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Kāma is one of the vices(Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada, Matsarya) and also one of the four aims of life (Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha). Can someone explain why and how it is so and also is there a difference between Kāma as a purusharth and as a vice?

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    Congratulations. Excellent question! Sep 4, 2022 at 3:16
  • @PradipGangopadhyay Thank You! Sep 4, 2022 at 9:07
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    Brilliant question. I wish I could give you two votes! Feb 22, 2023 at 4:18
  • @AmritenduMukhopadhyay Thank You! Feb 24, 2023 at 10:54
  • kAma (procreation) is purusharth whereas kama (pleasure, romance, etc.) is vice.
    – ekAntika
    Apr 13, 2023 at 8:43

2 Answers 2

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Dharma, artha, kama and moksa are the four purusarthas, the four aims of life. The first of them, dharma, is a lifelong objective. The pursuit of artha (material welfare) and kama (desire, love) must be given up at a certain stage in a man's life. But so long as such a pursuit lasts, it must be based on dharma. When a man renounces the world and becomes an ascetic, he transcends dharma, but he does not go contrary to it nor speak against it. Indeed, his life is governed by the dharma of sannyasa

Hindu Dharma The Universal Way of Life (18.1) Pujyasri Chandrashekara Saraswati Swami

In Purushartha(human pursuit -where purusha connotes human, artha - sought after), if the kama is not in accordance with dharma , it becomes the ripu(enemy) of the purusha(human)., hence finds its place in shadripu aka arishadvarga

This can be better understood through chapter 16 Daivāsura Sampad Vibhāg Yogaha, of Bhagavad Gita. But before that , BG 15.2 sets the context for chapter 16

adhash chordhvam prasritas ... The branches of the tree extend upward and downward, nourished by the three guṇas, with the objects of the senses as tender buds. The roots of the tree hang downward, causing the flow of karma in the human form. Below, its roots branch out (secondary roots) causing (karmic) actions in the world of humans. Here secondary roots (karmic actions) generates mental impressions ,(known as vasanaas) that manifests in the Jiva. These vaasanas are the one that determines Jivas innate nature,which truly has stake over it's later actions.(15.2)

This is related to Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.1 which talks about two classes of Prajapathis son Devas and Asuras.

The whole of Chapter 16 expounds broadly on two types of Jivas (based on innate nature - vaasanas.) namely daivī sampatti (Noble Natured ) and Aasuri sampatti(Demoniac Natured)

Only first 3 shlokas 16.1 to 16.3 pertain to daivi sampatti.

rest of the shlokas 16.4 to 16.24 pertain to Asuri sampatti

Asuri sampatti is the ripu(enemy) of pursha(here human), that drifts one away from the path of shreyas(attainment of highest good -spiritual progress)

prasaktāḥ kāma-bhogeṣhu patanti narake ’śhuchau
addicted to the gratification of sensuous pleasures, they descend to the murkiest hell. (BG 16.16)

ahankāraṁ balaṁ darpaṁ kāmaṁ krodhaṁ cha sanśhritāḥ mām ātma-para-deheṣhu pradviṣhanto ’bhyasūyakāḥ
Blinded by egotism, strength, arrogance, desire, and anger, the demonic abuse Me, who am present in their own body and in the bodies of others.(BG 16.18)

tri-vidhaṁ narakasyedaṁ dvāraṁ nāśhanam ātmanaḥ kāmaḥ krodhas tathā lobhas tasmād etat trayaṁ tyajet
There are three gates leading to the hell of self-destruction for the soul—lust, anger, and greed. Therefore, one should abandon all three.(BG 16.21)


Translation Swami Mukundananda

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    Very good answer. The only thing I will add is that complete renunciation is not for every person and for such persons kama guided by dharma is recommended. Of course, that person will also ultimately have to give up kama. Sep 4, 2022 at 3:18
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    @PradipGangopadhyay renunciation is for everyone Sep 4, 2022 at 3:29
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    @YOuwillnotknow yes in theory renunciation is for every one. In practice very few people have the capability to give up the material world. Kama guided by dharma is for those people. Sep 4, 2022 at 3:33
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    @PradipGangopadhyay , True.
    – Athrey
    Sep 4, 2022 at 12:38
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He should pursue Pleasure (Kāma) without transgressing Law (Dharma) or Success (Artha); he should not deprive himself of enjoyments (Kāma). Or, he should pursue the Triple Set (Trivarga- Dharma, Artha, Kāma) equally, each intimately linked to the others. For, among Law (Dharma), Success (Artha), and Pleasure (kāma), when one is pursued excessively, it harms itself as well as the other two. - Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya 1.7.3-5

त्रिवर्गे त्रिविधा पीडा ह्यनुबन्धस्तथैव च ⁠।
अनुबन्धाः शुभा ज्ञेयाः पीडास्तु परिवर्जयेत् ⁠।⁠।⁠
धर्मं विचरतः पीडा सापि द्वाभ्यां नियच्छति ⁠।
अर्थं चाप्यर्थलुब्धस्य कामं चातिप्रवर्तिनः ⁠।⁠।⁠ - Mahabharata 1.139.69-70

Virtue, wealth and pleasure have both their evil and good effects closely knit together. While extracting the effects that are good, those that are evil should be avoided. Those that practise virtue (incessantly) are made unhappy for want of wealth and the neglect of pleasure. Those again in pursuit of wealth are made unhappy for the neglect of two others. And so those who pursue pleasure suffer for their inattention to virtue and wealth. Therefore, thou shouldst pursue virtue, wealth and pleasure, in such a way that thou mayest not have to suffer therefrom. [translation]

So, basically, it tells, in life, a person should pursue Trivargas, i.e., Dharma, Artha and Kāma in a balanced way. So, when one is maintaining the balance, and pursuing Kāma, then it is a Purushartha. But the same Purushartha (Kāma) can become a vice, if one follows it excessively while ignoring the other two.

By the way, in earlier texts, such as Mahabharata, sometimes, you will find Trivargas, instead of Caturvargas. Scholars opine that Moksha was added later.

Source -

  1. King, Governance and Law in Ancient India Kauṭilya's Arthaśāstra - a new annotated translation by Patrick Olivelle
  2. Srimat Maharshi Vedavyas Pranit Mahabharat sachitra Hindi Anuvad sahit, Gita press, Gorakhpur
  3. Mahabharata of Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa by Kisari Mohan Ganguly [English]

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