Artha, Kama, Dharma, Moksha (and Politics)

Last night, Paul Muller-Ortega, as part of the introductory talk for the meditation intensive, spoke at some length about the principles of ardha, kama, dharma, moksha.

As I have written about before, in the classical yoga view, it is the renunciation of the first three–material well-being, love and relationship, and right work or path, that leads us to the fourth–liberation. From a tantric yoga perspective, it is living and having the first three from the perspective of illuminated wisdom and discerning (viveka) insight (pratibha) that makes us free (jivanmukti) in this life.

One of the most exquisite things about a steady practice and study, is that each time we revisit a core concept, we hear and understand new aspects to bring into our lives.

When speaking of approaching these elemental aspects of human being, Paul noted that ardha includes not only material well-being, even wealth, but also the power that wealth brings and how we use it. Although he only mentioned that briefly amidst several other concepts, it really resonated with the current state of my being in relationship to the world and our country.

I have been contemplating deeply about wealth and power in this time of budget debate, and how they can and should be used to bring nurture, peace, and health to the maximum degree possible. (You might guess that I don’t think increasing spending for war and decreasing spending for education and health is going to bring us freedom).

Thinking about the power of money as part of our contemplation of our material well-being is something of critical importance at this time. If we shun or disdain in our minds wealth and power while still yearning for our own comforts, than we have lost an opportunity to bring the yoga principles into our lives as optimally as possible. (Of course, grasping and coveting money and power is completely destructive of the possibility of happiness, but most of us think about that, and it is why some say they are bad — money being the root of all evil, etc.).

If we are really in the world and want to be happy and to share and spread happiness, while living in accordance with the principles of the yamas and niyamas, especially the yamas: ahimsa, satya, aparigraha, brahmacharya, asteya (non-harming, truthfulness, non-greediness, aligning with spirit, and non-stealing), that is when we will start opening up the possibility of true living liberation.

Imagine, instead of thinking about material well-being as a “guilty pleasure” thinking of ways in which you can use your own well-being (and work through your practice to discover greater health and strength) to be a voice and power for good in your own individual way.

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.



  1. Bruce

    Thank you Elizabeth for writing this.

    What Saint Paul wrote to Timothy was this (I Timothy 6: 6-10) NRSV (and right after telling slaves to be content with their lot and be good slaves):

    “Of course there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to get rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”

    He tells us next to “shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness…to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    The rich are commanded “not to be haughty or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.”

    St. Paul has a strong ascetic streak throughout his writings. He expresses value for this world as preparation for the next. He anticipated the immediate end of this world entirely. Our Paul (Muller-Ortega) approaches desires differently – even differently than how you expressed in your reference to the Yoga Sutras.

    It is the distinction made in tantra that there is an ascetics path and a householders path. On the ascetic path, Kama (desire) is to be annihilated, except for the desire for god. On the householder path, our Paul has promoted a tantric view that desires are to be fulfilled. But then there is the concept of refined desires, the product of a refined heart. In the end both Pauls come near in their assessments of the content of right desire, but the Dharma is different.

  2. Margaret

    Hi Elizabeth!!
    Suzanne Lynch posted your piece on facebook.
    Just a friendly spelling correction… the word is “Artha” not “Ardha” …. LOVE your writing!! keep up the great work, and sharing from the richness of your consciousness!
    All love to all of those with Paul this weekend!!

    Margaret Pitkin
    (Certified Anusara Yoga Teacher, VT)

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