Chanakya remarks - "Dharma" & "Kama" both depend on "Artha". Could you please explain how Dharma & Kama depend on Artha? What does Chanakya imply with this statement? Also, "Dharma" has multiple meanings in Sanskrit so in which sense is it used here? what is the meaning of "Dharma" here?
And, what is the message/lesson/teaching Chanakya conveying through this?

I would be grateful if you could share your insights on this. Also, if you have something more to share in connection to this, please do so.


The interdependence between the dharma (virtue), artha (wealth) and kama (pleasure) can be understood well form the words of Bhimasena in Mahabharata. Note that the words of Chanakya are mainly intended for a Kshatriya and hence my answer is.

I will divide my answer into two parts. First part addresses the dependence of dharma on artha and the second part addresses the dependence of kama on artha

#1: Dependence of dharma on artha:

Artha is a requisite for Dharma. Dharma exists in multiple forms. In general, (for Kshetriya), sacrifices, respecting guests, charity etc., are the highest virtues and are possible to do only by wealth. Thus several kinds of dharma cannot be performed without artha.

Gift, sacrifice, respect for the wise, study of the Vedas, and honesty, these, O king, constitute the highest virtue and are efficacious both here and hereafter. These virtues, however, cannot be attained by one that hath no wealth, even if, O tiger among men, he may have infinite other accomplishments. The whole universe, O king, dependeth upon virtue. There is nothing higher than virtue. And virtue, O king, is attainable by one that hath plenty of wealth. Wealth cannot be earned by leading a mendicant life, nor by a life of feebleness. Wealth, however, can be earned by intelligence directed by virtue. In thy case, O king, begging, which is successful with Brahmanas, hath been forbidden. Therefore, O bull amongst men, strive for the acquisition of wealth by exerting thy might and energy. Neither mendicancy, nor the life of a Sudra is what is proper for thee. Might and energy constitute the virtue of the Kshatriya in especial.

#2: Dependence of Kama on artha:

Kama can be acquired by artha, as well as dharma. (Internal) Pleasure can be obtained by the person who performs dharma, which needs wealth (#1) . (External) Pleasure can be obtained from the five senses using the objects of enjoyment, which also needs wealth to gain them.

Destitute of virtue and wealth such a man, indulging in pleasure at will, at the expiration of his period of indulgence, meeteth with certain death, like a fish when the water in which it liveth hath been dried up. It is for these reasons that they that are wise are ever careful of both virtue and wealth, for a union of virtue and wealth is the essential requisite of pleasure, as fuel is the essential requisite of fire. Pleasure hath always virtue for its root, and virtue also is united with pleasure. Know, O monarch, that both are dependent on each other like the ocean and the clouds, the ocean causing the clouds and the clouds filling the ocean. The joy that one feeleth in consequence of contact with objects of touch or of possession of wealth, is what is called pleasure. It existeth in the mind, having no corporeal existence that one can see. ........ And, O king, as a fowler killeth the birds we see, so doth sin slay the creatures of the world. He, therefore, who misled by pleasure or covetousness, beholdeth not the nature of virtue, deserveth to be slain by all, and becometh wretched both here and here-after. It is evident, O king, that thou knowest that pleasure may be derived from the possession of various objects of enjoyment. Thou also well knowest their ordinary states, as well as the great changes they undergo. At their loss or disappearance occasioned by decrepitude or death, ariseth what is called distress. That distress, O king, hath now overtaken us. The joy that ariseth from the five senses, the intellect and the heart, being directed to the objects proper to each, is called pleasure. That pleasure, O king, is, as I think, one of the best fruits of our actions.

In fact, the three are interdependent for Kshetriyas.

Thus, O monarch, one should regard virtue, wealth and pleasure one after another. One should not devote one self to virtue alone, nor regard wealth as the highest object of one's wishes, nor pleasure, but should ever pursue all three. The scriptures ordain that one should seek virtue in the morning, wealth at noon, and pleasure in the evening. The scriptures also ordain that one should seek pleasure in the first portion of life, wealth in the second, and virtue in the last. And, O thou foremost of speakers, they that are wise and fully conversant with proper division of time, pursue all three, virtue, wealth, and pleasure, dividing their time duly. O son of the Kuru race, whether independence of these (three), or their possession is the better for those that desire happiness, should be settled by thee after careful thought. And thou shouldst then, O king, unhesitatingly act either for acquiring them, or abandoning them all. For he who liveth wavering between the two doubtingly, leadeth a wretched life. It is well known that thy behaviour is ever regulated by virtue. Knowing this thy friends counsel thee to act.

All the words of Bhimasena are taken from the [section 38, Arjunabhigamana Parva, Vana Parva, The Mahabharata]

  • Thank you @hanugm. I'm curious to know if you could suggest or recommend a book on Mahabharata which explains the messages or lessons behind the story and characters. My history teacher recently remarked "these mythologies are written to convey messages and transmit useful life lessons to help you lead a better life through stories" so I am interested to understand the deeper meaning behind them. You may share more literature recommendations. I'm also particularly interested to explore ethics and philosophy. – Varun Singh Jul 15 '20 at 23:06
  • @VarunSingh In which language you want? – hanugm Jul 16 '20 at 2:54
  • English is my preferred language. Although, if there is Hindi and English translation both then it will be even better because there are some words like Dharma that don't have English substitute and words like religion again lacks any equivalent word in Hindi/Sanskrit. – Varun Singh Jul 16 '20 at 4:02
  • If you want to learn from books then you can buy from here: book.gitapress.org. The link I shared in m question is English Translation. But I personally recommend to understand from pravachans initially and then you can read in parallel. – hanugm Jul 16 '20 at 4:18
  • Thank you for the website suggestion but please let me know any specific book along the lines as I briefly mentioned above.Grateful – Varun Singh Jul 18 '20 at 11:09

Chanakya remarks - "Dharma" & "Kama" both depend on "Artha"

It is true. The Daksha Smriti quite clearly validates the truth of Chanakya's statement in just a couple of verses.

No article is procurable without trouble. How can any religious rite be performed in the absence of [proper] articles ? There is no religion in the absence of rites.. And where is happiness in the absence of religion ? (22)

All persons seek happiness ; but that originates from religion. Therefore religion should always be carefully practised by all the castes. (23)

Daksha Smriti Chapter 3, Verses 22,23

The points made here are -- All persons love happiness (or fulfillment of desires i.e. Kama) and that follows from following religion (Dharma). Now, Dharma can not be followed without performance of rites (mentioned in Verse 22). Rites again are not possible to be performed without all the necessary articles. And, lastly, to buy these articles one needs money (Artha) in the first place.

That's why Chanakya rightly points out that both Dharma and Kama depend on Artha.

  • 1
    First time learned the name Daksha Smriti... – hanugm Sep 7 '20 at 18:15
  • I have used it many times in my answers so far :D @hanugm – Rickross Sep 8 '20 at 5:40

The scriptures say

आहार-निद्रा-भय-मैथुनं च समानमेतत्पशुभिर्नराणाम् । धर्मो हि तेषामधिको विशेषो धर्मेण हीनाः पशुभिः समानाः ॥

"food, sleep, fear and mating, these acts of humans are similar to animals'. Of them (humans), dharma (right conduct) is the only special thing, without dharma humans are also animals."

In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviours that are considered to be in accord with Ṛta, the order that makes life and universe possible, and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and "right way of living".

So Dharma is essential benchmark for considering a human being as one.

However, in order to understand the importance of Dharma, practice it and to achieve higher standards of moral life, first the common man has to survive.

Let us keep in mind that the number of sages or people with high moral standards in the world will be very less compared to the common people, who are struggling on day to day basis, for making both ends meet.

So in order to survive in this world, the common man has to earn something (artha). When one starts earning, craving for gratifying sensual desires will come forth (kaama). After gratifying one's desires through earning and indulging, one can think of Dharma for understanding the purpose of life (Dharma).

So from the point of view of a common man, artha will be source for achieving kaama and finally Dharma.

Even Swamy Vivekananda said as follows:

Food and Cloth are the first needs of the life. First make the people of the country stand on their legs, by raising their inner power; first let them learn to have good food and clothes and plenty of enjoyment then tell them how to be from this bounding of enjoyment.

  • the reference from OP to chanakya is not dealt with, may be, that is the reason for downvote by someone – vidyarthi Jul 14 '20 at 12:52
  • Perhaps or may not be. The OP asked for explaining Dharma and asked for providing insights on the question. Let the OP respond. As far as downvoting is concerned it is not new to me. There is no dearth of members in this site, who do not have courage to explain as to why the answer/question is not acceptable. @vidyarthi – Srimannarayana K V Jul 14 '20 at 13:03
  • Thank you. I'm curious to know if you could suggest or recommend a book on Mahabharata which explains the messages or lessons behind the story and characters. My history teacher recently remarked "these mythologies are written to convey messages and transmit useful life lessons to help you lead a better life through stories" so I am interested to understand the deeper meaning behind them. You may share more literature recommendations. I'm also particularly interested to explore ethics and philosophy. – Varun Singh Jul 18 '20 at 11:10
  • @VarunSingh: As far as I understood, Mahabharata was composed to convey the importance of Dharma. Yudhisthira is the hero of the EPIC, but not Arjuna or someone else, as commonly understood. Read the episode of Yama testing Yudhisthira. Try to understand everything in the background of Dharma, then you will understand everything for yourself. – Srimannarayana K V Jul 18 '20 at 13:31

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