Hindu philosophy states that man has four objectives (ashrams) in life: Wealth and knowled

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Hindu philosophy states that man has four objectives (ashrams) in life: Wealth and knowledge (Artha), social order (Dharma), sensory pleasure (Kama) and spiritual liberation (Moksha). Hinduism makes the important distinction that each individual is different. To accommodate the myriad of human differences, different stages of life exist, allowing the individual to express himself. There is no moral sin in Hinduism. Each person is free to experience as much sensory pleasure (kama) or accumulate as much wealth (artha) as he or she desires, just as long as no one gets hurt in the process. Only by completely satiating the desires can the individual finally realize the inadequacies in their material wants. For example, by indulging in sensual pleasures repeatedly and to excess, the pleasure begins to wane and soon transforms itself into the opposite of pleasure, pain. Even if the pleasures do not become painful, the individual will, at times, be without his pleasures, therefore causing him pain and discomfort from want of satisfaction. Just as a drug addict undergoes withdrawal symptoms, the individual obsessed with sensory pleasures will also become agitated and uncomfortable if his sensual needs are not met. The experience of sensory overload through excessive kama is not the key in itself to overcoming desire. Along with the overload experience must come the realization of the impermanence and superficial nature of the individuals past experiences. A true spiritual turning point can only be accomplished through the combination of overload and realization. One method that will not work in passing through the first three stages is the turning away from wants and desires. Most Western religions preach that abstinence and self control are the key to overcoming most sensual desires. This is the exact opposite for the Hindu. To the Hindu, abstinence from desire is not normal for the individual with strong wants. By not experiencing the pain and impermanence (Dukkha) of his wants, the individual merely lives a static life without advancing toward the painful, yet much needed realizations. Immersing themselves in the three wants of man, most people in every society never recognize the impermanence of their desires. At least, they don't recognize them in one lifetime. This is alright. Each individual has had an infinite number of lives to realize what has been realized to date, and if an individual doesn't realize the impermanence and suffering involved in all his worldly desires in his present life, he will have many more lives of suffering to attain understanding. However, it is important not to use this argument as an excuse for avoiding spiritual practice. For just as an individual can fritter away his present life, so can he also fritter away countless lives without any spiritual advancement. The time for realization is in the present lifetime. The many lives that follow merely exist for the perfection of an individuals enlightened way of being. As each stage of wants comes to a natural end, the individual is encouraged to move with it, just like any other natural event that occurs in life. When all the wants of the individual are truly satisfied, the dukkha inherent in existence become apparent. At this level the searcher is confronted with more fundamental questions of existence, like: Who is this that is searching? By asking questions such as this, the individual begins to focus on the fourth stage of life, Moksha, or liberation. By accepting reality and trying to understand ones place in it, the Hindu seeker makes a radical shift from his previous viewpoint in which reality was being forced to fit him. The giving up of the "me" mentality, is the most important and critical aspect of spiritual development. Without the giving up of the ego and everything that makes up the superficial character of the individual, he cannot open himself up to the realization of the "infinite". To use a Buddhist example, most people see the world by looking through a pipe, blinded by their own narrow viewpoint of themselves and reality. Liberation involves doing away with the pipe to perceive reality as it truly is. With desires and wants far behind him, the spiritual seeker is free to realize the nature of the universe and his part in it. THE FOUR WANTS OF MAN by Gary L. Ray Religious Studies 506 Religions of India San Diego State University

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