Artha – Pursuit For Ethical Earning, Money, Wealth

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S Money may not be all important, but it is one of the basic needs, instincts of life. Artha has several meanings. It means wealth, object and meaning. In this context of discussion we will take artha in the sense of ‘wealth’.


Artha is one of the Purushartha Chatushtayas i.e. four important goals of life. Read – Money, Ayurveda, Spirituality – How To Strike Perfect Balance?

The purusharthas are –

  • Dharma – righteousness
  • Artha – ethical earning
  • Kama – meaningful desires
  • Moksha – spiritual liberation

Ayurveda too has mentioned about these four pursuits of life in its treatises. Telling the importance of following basics and fundamentals of living elaborated in Ayurveda, it is said that those who desire longevity of life should learn and follow the teachings of Ayurveda because longevity of life enables one to achieve four goals of the life i.e. dharma, artha, kama and moksha’. Read – Charaka Samhita Sutrasthana Chapter 1 – Quest For Longevity

What is Artha

Artha – ethical earning Artha is anything which we earn in a lifetime. It also means meaning.

Thus artha is anything meaningful we earn, or anything that gives a meaning to our life.

Master Charaka has mentioned ‘dhana eshana’ i.e. constant pursuit of wealth a as one of the three pursuits (trieshanis). The other two pursuits are – prana eshana (ways to live better )and paraloka eshana (finding pathways enabling spiritual liberation). This means to tell that man should constantly search these three factors, throughout his life. Dhana Eshana is same as the ‘artha’ of purushartha chatushtaya.
Read – 3 Basic Desires Of Life – Charaka Sanhita Sutrasthan 11

We need to earn for ourselves and our family, to support the basic needs and facilities. This is not only a fundamental right but also a basic responsibility of the primary earners of the family. Providing ethical and meaningful livelihood is the core meaning of artha as a part of four pursuits of life.

How to earn ethically?

In what ways one should earn to fulfill the criteria of pursuit of artha?There are many ways of earning livelihood. They constitute ethical and unethical ways, wrong and right ways. But it is important that one should not cross the barriers of ethical boundaries and take into wrong ways of earning. read related: Dharma – To Follow The Right Of Life

‘A wise person should have money in their head, but not in their heart’ – Jonathan Swift

One needs to follow the pathway of righteousness (dharma) in earning the money and livelihood for his family. Read – An Ayurveda Tip For Better Health – Make Some Money And Be Rich!

Earning in unethical ways constitute non-righteousness (adharma). By doing so, one would not be fulfilling the criteria of obtaining artha as a pursuit of life, in real terms. This also means that one should not be involved in earning related to bribery, extortion, lotteries, thefts, black-money, crime, capitation etc which are easy earning routes in unethical way. One should also teach and pass on the legacy of right ways of earning livelihood to his children.
Read – Parenting Tips: Great Hobbies For children For A Great Future

The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grand-children is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith’.

Billy Graham

Unethical ways of learning can put one into dangerous situations including getting arrested and punished by law. It also brings bad name and destroys ones reputation. The person will lose name and self respect and so does his family. He will lose trust value in the family and society. Read – Hope Heals All The Wounds and Sorrows: Concept Of Ayurveda!

Having good money and pleasures of life defines ones status and dignity, but only when earned in noble ways, being in the pathway of righteousness. Being rich or poor is by destiny. Being rich is not a sin. But being too greedy to earn beyond ones needs often tempts a person to move into unethical pathways and take to wrong routes.

Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like’. – Will Rogers Read – Ways To Improve Productivity – My Personal Experiments

What constitutes earning in terms of artha? Earning is not essentially materialistic. Earning is more than money, wealth and treasures. Artha is not just a piece of business.

‘A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business’. – Henry Ford Read – Office Syndrome: Effective Ayurveda Treatment

Artha – Other Meanings

Artha also explains earning the below mentioned treasures of life –

  • good friends
  • love
  • trust
  • morals
  • talents and skills
  • knowledge
  • name, fame and reputation
  • job and property
  • prosperity
  • security etc

But these things should be earned and gained in ethical ways. One should work hard and ascend the steps of achievements in a gradual way, step by step so as to reach the summit without deviating from the good and noble pathway. Read – Message Of Love: Love Yourself One should take care that the others are not hurt and put at loss while trying to earn things in life.

Thus, the broad spectrum meaning of artha includes the below mentioned aspects –

  • earning / livelihood / to make a living
  • accumulating wealth
  • having career goals and making a good and decent career
  • economic prosperity
  • being secured in terms of financial matters

These meanings are applicable not only for individuals but also to a mass of people including a state or community or country. The financial security, planning and implementation at government level defines the balance of artha in running a country with finances turned towards providing all facilities to all people at a given point of time. But this is not the point of discussion in this article. We will focus on the individual and personalised aspect of artha. Read – 8 Useful Tips To Inject Energy To Your Relationship

Different Explanations

Different definitions and descriptions of Artha

Vatsyayana (Kamasutra treatise) – ‘Artha is all about acquisition of arts, land, cattle, wealth, equipages and friends. Artha is protecting what we have already acquired. Artha also means to constantly increase whatever we have acquired and protected’.

John Lochtefeld – ‘Artha means ‘means of life’ including material prosperity’.

Karl Potter – ‘Artha is an attitude and capability that enables one to make a living, to remain alive, to thrive as a free person. It includes economic prosperity, security and health of oneself and those one feels responsible for’.

Karl Potter – ‘Arta includes everything in one’s environment that allows one to live. It is neither an end state nor an endless goal of aimlessly amassing money but it is an attitude and necessary requirement of human life’. Read – Lifestyle Tips For Healthy People And Patients In Ayurveda

John Koller – ‘Artha is not an attitude, rather it is one of the necessities of human life. A central premise of Hindu philosophy is that every person should live a joyous and pleasurable life, that such fulfilling life requires every person’s needs and desires be acknowledged and fulfilled, that needs can only be satisfied through activity and when sufficient means for those activities are available’.

Gavin Flood – ‘Artha is worldly success gained without violating righteousness, love and one’s journey towards spiritual liberation, i.e. without violating other pursuits’. According to his author, artha is better understood as goal of human beings. The survival and thriving of human beings requires economic activity, wealth, worldly success, profits, political success and everything that is needed for human survival and existence. All that can be summed up as artha. Read – Satisfaction Is What We Find Inside, Not What We Get

Thus, arta, is best described as pursuit of activities and means necessary for a joyous and pleasurable life.

Benefits of ethical earning The definitions and possessions, the quality and quantity of earnings will be different for different people.

A poor man may be rich in extremely good virtues and a rich man may be extremely poor in good virtues and righteousness.

At the same time a person may be rich by wealth and all possessions, but may still be in a righteous way and would never have stepped into the untoward pathways to earn anything he owns. Therefore the gains of life is beyond the borders of being rich or poor, it is all about being virtuous.

All prosperity one earns in an ethical way will give peace with self. It is the basis of fearless and happy life, with physical, mental and emotional balance. Read – Stage Fright – 16 Effective Tips On How To Overcome Public Speaking Fear

At a gross level, ethical earning will lead to harmony and balance in the world. The creation is itself a natural treasure which belongs to everyone. No one gains authority over the earth, air, nature and water. When man tries to own these things in an unethical way, the person becomes greedy.

The same is a case when one becomes attracted towards other’s wealth, land or women. He obviously takes wrong path to quench his thirst and hunger for the wealth which doesn’t belong to him. The harmony of the nature is disturbed. It may lead to different sorts of crime and heinous activities, fights, battles, environmental and ecological imbalance, deforestation and disturbance of harmony of creation. At a personal front, he may face legal issues. Read – 5 Ayurvedic Tips For A Healthy Lifestyle

Arthashastra, Mahabharata

Relationship between arta and other pursuits The purusharthas are always a package. Each pursuit complements each other and also supports each other. Seeing grossly, each enables one to earn and gain the other pursuit. They are interrelated in a chain. Among all four goals of life, righteousness (dharma) is the most important and is applicable for obtaining the other three, includes artha.

Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra emphasizes the importance of dharma, artha, kama and moksha in that sequential order, the righteousness being the first and foremost pursuit to be targeted to achieve. Profit (artha) and pleasure (kama) are second and third. All these three when followed in righteous way will eventually pave pathway to attain spiritual liberation. Read – Incorporating Atma Jnana (Self Awareness) In Treatment – Case Study

In Arthashashtra, the greatest treatise dealing with political, economical and financial subjects, master Chanakya tells that the finances are the foundation for righteousness and pleasure, therefore the most important one. Money denotes prosperity and security of an individual and society as a whole. Without prosperity and financial security, life becomes a difficult challenge. Prosperity leads to virtues and love whereas poverty leads to disappointment and hate.
Read – Relieving Negative Feelings With Self Awareness: Atma Vijnana

Kautilya Chanakya also opines the interrelationship between all three pursuits and also emphasizes that one should not focus on excessive pursuit of any one as that would disturb the relationship and balance between the three pursuits, which would further lead to chaos and imbalance at social and individual levels.

Minister Vidura opines that righteous living ranks high. Arjuna stresses that prosperity is the most important one. He tells that without prosperity, people’s ability to seek other two pursuits, i.e. righteous living and pleasure fails.
Read – Stop Complaining And Increase Happiness In Life

Arjuna’s brother Bhima differs and tells that sex and pleasure come first. He tells that without pleasure, righteous living, prosperity or spiritual liberation doesn’t value. The eldest Pandava brother, Yudhistira stresses that righteous life stands first among the other pursuits. He also admits that righteous life, prosperity and pleasure should be balanced and followed in equal terms, with equal importance. Mahabharata, elsewhere has quoted that the balance of morality, profit and pleasure, all three must go together for attaining happiness in true terms.

Read – Cry Alone, But Laugh In The Crowd

Even among the four pursuits, each pursuit becomes important at different age groups. For a child or teenager, education and pleasure is important, in youth – pleasure, productivity and prosperity matters and in old age it is all about following righteousness and seeking for spiritual liberation.

‘Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver’.

Ayn Rand

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2 comments on “Artha – Pursuit For Ethical Earning, Money, Wealth

  • Dr RajalakshmiGopalan

    18/07/2019 - 5:11 pm

    Following Dharma, this article is also a treasure. Awaiting commentary on Kama and Moksha. You must find a way to spread these values to a very very large number of people, particularly youngsters. If it is not against your principles perhaps you may get these published in Bhavan’s Journal and other similar magazines.

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