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According to Hinduism, there are four Purusharthas or the goal of life: Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. However, in Mahabharata (Mahabharata 1.139.69-70) and Arthasastra (Arthasastra of Kauṭilya 1.7.3-5), I found references to Trivarga (Dharma, Artha and Kama), instead of Caturvarga.

Some scholars opined that initially, Purushartha was Trivarga, and later it became Caturvarga. Earlier texts, such as Mahabharata and Arthasastra indeed speak of Trivarga.

My question is the following. In which Hindu text, can one find explicit reference to Caturvarga (Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha)?

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  • Do you want to know śāstras which mention the term 'caturvarga', or do you mean śāstras which mention the four puruṣārthas, even if they don't mention the term 'caturvarga'?
    – Bingming
    Commented Mar 8 at 10:16
  • @Bingming Both. Commented Mar 8 at 10:39
  • Alright, I have covered both in my answer here hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/58532/24460. If you're interested, you may check it out. Thanks🙏
    – Bingming
    Commented Mar 8 at 11:20

3 Answers 3

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There are many references to both Trivarga and Caturvarga, but the only comparative reference I could find (which explicitly mentions the words Dharma, Artha, Kāma and Mokṣa) is in the Bhaviṣyapurāṇa I (Madhyaparva) Chapter 1.1 verses 20-28:

The dharma, artha and kama are known as Trivarga. The sattva, rajas and tamas are also known as Trivarga. Besides the sattva, rajas and tamas the three gunas also emerge out of dharma. Therefore, dharma must be followed as prescribed by the scriptures.

A person having excess of sattvaguna attains the heaven; the one who has rajoguna in excess achieves the earth; and the one who practices the deplorable deeds is known as tamoguni and he falls in the hell.

A person whose artha and kama are religious or auspicious, he enjoying all the comforts in the world, ultimately gets absorbed in lord Ananta.

Therefore, one should aspire to achieve auspicious artha and kama through dharma, because kama and artha are said to have emerged out of dharma.

evaṃ dharmasya madhye'yaṃ caturvargaḥ pradarśitaḥ |
evaṃ ca dharmakāmārthaṃ mokṣasyāpi ca mānavaḥ |
māhātmyaṃ vānutiṣṭhecca sa cānaṃtyāya kalpate || 24 ||

Similarly, the Caturvarga viz., dharma, artha, kama and moksa are said to have been enshrined in dharma. A person thus following dharma, artha and kama, contemplates on the importance of moksa. As a result of this, he achieves the lord Ananta.

Therefore, discarding artha and kama, one should surely follow dharma, because those who are well-versed in Brahman, has ordained that one can achieve everything through dharma.

O best of the Brahmaņas, the mobile and immobile world stands with the support of dharma and not that the eternal power of Brahman holds the same.

With the activities based on the divine knowledge, dharma is achieved. There is no doubt about it. Therefore, the (auspicious) activities should be started with the divine knowledge.

(Parimal edition, translation by Shanti Lal Nagar)

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  • Thank you so much. I guess, it would be Bhavishya Purana II.1.20-28 Commented Mar 8 at 10:23
  • Do you have the link to Shantilal nagar's English translation of Bhavishya Puran? I have the Hindi translation. But I could not find any English edition for free. If you have, please share. Commented Mar 8 at 12:22
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    No I'm sorry I only own a physical copy. It's quire recent so I don't think it's available in digital form yet. Commented Mar 8 at 12:25
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The following Saṁskṛtakośas viz. Amarasiṁha's Amarakośa, Tārānātha Tarkavācaspati's Vācaspatyam, & Hemacandra's Abhidhānacintāmaṇi, define 'caturvarga' w.r.t 4 puruṣārthas -

trivargo dharmakāmārthaiḥ caturvargaḥ samokṣakaiḥ //
~ Amarakośa (2.7.57)

dharmmārthakāmamokṣasamudāye // ~ Vācaspatyam

trivargā dharmakāmārthāścaturvargaḥ samokṣakāḥ /
balatūryāścaturbhadraṃ pramādoʼnavadhānatā //
~ Abhidhānacintāmaṇi (Sāmānyakāṇḍa 1382)

Although Vācaspatyam is a 19th century Saṁskṛtakośa, but Amarasiṁha's Amarakośa and Hemacandra's Abhidhānacintāmaṇi, are some of the oldest Saṁskṛtakośas available.
In the trivarga, mokṣa is subsumed under dharma. Although, many śāstras don't use the term 'caturvarga', but they do mention the four puruṣārthas (i.e vargas) of caturvarga.

apakāriṇi kopaścetkope kopaḥ kathaṃ na te /
dharmārthakāmamokṣāṇāṃ prasahya paripanthini //
~ Yājñavalkyopaniṣat (20)

caturvidha-puruṣārtha siddhyarthe jape viniyogaḥ /
~ Sūryopaniṣat (1)

dharmārthakāmamokṣaṁ ca vindati /
~ Gaṇapatyupaniṣat aka Gaṇapati Atharvaśīrṣa Upaniṣad (16)

etaccatuṣṭayaṁ naṇāṁ dharmakāmārthamokṣadam / ~ Skanda Purāṇa (6.244.13a)

teṣāṁ prīto haridardyātpuruṣārthacatuṣṭayam / ~ Skanda Purāṇa (6.252.28a)

dharmārthakāmamokṣāṇāṁ māhātmyaṁ ca pṛthakpṛthak /
indradyumnaprasaṃgena prāharṣibhyo dayānvitaḥ //
~ Nārada Purāṇa (1.106.2)

yatra dharmārthakāmānāṃ mokṣasya ca rasātale /
māhātmyaṁ kathayāmāsa kūrmarūpī janārdanaḥ //
~ Matsya Purāṇa (53.46)

catastraḥ saṁhitāḥ puṇyā dharmakāmārthamokṣadāḥ //
~ Kūrma Purāṇa (1.1.22)

dharme cārthe ca kāme ca mokṣe ca bharatarṣabha /
yadihāsti tadayantra yannehāsti na kutracit //
~ Svargārohaṇa Parva (5.50)

tatheha sarvaśāstrāṇāṁ mahābhāratamuttamam //
atrārthaścaiva dharmaśca kāmo mokṣaśca varṇyate /
parasparānubandhāśca sānubandhāśca te pṛthaka //
~ Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa (1.5b-6)

sa caturdhā babhau vyastaḥ prasavaḥ pṛthivīpateḥ /
dharmārthakāmamokṣāṇāmavatāra ivāṅgavān //
~ Raghuvaṁśa (10.84)

bālye vidyāgrahaṇādīnarthān //
kāmaṁ ca yauvane //
sthāvire dharma mokṣaṁ ca //
~ Kāmasūtra (1.2.2-4)

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Shiva Purana chapter 2.,section 2,.15.couplet :55

प्रत्यग्द्रष्ट्रैऽविकाराय परमैश्वर्य धारिणे । यं भजन्ति चतुर्वर्गे कामयंतीष्टसद्गतिम् । सोऽभूदकरुणस्त्वं नः प्रसन्नो भव ते नमः ॥ ५५ ॥

pratyagdraṣṭrai'vikārāya paramaiśvarya dhāriṇe | yaṃ bhajanti caturvarge kāmayaṃtīṣṭasadgatim | so'bhūdakaruṇastvaṃ naḥ prasanno bhava te namaḥ || 55 ||

Translation.:

Obeisance to Thee, the self-contemplator, the unchanging, the holder of great suzerainty and glory. Never be ruthless unto them who resort to the four aims of life (Dharma, Artha Kama Moksha) and desire the cherished final goal. Obeisance to Thee O Shiva.

I hope this clarifies all your queries. Prd..

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