Yoga Journal

In the balance

AS THE NEW YEAR APPROACHES, it’s a good time to ask yourself an important question: Am I leading a wellbalanced life? And while it’s easy to get bogged down in the details—for example, you might set goals that relate to how you think you want to look or act in this world—consider bypassing those particulars this year. Yoga philosophy offers the key to a deeper approach that can reshape your whole life in a positive way: the purusharthas, or four aims of life.

The purusharthas—which include dharma (duty, ethics), artha (prosperity, wealth), kama (pleasure, sensual gratification), and moksha (the pursuit of liberation)—are the blueprint for human fulfillment. You can think of them as signposts that point us to a successful, balanced existence in the world, and working with them can help you create a satisfying life at the deepest and most holistic level.

“We all have a desire for a meaningful life. The purusharthas are the means that can help us achieve it,” says Rod Stryker, founder of ParaYoga and author of a book about the purusharthas called The Four Desires. “They are, in a larger sense, what practice is really all about,” he says, adding that the purusharthas offer a yogic perspective on how to engage skillfully in the world.

Cosmic Clues

The purusharthas are elaborated upon extensively in the Mahabharata, the epic Indian poem that contains the Bhagavad Gita, and are interwoven with yogic philosophy at the deepest levels. But they have their roots in the Rig Veda, the most ancient and revered of Hindu scriptures. “What the Rig Veda suggests is that the purusharthas are the inherent values of the universe,” says Douglas Brooks, a tantric scholar and professor of religion at

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