional value, and the personal value of the human being. Moksha, I have already explained. I will not say anything further about it because if I do, you will go into ecstasies and go crazy. Let us not say anything further about it.

If somebody who is very beloved dies, we do not tell his name because if his name is told we will start crying once again. Like that is moksha. Do not utter his name. Gauranga Mahaprabhu could not bear to hear the name of God  because if he heard it he would go mad and cease to be at that moment. “Oh, Hari!” That word is sufficient. The personality will melt and become liquid immediately. Moksha is some such thing. You will become liquid. You will melt if you know what it is. We do not know what it is, and therefore, we remain still solid.

Dharma, artha, kama, moksha. These four are blended together in our religion in a beautiful manner to conform to the gradation of the concept of reality. There is an external universe. Though the universe is a continuum of being ultimately, it appears to be an outside factor for us. As long as the universe appears to be an external factor to our consciousness, it also has to appear as a material something, and it has a value for us. That value which we attach to the universe as being something outside our consciousness is artha. It is very important indeed; we cannot ignore it. It includes political values, economic values, and every concrete value that we can attach to material existence. That is artha. We know how important it is. I need not comment upon it.

Kama is equally important. Kama means the necessity to fulfil emotional demands. Psychoanalysis of the West has gone very far in this subject. It is a very interesting subject, which everyone should read and study well, though you need not accept every one of its conclusions. Everything has good in it; everything has some defect also in it. Psychoanalysis is the study of what happens when emotions are repressed, which will also tell you how necessary it is to fulfil emotions. Emotion is a desire that arises in the mind. A longing, a craving, a wish, a preference, a like – that is called an emotion. If you have a tremendous longing and do not fulfil it, you know very well what will happen. Therefore, longings have to be fulfilled under the regulation of dharma.

Dharmāviruddho bhūteṣu kāmo’smi bharatarṣabha (Gita 7.11): Arjuna, I am kama which is regulated by dharma. It is not unbridled kama, but kama, or fulfilment of desire, which is justifiable according to the law of dharma. That God Himself is. If you do not justifiably, rationally and moderately fulfil your emotional needs, you will not be a sane person. You will be an abnormal being, and therefore, it is essential. But you should not fulfil your emotions against the law of dharma. Otherwise, you will be an abandoned person condemned in society. You will be dubbed unethical and immoral. So again we are here in a difficult quandary of living. Life is difficult; it is not a joke. Life is a science, and all science is difficult to master.

Dharma is the law that regulates artha, kama, and the fulfilment of the ultimate need of the soul, which is moksha. Dharma is supreme; there is nothing equal to it anywhere, and dharma is supreme because it is the law of existence. The law of existence is called dharma. It is the law of the Absolute, as satya in the terms of the Rigveda. It is rita, the law of the cosmos in the terms of the Rigveda. It is the law of the government, it is the law of the nation, it is the law of society, it is the law of our family. It is the law of our individual personality, our physical body, our mind, our intelligence, our understanding, and our logical science. It is the understanding, and the law of our spirit. Dharma is everything and anything – the law of the physical body, the law of the vital body, the law of the mental body, the law of understanding, the law of logic, the law of spirit, the law of society, the law of nations, the law of political government, the law of the cosmos, the law of the Absolute, and so everything is determined by it. Justice is abidance by this law.

Thus, dharma, artha, kama, moksha are blended together beautifully in life. This blend, beautifully brought out in an artistic fashion, is the religion of Bharatavarsha.