Teaching of the Month: Purusharthas

Harmony is the coming together of the different elements that constitute a coherent whole.

Balance is the basic and the most fundamental aim behind the practice of yoga - whether your practice is physical as in the doing of the postures (asanas), whether it is mainly breathing, or meditation, chanting - hot or cold, strong or soft….the aim is the same. To find that elusive balance where life is easy (well, easier!) and we can abide in a sense of freedom and ease. Where the energies of our body/mind are free-flowing throughout. Where do we start? Over the next four newsletters we will take a look at an underlying, all-important philosophy surrounding the practice of yoga. That of the Purusharthas - or the FOUR AIMS OF LIFE. Each month, for the next four months, we will try to describe what these four aims are, and to give you tips on how to practice.

The Four Aims are:

  1. Dharma (duty, ethics)
  2. Artha (prosperity, wealth)
  3. Kama (pleasure, sensual gratification)
  4. Moksha (the pursuit of liberation)

Let's begin at the beginning (which is the only logical place to begin!) with Dharma. Dharma is said to be life's purpose. Do you know what your life's purpose is? It is said that each one of us is here on this planet for a purpose…that we each have been given a set of special skills and talents by which we can achieve what we have been put here to do. As Douglas Brooks, a professor of religious studies at the University of Rochester states…"the cosmos is all laid out for you: your job is to get with the program."

Dharma begins with that which gives life a scaffolding - a structure. Pursuing your Dharma begins with all the little things that we do each day to live us energy to continue. Proper food, proper rest, proper surround, proper work. This takes continual effort. But by being at our healthy best we can then continue to pursue our life's work.

For some of us our Dharma is certain. Others may have yet to have our path made clear. Here in the Western world, we have many more choices than perhaps are available in other parts of the world so our Dharma may be a little more elusive. But, yoga teaches us that Dharma, nonetheless, is what it is all about.

Ethics play a big part while keeping an eye out for Dharma. The way that we live our life involves being the BEST person that we can be…(I sound like Oprah here!)….being the best partner, the best son or daughter, the best mom or dad, the best friend, the best employer, or employee, and on and on. Giving consistent thought to whether the things that we are doing are serving our highest purpose. This is where yoga has a lot to say about how we live our lives…the yamas and niyamas provide a strong construct for us.

So to sum up,
whether or not you know what your Dharma is,
keep your eyes open,
follow what you love and
keep practicing!

by Maureen Rae, RN, E-RYT