top of page

Most of us reading this Journal have been motivated in our lives by a deep desire to understand the mysteries of life. And through that search, we have discovered within the Vedic tradition of India the most coherent body of knowledge we have as human beings. From this ocean of Ancient Wisdom, we are blessed with a vast treasure of teachings, tools and techniques handed down from Enlightened Sages to guide us in our quest for self-understanding, for harmonious relationship with the Natural Law, and ultimately for spiritual freedom.

Among these resources are the four principal books of the Vedas (and their subdivisions): Rigveda—teaching hymns from Vedic mythology; Samaveda—the study of artistic forms for spiritual devotion; Yajurveda—sacrificial prayers and hymns for Vedic rituals; and Atharvaveda—a collection of mantras, prayers, spells, charms, and hymns for practical life solutions. We look to the wisdom of Vedic Sutra literature and to the principal Upanishads, as well as to the Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas. These and many other treatises from the Vedic Sampradaya contain and elucidate formulas for skillful living and for ultimate Self-Realization.

Desire Equals Destiny – The Four Purusharthas

by Brent BecVar

We honor the Science of Yoga, the Science of Transformation, which includes the Yoga Sutras, where Ashtanga, the Eight Limbs of Yoga are elucidated; Ayurveda, the holistic healing tradition of India; Vaastu and Sthapatya Veda, the Vedic sciences of environmental design. Among these and many, many other subjects addressing all areas of life, we find the sacred Science of Jyotisha, the “Science of Light,” which is the Indian or Vedic system of Astronomy/Astrology. Jyotisha is considered to be one of the Vedangas, or Limbs of the Veda. As the “Eye of the Veda,” it is associated with Light, not just the observation and study of the light of constellations, planets and celestial bodies, but also with the Light of our awareness which allows us to perceive and to understand.

Throughout all these teachings from the Vedic Tradition we find one essential inquiry: “What constitutes a good life?” Sincere inquiry into this fundamental question may be guided specifically by a profound subject from Vedic philosophy, woven throughout all of the Vedic teachings, referred to as the Purusharthas, or The Four Aims of Life.

To approach this subject in a more personal way, we might begin by inquiring, “Why do I get out of bed in the morning?” Ask yourself this question. If we sincerely explore this inquiry, we will likely come up with many different answers. But no matter what our answers are, we see they will reflect some kind of desire. Desire, as we will discover, is fundamental to life.

Desire has brought us into being—from the spark between sperm and ovum. Desire motivates us from the beginning—to crawl, to walk, to run, to speak, to write, all in pursuit of a desire. Desire is the seed of every thought, every breath, and every movement. Desire underlies everything in existence. All creation is the fruit of desire. All doing results from wanting.

You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As is your desire, so is your will.
As is your will, so is your deed.
As is your deed, so is your destiny.                                        —Brihadarankya Upanishad IV.4.5

The Vedic Tradition asserts that any desire we may experience will fall into one of four essential categories:   

  • The desire to live, to survive, to thrive and ultimately to find a worthy Purpose for continuing.

  • The desire to accumulate material resources or the Means by which we can continue to live our purpose.

  • The desire to expand our Enjoyment and find meaningful relationships through which we can share pleasure.

  • The desire to realize physical, emotional, mental and ultimately spiritual Freedom or liberation.

In the Vedic tradition, these four basic desires are referred to as the Purusharthas, or The Four Aims of Life. “Purusha” may be translated as Pure Consciousness which we experience through Atman (Soul). “Artha” may be translated as “ability” or “means by which.” Therefore, Purushartha may then be translated as “for the purpose of the Soul.” The Sanskrit terms for the Purusharthas, or four basic desires, are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.

  • Dharma, our Moral Values, refers to that which sustains Law and Universal Order. In our own lives, Dharma includes the ways we may align with our own Nature and with Natural Law and thereby contribute appropriately to the welfare of the Whole. (Soul Inquiry: “What is my Dharma?”) 

  • Artha, our Economic Values, refers to prosperity and the material resources we may need to support our purpose. (Soul Inquiry: “What am I grateful for?”)

  • Kama, our Psychological Values, refers to desire, enjoyment, and what may be pleasurable in our significant relationships. (Soul Inquiry: “What do I want?”)

  • Moksha, our Spiritual Values, refers to Self-Realization, Liberation and Freedom though Self Knowledge. (Soul Inquiry: “Who or What am I Really?”) 

  • Dharma and Moksha are the spiritual desires. Artha and Kama are the material desires. Balancing and reconciling all of these together is our life quest.

Dharma comes from the Sanskrit dhr, or dhri and means “to make firm,” “to establish,” “to support,” “that which sustains.” Universal Dharma, or Sanatana Dharma, asserts that everything in creation has a purpose and contributes to the Whole. Personal Dharma, or Sva Dharma, refers to an individual’s drive to fulfill potential, to thrive and positively affect creation. Sva Dharma incorporates the ways we align with our own nature and with Natural Law and is set in motion by birth circumstances. This includes Prarabdha Karma, or Karma addressed in one lifetime, as well as Kriyamana and Agama Karma, Karmic choices we make in this life. Sva Dharma reflects our innate talents, gifts, abilities. Each part of the body has Dharma in relation to the whole body. Dharma changes and requires different actions at different stages of life. Sva Dharma means accepting our authentic Nature and letting go of resistance by trying to be someone we are not. It’s acting in accord with our own “wiring.” The ills of the world arise from being disconnected from a sense of higher purpose and meaning.

A skillful practice for Dharma may be inquiring into and honoring our own Nature which will authenticate our actions and choices. Further inquiries for Dharma are “What would I do if I didn’t need the money or care what others think of me?” “What would I love to wake up and do every day using my talents, gifts, and abilities; and with these, how can I serve and best contribute to the welfare of the Whole?”

Artha (Economic Values) refers to the material resources we may acquire to sustain us, i.e., money, food and drink, clothing, shelter, vehicles, practical necessities of life, skills and training, tools of the trade, our environment and the care of it. Alignment with Dharma attracts appropriate resources (Artha). Misalignment with Dharma can lead to avarice and greed. A skillful practice for Artha can be celebrating what we have with Gratitude. Further inquiries for Artha may be “What resources do I need to play my role?” “Do I have enough?” “Am I afraid of not having enough?” “Am I afraid of having more?” “What does wealth mean for me besides money?” and “Do I pursue wealth out of proportion to Dharma?”

Kama (Psychological Values) refers to the pursuit of pleasure, sensuality, intimacy, beauty and love. Kama incorporates relationships and shared enjoyment, sexuality and desire for union. The pursuit of satisfaction or pleasure inspires all our actions. When our survival needs (Artha) are stable, we seek a more expanded sphere of enjoyment and relationships. Alignment with Dharma attracts appropriate relationships. Misalignment with Dharma can lead to addictions and codependence. A skillful practice for Kama may be to recognize and honor our desires as the desires of Nature, to relinquish attachment to the desired outcome and allow Nature to fulfill its own desires. Additional inquiries around Kama are “What am I passionate about?” “What brings delight and enjoyment to me and others that I may influence?” “Which pleasures enhance consciousness, and which might deplete the soul?” “When does pursuit of pleasure become addiction?” and “Which pleasures lead me toward or away from my life purpose?”

Moksha (Spiritual Values), called the Pinnacle of the Purusharthas, refers to Liberation through Self-Realization; freedom from attachment to suffering, fear of death, and illusory limitations; freedom to express total creativity; dissolution of delusion and perceived boundaries (no story of “me”); relinquishing all identification with any separate sense of self and allowing everything to be as it is. A skillful practice for Moksha is Non-attachment, Vairagya. Be as you are and Rest in Divinity. Further inquiries for Moksha are “How can I relinquish choices that make me unhappy?” “Where is Silence now?” Surrender. Not my will, but the Divine Will Be Done. OM NAMAH SHIVAYA “I bow to Absolute Consciousness.” 


In Jyotisha, the Purusharthas are reflected in the Bhavas, the Natural and the relative Houses of the horoscope and in the Maha Bhutas, or natural elements.
BB Picture1.jpg

Among the Dharma Houses (Fire Element), Aries is the Natural 1st house and refers to instinctual development, the “ID”, basic character and the physical body. Leo is the Natural 5th house, referring to ego consciousness, intelligence, creative expression, and the raising of children. Sagittarius is the Natural 9th house and refers to the Super-Ego, higher knowledge, fortune, and Dharma as alignment with worthy purpose. Spirit, the Fire principle, inspires us to fulfill our purpose.

Among the Artha Houses (Earth Element), Taurus is the Natural 2nd house and refers to basic material possessions in life, food and earned income. Virgo is the Natural 6th house and refers to problem-solving, overcoming adversity, self-improvement, and health. Capricorn is the Natural 10th house and refers to achievement, career and contribution to the community. The Earth principle includes our practical resources and the material means we may acquire to support our purpose.

Among the Kama Houses (Air Element), Gemini is the Natural 3rd house and refers to siblings, early relationships, and basic vital energy. Libra is the Natural 7th house and refers to harmonious partnerships and how we may seek to share enjoyment. Aquarius is the Natural 11th house and refers to like-minded groups, associations and friendships as well as long term goals and desires. The Air principle includes communication in relationships and the desires of the mind.

Among the Moksha Houses (Water Element), Cancer is the Natural 4th house and refers to the basic seeking for peace, happiness (Sukha) and nurturance. Scorpio as the Natural 8th house refers to transformation through struggle, transcendence, occult studies, i.e., Science of Yoga. Pisces is the Natural 12th house and refers to sacrifices, relinquishing attachment, ultimate surrender. The Water principle includes the ways we synthesize, merge, resolve, and transcend to freedom.

Exploring the underlying influences and conditions of the relative Purushartha houses in a Jyotish chart can provide much deeper insight into a life trajectory. If we observe which relative Purushartha houses are emphasized by strong, well-conditioned planets and study also the sequence of Dasha/Bhuktis, we may see a theme emerge.

Here are some example charts that focus primarily on some of the higher themes of Dharma and Moksha to which we all may aspire.

Ramana Maharishi.png

Sri Ramana Maharshi, the exalted Indian Saint, began life in the Maha Dasha of Jupiter (Guru Dasha). The great benefic planet Jupiter, placed in the 5th house of Dharma (and past life merit), aspects the ascendant and 1st house of Dharma as well as the bright Moon (Manas), which is in the 9th house of Dharma and is also Atmakaraka.  And from Moon Lagna, Moon in eclipse with Ketu (significator of Moksha) is also aspected by Jupiter placed in the Dharmic 9th house, an indication of deep meditative inclination. Sun and Rahu are each placed in Kama houses from ascendant and from Moon, but the aspect they receive from Saturn suggests withdrawal from relationships. In early life, a strong alignment with Dharma set the stage for his spontaneous enlightenment at age seventeen during the Saturn/ Moon period. Saturn rules a Dharma house, and Saturn (significator of austerity and death) is in Parivartana (mutual exchange) with Jupiter. This forms Dharma Karma Adipati Yoga from the Moon, as lords of the 9th and 10th houses exchange, a combination which shows Ramana’s significance as a great teacher. Saturn in the 6th house of Artha inclined him to renunciation from material possessions and is in the Nakshatra, or lunar asterism, of Revati ruled by Mercury, the 12th Moksha lord, placed in the 2nd Maraka (death) house. Kama and Maraka lord Mars forms Ruchaka Yoga in 7th house in Aries and aspects Mercury providing courage to inquire deeply into the nature of death. Moon is in the Jupiter-ruled Nakshatra of Punarvasu with Ketu and is aspected by Jupiter. Moksha came as he deeply contemplated the illusory nature of death during Saturn/Moon period.

Paramahansa Yogananda.png

The great Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, is best known for translating and disseminating the knowledge and Science of Yoga to the Western world beginning in his Sun Period (Surya Maha Dasha). Sun, as ruler of his Leo ascendant and 1st house of Dharma, is placed in the 5th house of Dharma (and past-life merit) along with Mercury forming an unblemished Budhaditya Yoga in the fiery constellation of Sagittarius for illumined intelligence. Sagittarius is the natural 9th house of Dharma and is ruled by the great benefic Jupiter, which is strong in its other constellation of Pisces and in 8th house of Moksha (Sarala yoga) for deep, transformational spiritual study. Kama lord Saturn in mutual aspect with Moksha lord Mars as well as Moksha lord Jupiter in the 8th house of sexuality supported his celibate life. Also, sva Jupiter with Mars in the 8th house of Moksha forms Dharma Karma Adhipati Yoga from both lagna and Moon, as lords of 4th and 5th houses come together and contribute to his great yogic powers. Ketu in 3rd house of Kama suggests detachment from desire. Moon, as ruler of his 12th house of Moksha, is placed in ascendant and further contributed to personal renunciation as well as his spiritual influence in a foreign land during Moon Maha Dasha

As Jyotishis, it would be rare and extraordinary indeed to be presented with charts like these in our practice. But each of the many charts we do examine will show a mixture of influences which can be viewed through the lens of the Purusharthas. We may be called upon to address almost any area of a person’s life. Sometimes the inquiry will be more practical and mundane around resources, relationships, career or health. But, if we are true to our purpose as advisors, we will be cautious when offering insights or predictions not to purport to tell people their “fate” which may be disempowering. Rather we might consider how best to support, encourage, educate and hope to inspire those seeking our counsel by uncovering their unique talents, gifts and abilities around Dharma. In this way we can provide perspective to help them naturally make more evolutionary choices in other areas of their lives.

Dharma is considered the first of the Purusharthas because when we seek to align with our own authentic nature, and thereby with Natural Law, we are more likely to attract appropriate resources (Artha) and appropriate relationships (Kama) that will naturally help support us in following our unique purpose in life and in making our most creative contributions. Alignment with Dharma is its own reward and fulfillment. It is for this reason that every religious and spiritual tradition has recommended precepts, codes, yamas, niyamas, laws and even “commandments” to help guide us to remain closer to living a Dharmic life. Inquiring into the triplicity of Dharma houses, especially when they reflect Raja Yogas or positive planetary placements, can help give broader context to other content in a chart.

There is a beautiful metaphor for Dharma being like a river flowing along its meandering course. The more we are in alignment with Dharma the closer we will be to the middle of the river where the current flows strong, swift, and deep. When we drift toward the sides of the river, we encounter more shallow resistance stirring up sediment we may liken to areas of attachments or complications in our lives. The banks, like karmas, can attract us to more mundane involvements. But when we free ourselves and trust the current, we will flow more efficiently towards our ultimate goal of returning to the ocean, the Source (Moksha). Our role as Jyotishis may be like that of the river guide who has broader knowledge and foresight of the currents as well as potential obstacles, like large boulders and rapids. Through Jyotish we hope to support others in navigating the twists and turns of life so the river of Dharma may carry them along with more abundant Grace. 

We can use an understanding of the Purusharthas to inquire frequently into which of the Four Aims of Life may be compelling us during any moment of our own lives as Jyotishis. Although all four of the Purusharthas are always in play, one or another may be more prominent at different times in our awareness. As we pursue our own inquiries around “What constitutes a good life (for me)?” we can find balance among the Purushrthas in our own experience. As we seek to align with our own Dharma, we can begin to perceive Dharma more intuitively reflected in the lives of those whom we wish to support. 

Sincere use of the Soul Inquiries for each of the Purusharthas as a frequent practice can help us to awaken a more conscious witnessing of our own deeper nature. 

Dharma: “What is my Dharma? ”
When we ask the Universe sincerely, clues begin to appear for course corrections in life. 

Artha: “What am I grateful for? ”
When we consider first what we already have to be grateful for, we may then naturally attract more of the same. 

Kama: “What do I want in terms of pleasure? “
When we have established a sense of material security, we will look to expand our enjoyment with appropriate others.

Moksha: “Who or what am I? ” 
Knowing our essential nature as Source, Conscious Awareness of all the content of experience, we come to the end of seeking. Unity. Aham Brahmasmi
bottom of page