There are 4 Purusarthas ('object of human pursuit' or 'purpose of human being'):

  • Dharma
  • Artha
  • Kama
  • Moksha

And 4 Ashramas (avastha or stages of life):

  • Brahmacharya
  • Grihastha
  • Vanaprastha
  • Sannyasa

Now, my question is Which Purusartha should be achieved in which Ashrama?

This wiki says:

The fourth Ashrama (avstha or stage) Sannyasa must entirely devote to Moksha aided by Dharma, with a complete renunciation of Artha and Kama.

But what about other three Ashramas? The same wiki says:

The life span of a man is one hundred years. Dividing that time, he should attend to three aims of life in such a way that they support, rather than hinder each other. In his youth he should attend to profitable aims (artha) such as learning, in his prime to pleasure (kama), and in his old age to dharma and moksha.

The same wiki further says:

Scholars have attempted to connect the four stages to the four puruṣārthas, however Olivelle dismisses this, as neither ancient nor medieval texts of India state that any of the first three ashramas must devote itself predominantly to one specific goal of life.

One understanding might be as below:

  • Brahmacharya might be to learn about what Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha are and how to achieve them.

  • Grihastha might be to achieve Artha and Kama but in controlled manner. And this stage must focus on Dharma too. And if these three are well balanced then it may lead to Moksha.

  • Vanaprastha might be to devote to Dharma aided by Moksha.

  • Sannyasa might be to devote to Moksha aided by Dharma.

So, is there any mention of mapping between Purusartha and Ashrama?

  • You have mentioned Vanaprastha two times, I edited the second time to address Sanyasa. Check whether the correction doesn't conflict your meaning.
    – Pandya
    Oct 25, 2018 at 5:12
  • Yes, atleast sanyasi should reject all the first 3 purusarthas. vedabase.com/en/sb/7/15/36 "One who accepts the sannyāsa order gives up the three principles of materialistic activities in which one indulges in the field of household life — namely religion, economic development and sense gratification. One who first accepts sannyāsa but then returns to such materialistic activities is to be called a vāntāśī, or one who eats his own vomit. He is indeed a shameless person." I don't know about other three. And I think , dharma in purusarthas is dharma that leads to kama not parodharma
    – user16618
    Nov 24, 2018 at 11:22

1 Answer 1


As per The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana: Part 1: Chapter 2: ON THE ACQUISITION OF DHARMA, ARTHA AND KAMA:

For the man whose life is one hundred years

MAN, the period of whose life is one hundred years, should practise Dharma, Artha and Kama at different times and in such a manner that they may harmonize together and not clash in any way. He should acquire learning in his childhood, in his youth and middle age he should attend to Artha and Kama, and in his old age he should perform Dharma, and thus seek to gain Moksha, i.e. release from further transmigration.

When uncertainty of life

Or, on account of the uncertainty of life, he may practise them at times when they are enjoined to be practised. But one thing is to be noted, he should lead the life of a religious student until he finishes his education.

Which is better among Dharma, Artha and Kama

When all the three, viz. Dharma, Artha and Kama, come together, the former is better than the one which follows it, i.e. Dharma is better than Artha, and Artha is better than Kama. But Artha should always be first practised by the king for the livelihood of men is to be obtained from it only. Again, Kama being the occupation of public women, they should prefer it to the other two, and these are exceptions to the general rule.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .