Hindu Literature: Smriti

Hindu Literature can be classified into two broad categories: Shruti & Smriti. This blog covers in detail the Smriti Literature. You can read about Shruti (Vedas) in the Hindu Literature: Shruti (Vedas) post.


Smriti means ‘that which is remembered’. Smiritis are human thoughts in response to the Shrutis and they are traditionally regarded to be rooted in Shrutis. They are authored by sages and saints who mastered Sruthi and brought in their experiences & revelations. Smrtis represent the remembered, written tradition in Hinduism. The Smrti literature is a vast corpus of derivative work. All Smriti texts are regarded to ultimately be rooted in or inspired by Shruti.The Smrti corpus includes, but is not limited to:

  • The six Vedāngas (grammar, meter, phonetics, etymology, astronomy and rituals)
  • The Itihasa (literally means “so indeed it was”)(the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyana)
  • The Purānas (literally, “of old”)
  • The Kāvya or poetical literature,
  • The extensive Bhasyas (reviews and commentaries on Shrutis and non-Shruti texts),
  • The sutras and shastras of the various schools of Hindu philosophy
  • The numerous Nibandhas (digests) covering politics, medicine (Caraka Samhita), ethics (Nitisastras), culture, arts and society.
  • The texts on the four proper goals or aims of human life:
    • Dharma: These texts discuss dharma from various religious, social, duties, morals and personal ethics perspective. Each of six major schools of Hinduism has its own literature on dharma. Examples include Dharma-sutras (particularly by Gautama, Apastamba, Baudhayana and Vāsiṣṭha) and Dharma-sastras (particularly Manusmṛti, Yājñavalkya Smṛti, Nāradasmṛti and Viṣṇusmṛti). At the personal dharma level, this includes many chapters of Yogasutras.
    • Artha: Artha-related texts discuss artha from individual, social and as a compendium of economic policies, politics and laws. For example, the Arthashastra of Chanakya, the Kamandakiya Nitisara, Brihaspati Sutra, and Sukra Niti. Olivelle states that most Artha-related treatises from ancient India have been lost.
    • Kama: These discuss arts, emotions, love, erotics, relationships and other sciences in the pursuit of pleasure. The Kamasutra of Vātsyāyana is most well known. Others texts include Ratirahasya, Jayamangala, Smaradipika, Ratimanjari, Ratiratnapradipika, Ananga Ranga among others.
    • Moksha: These develop and debate the nature and process of liberation, freedom and spiritual release. Major treatises on the pursuit of moksa include the later Upanishads (early Upanishads are considered Sruti literature), Vivekachudamani, and the sastras on Yoga.


Purana is a ten-dimensional documentation about history explaining various events of the past. These 10 dimensions include:

  1. Sargah: History of Creation of Cosmos
  2. Visargah: History of Creation of Worlds
  3. Vrutti: History of Evolution of Life
  4. Raksha: History of Sustenance of Life
  5. Antarani: History of Time Scale
  6. Vamsa: History of Lineage
  7. Vamsanucharita: History of Dynasties
  8. Samstha: History of Catastrophes
  9. Hetu: History of Prime Causes
  10. Apasarayah: History of Supreme Being

There are 18 Mahapuranas. Vyasa, the son of Rishi Parasara, is said to be the author of them all. Of these eighteen puranas, six are Sattvic Puranas glorifying Vishnu; six are Rajasic, glorifying Brahma; six are Tamasic, glorifying Siva.

  • Sattva – “Truth” – Shiva Purana, Linga Purana, Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Naradeya Purana, Garuda Purana, Padma Purana, Varaha Purana
  • Rajas – “Passion” – Brahmanda Purana, Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Markandeya Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Vamana Purana, Brahma Purana
  • Tamas – “Ignorance” – Matsya Purana, Kurma purana, Skanda Purana, Agni Purana

The list of 18 Mahapuranas are as follows:

  • Brahma Purana: Sometimes called Adi Purana, on the grounds that numerous Mahapuranas records put it first of 18. The content has 245 sections, shares numerous entries with Vishnu, Vayu, Markandeya Puranas, and with the Mahabharata. Incorporates folklore, hypothesis of war, craftsmanship in sanctuaries, and other social themes. Portrays blessed places in Odisha, and weaves subjects of Vishnu and Shiva, yet barely any notice of divinity Brahma in spite of the title.
  • Padma Purana: An enormous aggregation of assorted subjects, it portrays cosmology, the world and nature of life from the point of view of Vishnu. It likewise talks about celebrations, various legends, topography of waterways and locales from northwest India to Bengal to the realm of Tripura, significant sages of India, different Avatars of Vishnu and his collaboration with Shiva, an account of Rama-Sita that is not quite the same as the Hindu epic Ramayana. The north Indian compositions of Padma Purana are altogether different from south Indian adaptations, and the different recensions in the two gatherings in various dialects (Devanagari and Bengali, for instance) show major inconsistencies. Like the Skanda Purana, it is a point by point composition on movement and journey focuses in India.
  • Vishnu Purana: One of the most examined and flowed Puranas, it likewise contains genealogical subtleties of different dynasties. Better protected after the seventeenth century, however exists in conflicting variants, more old pre-fifteenth century renditions are totally different from current adaptations, for certain forms talking about Buddhism and Jainism. A few sections probably formed in the Kashmir and Punjab area of South Asia. A Vaishnavism text, zeroed in on Vishnu.
  • Shiva Purana: Discusses Shiva, and tales about him.
  • Bhagavata Purana: The most examined and famous of the Puranas, recounting Vishnu’s Avatars, and of Vaishnavism. It contains genealogical subtleties of different dynasties. Numerous conflicting adaptations of this content and verifiable original copies exist, in numerous Indian languages. Influential and expounded during Bhakti development.
  • Narada Purana: Also called Naradiya Purana. Talks about the four Vedas and the six Vedangas. Commits one section each, from Chapters 92 to 109, to sum up the other 17 Maha Puranas and itself. Records significant waterways of India and spots of journey, and a short local escort for each. Incorporates conversation of different ways of thinking, soteriology, planets, cosmology, fantasies and attributes of significant gods including Vishnu, Shiva, Devi, Krishna, Rama, Lakshmi and others.
  • Markandeya Purana: Describes Vindhya Range and western India. Likely made in the valleys out of Narmada and Tapti waterways, in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Named after sage Markandeya, an understudy of Brahma. Contains parts on dharma and on Hindu epic Mahabharata. The Purana incorporates Devi Mahatmyam of Shaktism.
  • Agni Purana: Contains comprehensive data. Incorporates topography of Mithila (Bihar and adjoining states), social history, legislative issues, schooling framework, iconography, tax collection hypotheses, association of armed force, speculations on appropriate foundations for war, discretion, neighborhood laws, building public undertakings, water conveyance strategies, trees and plants, medication, Vastu Shastra (design), gemology, language, measurements, verse, food, customs and various different subjects.
  • Bhavishya Purana: The Bhavishya Purana is one of the eighteen significant works in the Purana class of Hinduism, written in Sanskrit.The title Bhavishya signifies “future” and infers it is a work that contains predictions with respect to the future, nonetheless, the “prescience” portions of the surviving compositions are a cutting edge period expansion and henceforth not an indispensable piece of the Bhavishya Purana.Those segments of the enduring original copies that are dated to be more seasoned, are somewhat acquired from other Indian messages, for example, Brihat Samhita and Shamba Purana.
  • Brahmavaivarta Purana: It is connected by Savarni to Narada, and revolves around the significance of Krishna and Radha. In this, the tale of Brahma-varaha is over and again told. Notable for declaring that Krishna is the incomparable reality and the divine beings Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma are manifestations of him. Mentions geology and streams, for example, Ganga to Kaveri
  • Linga Purana: Discusses Lingam, image of Shiva, and beginning of the universe according to Shaivism. It likewise contains numerous accounts of Lingam, one of which involves how Agni Lingam addressed a question among Vishnu and Brahma.
  • Varaha Purana: Primarily Vishnu-related love manual, with huge Mahatmya segments or travel manuals for Mathura and Nepal. Presentation centers around Varaha as manifestation of Narayana, however once in a while utilizes the terms Krishna or Vasudeva. Many outlines additionally include Shiva and Durga.
  • Skanda Purana: Describes the introduction of Skanda (or Karthikeya), child of Shiva. The longest Purana, it is a remarkably fastidious journey control, containing geological areas of journey focused in India, with related legends, illustrations, songs and stories. Numerous untraced cites are ascribed to this content.
  • Vamana Purana: Describes North India, especially Himalayan lower regions locale.
  • Kurma Purana: Contains a blend of Vishnu and Shiva related legends, folklore, Tirtha (journey) and philosophy.
  • Matsya Purana: A reference book of different topics. Narrates the tale of Matsya, the first of ten significant Avatars of Vishnu. Likely formed in west India, by individuals mindful of topographical subtleties of the Narmada waterway. Incorporates legends about Brahma and Saraswati. It likewise contains a disputable genealogical subtleties of different lines.
  • Garuda Purana: A reference book of different topics. Primarily about Vishnu, yet adulates all divine beings. Depicts how Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma team up. Numerous sections are a discourse among Vishnu and the winged animal vehicle Garuda. Cosmology, Describes cosmology, connection between divine beings. Talks about morals, what are violations, acceptable versus detestable, different schools of Hindu ways of thinking, the hypothesis of Yoga, the hypothesis of “paradise and damnation” with “karma and resurrection”, incorporates Upanishadic conversation of self-information as a methods for moksha. Includes sections on streams, geology of Bharat (India) and different countries on earth, kinds of minerals and stones, testing techniques for stones for their quality, different sicknesses and their indications, different drugs, aphrodisiacs, prophylactics, Hindu schedule and its premise, space science, moon, planets, soothsaying, design, building home, fundamental highlights of a sanctuary, transitional experiences, ethics, for example, sympathy, good cause and blessing making, economy, frugality, obligations of a ruler, legislative issues, state authorities and their jobs and how to arrangement them, class of writing, rules of language structure, and other topics. The last parts examine how to rehearse Yoga (Samkhya and Advaita types), self-awareness and the advantages of self-information.
  • Brahmanda Purana: One of the most punctually created Puranas, it contains a disputable genealogical subtleties of different dynasties. Includes Lalita Sahasranamam, law codes, arrangement of administration, organization, tact, exchange, morals. Old compositions of Brahmanda Purana have been found in the Hindu writing assortments of Bali, Indonesia.


Itihasa literally means ‘this is how it happened’. Itihasas are historical records of highest order & have been influencing the ethos of India since time immemorial. A story is considered to be itihasa only when the writer of the story has himself witnessed the story. Vyasa, who wrote the Mahabharata, is himself a character in the story. Similarly, Valmiki, who wrote the Ramayana, was also a character in the story.  There are two Itihasas:

  • The Mahabharata includes the story of the Kurukshetra War and preserves the traditions of the Lunar dynasty in the form of embedded tales.
  • The Ramayana contains the story of Rama and is incidentally related to the legends of the Solar dynasty.


Agamas and Tantras are a vast collection of knowledge and form a major portion of spiritual literature and practices. Like the Veda, they have come down through Guru-Sishya parampara, in oral traditions. The word Agama means ‘that which has come to (us)‘. Tantra means ‘that which protects with detail’. Sruti, the eternal word, is said to be of two forms – Nigama (Veda) and Agama. Two kinds of texts, Agama and Tantra are in general grouped under the same class of literature.

There are three main classes of Agamic/Tantric texts Vaishnava Agamas, Saiva Agamas and Sakta Tantras, though not limited to these. The Vaishnava and Saiva texts are generally called Agamas, while the word Tantra in general applies to Sakta texts. However, technically Tantra is a part of Agama and owing to the centrality of Tantra the two words are used often interchangeably.

Agamas expound a variety of subjects and could be called the guides to a huge range of Hindu practices. They contain: Manuals for worship; Methods for salvation, Yoga; Devata, Yantra; Prayogas using various mantras; Temple Building, Town planning; Iconometry; Domestic practices and civil codes; Social/Public festivals; Holy Places; Principles of Universe, Creation and Dissolution; Spiritual Philosophy; Worlds; Austerities and many other interrelated subjects.


Siddhi means perfection, accomplishment, full attainment, a settled fact or an indisputable conclusion. It denotes mastery, control, excellence, faultlessness and completeness in some respect. Siddhanta refers to the knowledge, theory, doctrine or the support which leads to that end (antah) or the finality of that accomplishment or perfection


The Brahma Sūtras is a Sanskrit text, attributed to the sage Badarayana or sage Vyasa, estimated to have been completed in its surviving form in approx. 400-450 CE, while the original version might be ancient and composed between 1500 BCE and 1200 BCE. The text systematizes and summarizes the philosophical and spiritual ideas in the Upanishads.

The Brahma Sūtras consists of 555 aphoristic verses (sutras) in four chapters. These verses are primarily about the nature of human existence and universe, and ideas about the metaphysical principle of Ultimate Reality called Brahman.

  • Chapter 1: What is Brahman?: This chapter asserts that all the Upanishads primarily aim and coherently describe the knowledge and meditation of Brahman, the ultimate reality. Brahman is the source from which the world came into existence, in whom it inheres and to which it returns. The only source for the knowledge of this Brahman is the Sruti or the Upanishads.
  • Chapter 2: Review of competing theories:This chapter discusses and refutes the possible objections to Vedānta philosophy raised by the ideas of competing orthodox schools of Hindu philosophies such as Nyaya, Yoga, Vaisheshika and Mimamsa as well as heterodox schools such as Buddhism and Jainism, and states that the central themes of Vedanta are consistent across the various Vedic texts.
  • Chapter 3: The means to spiritual knowledge: This chapter describes the process by which ultimate emancipation can be achieved. It focuses on the nature of spiritual knowledge and epistemic paths to it. The theory of death and rebirth, karma and importance of conduct and free will, and the connection between Atman (Self, Soul) and the Brahman are discussed
  • Chapter 4: The benefits of spiritual knowledge: This chapter describes meditation as means to knowledge. The liberated soul, asserts the Brahma Sūtras, is of the nature of Brahman, with inner power and knowledge, free from evil, free from grief, free from suffering, one of bliss and “for such there is freedom in all worlds”. The state where the person accepts, “I am Brahman, not another being” (Adi Shankara), and “God is to be contemplated as the Self“.


The Dharmasūtras are texts dealing with custom, rituals, duties and law. They include the four surviving written works of the ancient Indian tradition on the subject of dharma, or the rules of behavior recognized by a community. Unlike the later dharmaśāstras, the dharmasūtras are composed in prose. The oldest dharmasūtra is generally believed to have been that of Apastamba, followed by the dharmasūtras of Gautama, Baudhayana, and an early version of Vashistha.

Dharmasutras emerged from the literary tradition of the Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sāma, and Atharva). Dharmasūtras primarily addresses the Brahmins both in subject matter and the audience. The Brahmins are the creators and primary consumers of these texts. The subject matter of Dharmasūtras is dharma. The central focus of these texts is how a Brahmin male should conduct himself during his lifetime. The extant Dharmasūtra texts are listed below:

Apastamba Dharmasūtra (450–350 BCE)

This Dharmasūtra forms a part of the larger Kalpasūtra of Apastamba. The text is notable for its broad minded and liberal views on women and all social classes. Of the two books of this Dharmasūtra, the first is devoted to the student tradition and the second book is devoted to the householder tradition. The Āpastamba Dharmasutra is notable for placing the importance of the Veda scriptures second and that of samayacarika or mutually agreed and accepted customs of practice first. Āpastamba proposes that scriptures alone cannot be source of Law (dharma), and dharma has an empirical nature.

Āpastamba used a hermeneutic strategy to assert that the Vedas once contained all knowledge including that of ideal Dharma, but parts of Vedas have been lost. Human customs developed from the original complete Vedas, but given the lost text, one must use customs between good people as a source to infer what the original Vedas might have stated the Dharma to be. Laws must also change with ages, states Āpastamba, a theory that became known as Yuga Dharma in Hindu traditions. Apastamba Dharmasutra also recognizes property rights of women, and her ability to inherit wealth from her parents. The Apastamba tradition may have been originated from south India, possibly near where modern Andhra Pradesh

Gautama Dharmasūtra (600–200 BCE)

Although this Dharmasūtra comes down as an independent treatise it may have once formed a part of the Kalpasūtra, linked to the Samaveda. It is likely the oldest extant Dharma text, and originated in what is modern Maharashtra-Gujarat. The text is notable that it mentions many older texts and authorities on Dharma, which has led scholars to conclude that there existed a rich genre of Dharmasutras text in ancient India before this text was composed. It also suggest that private property rights existed in ancient India, that the king had a right to collect taxes and had a duty to protect the citizens of his kingdom as well as settle disputes between them by a due process if and when these disputes emerged. Other issues discussed in this Dharmasutra include: Personal rituals; Punishment and penances; Inheritance and conflicts within law

Baudhāyana Dharmasūtra (500–200 BCE)

This Dharmasūtra like that of Apastamba also forms a part of the larger Kalpasūtra. The Baudhāyana Śulbasûtra is noted for containing several early mathematical results, including an approximation of the square root of 2, finding a circle whose area is the same as that of a square and the statement of the Pythagorean theorem

Vāsiṣṭha Dharmasūtra (300–100 BCE)

This Dharmasūtra forms an independent treatise and other parts of the Kalpasūtra, that is Shrauta- and Grihya-sutras are missing. It contains 1,038 sutras.


Dharmaśāstra is a genre of Sanskrit theological texts, and refers to the treatises (śāstras) of Hinduism on dharma. The Dharmashastras are based on ancient Dharmasūtra texts. There are many Dharmashastras, variously estimated to be 18 to about 100, with different and conflicting points of view. Each of these texts exist in many different versions, and each is rooted in Dharmasutra texts dated to 1st millennium BCE that emerged from Kalpa (Vedanga) studies in the Vedic era.

The Dharmasutras can be called the guidebooks of dharma as they contain guidelines for individual and social behavior, ethical norms, as well as personal, civil and criminal law. The texts include discussion of ashrama (stages of life), varna (social classes), purushartha (proper goals of life), personal virtues and duties such as ahimsa (non-violence) against all living beings, rules of just war, and other topics. Dharmasastras were written after the Dharmasūtras, these texts use a metered verse and are much more elaborate in their scope than Dharmasutras. The extant Dharmaśāstras texts are listed below:

The Manusmriti (2nd to 3rd century CE)

The metrical text is in Sanskrit, and it presents itself as a discourse given by Manu (Svayambhuva) and Bhrigu on dharma topics such as duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and others. The text covers different topics, and is unique among ancient Indian texts in using “transitional verses” to mark the end of one subject and the start of the next. The text can be broadly divided into four:

  • Creation of the world
  • Source of dharma
  • The dharma of the four social classes
  • Law of karma, rebirth and final liberation

Manusmriti offers an inconsistent and internally conflicting perspective on women’s rights. It preaches chastity to widows at one place, opposes a woman marrying someone outside her own social class in some verses. In other verses, Manusmriti preaches that as a girl, she should obey and seek protection of her father, as a young woman her husband, and as a widow her son; and that a woman should always worship her husband as a god.

The medieval era Buddhistic law of Myanmar and Thailand are also ascribed to Manu, and the text influenced past Hindu kingdoms in Cambodia and Indonesia.

The Yājñavalkya Smṛti (4th to 5th-century CE)

This has been called the “best composed” and “most homogeneous” text of the Dharmaśāstra tradition, with its superior vocabulary and level of sophistication. It may have been more influential in medieval India’s judiciary practice than Manusmriti as a legal theory text. Legal theories within the Yajnavalkya Smriti are presented in three books, namely achara-kanda (normative behavior and practices of a community), vyavahara-kanda (judicial procedure, process, practice, conduct and behaviour) and prayascitta-kanda (atonement, expiation, penance, an alternative to punishment). Yājñavalkya portrayed evidence as hierarchical, with attested documents receiving the highest consideration, followed by witnesses, and finally ordeals

The Nāradasmṛti (5th to 6th-century CE)

This has been called the “juridical text par excellence” and represents the only Dharmaśāstra text which deals solely with juridical matters and ignoring those of righteous conduct and penance. Its focused nature has made the text highly valued by rulers and their governments

The Viṣṇusmṛti (7th-century CE)

This is one of the latest books of the Dharmaśāstra tradition in Hinduism and also the only one which does not deal directly with the means of knowing dharma, focusing instead on the bhakti tradition, requiring daily puja to the god Vishnu. It is also known for its handling of the controversial subject of the practice of sati
In addition to the above, numerous other Dharmaśāstras are known, partially or indirectly, with very different ideas, customs and conflicting versions. For example, the manuscripts of Bṛhaspatismṛti and the Kātyāyanasmṛti have not been found, but their verses have been cited in other texts, and scholars have made an effort to extract these cited verses, thus creating a modern reconstruction of these texts.

Between the three, the Manusmriti became famous during the colonial British India era, yet modern scholarship states that other Dharmasastras such as the Yajnavalkyasmriti appear to have played a greater role in guiding the actual Dharma. Further, the Dharmasastras were open texts, and they underwent alterations and rewriting through their history.


Dharmaśāstras played an influential role in modern era colonial India history, when they were used as the basis for the law of the land for all non-Muslims. For Muslims of India, the Sharia or the religious law for Muslims was readily available in al-Hidaya and Fatawa-i Alamgiri written under the sponsorship of Aurangzeb. For Hindus and other non-Muslims such as Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Tribal people, this information was unavailable. The British colonial officials extracted from the Dharmaśāstra, the legal code to apply on non-Muslims for the purposes of colonial administration. The British colonial officials, however, mistook the Manusmriti as codes of law, failed to recognise that it was a commentary on morals and law and not a statement of positive law. The colonial officials of the early 19th century also failed to recognise that Manusmriti was one of many competing Dharmasastra texts, it was not in use for centuries during the Islamic rule period of India.

The Dharmashastra-derived laws for non-Muslim Indians were dissolved after India gained independence, but Indian Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937 continued to be the personal and family law for Indian Muslims.[131] For non-Muslims, a non-religious uniform civil code was passed by Indian parliament in the 1950s, and amended by its elected governments thereafter, which has since then applied to all non-Muslim Indians.

The Manusmrti has been subject to appraisal and criticism. Among the notable Indian critics of the text in the early 20th century was BR Ambedkar, who held Manusmriti as responsible for caste system in India. In protest, Ambedkar burnt Manusmrti in a bonfire. Gandhi opposed the book burning. The latter stated that while caste discrimination was harmful to spiritual and national growth, it had nothing to do with Hinduism and its texts such as Manusmriti. Gandhi considered Manusmriti to include lofty teachings but a text with inconsistency and contradictions, whose original text is in no one’s possession.Ambedkar asserted that Manusmriti was written by a sage named Brigu during the times of Pushyamitra Sungha in connection with social pressures caused by the rise of Buddhism.


Ashrama in Hinduism is one of four age-based life stages discussed in Indian texts of the ancient and medieval eras. The four ashramas are:

  1. Brahmacharya (student): This stage focuses on education and included the practice of celibacy. The student went to a Gurukul (house of the guru) and typically would live with a Guru (mentor), acquiring knowledge of science, philosophy, scriptures and logic, practicing self-discipline, working to earn dakshina to be paid for the guru, learning to live a life of Dharma
  2. Grihastha (householder): This stage focuses on individual’s married life, with the duties of maintaining a household, raising a family, educating one’s children, and leading a family-centred and a dharmic social life. This stage also represented one where the most intense physical, sexual, emotional, occupational, social and material attachments exist in a human being’s life
  3. Vanaprastha (forest walker/forest dweller): The retirement stage, where a person handed over household responsibilities to the next generation, took an advisory role, and gradually withdrew from the world. It is a transition phase with shifting focus from Artha and Kama to Moksha.
  4. Sannyasa (renunciate):The stage was marked by renunciation of material desires and prejudices, represented by a state of disinterest and detachment from material life, generally without any meaningful property or home (Ascetic), and focussed on Moksha, peace and simple spiritual life.

The Ashrama system is one facet of the Dharma concept in Hinduism. It is also a component of the ethical theories in Indian philosophy, where it is combined with four proper goals of human life (Purusartha), for fulfilment, happiness and spiritual liberation. Moreover, since the four ashramas can be seen as the framework of an influential life-span model, they are also part of an indigenous developmental psychology which from its ancient beginnings until today has shaped the orientations and goals of many people, especially in India


Puruṣārtha literally means an “object of human pursuit“. It is a key concept in Hinduism, and refers to the four proper goals or aims of a human life. The four puruṣārthas are:

  • Dharma (righteousness, moral values): signifies behaviors that are considered to be in accord with rta, the order that makes life and universe possible,[16] and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and right way of living
  • Artha (prosperity, economic values): signifies the “means of life”, activities and resources that enables one to be in a state one wants to be in. Artha incorporates wealth, career, activity to make a living, financial security and economic prosperity.
  • Kama (pleasure, love, psychological values): signifies desire, wish, passion, emotions, pleasure of the senses, the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, with or without sexual connotations.
  • Moksha (liberation, spiritual values): signifies emancipation, liberation or freedom from saṃsāra, the cycle of death and rebirth

All four Purusarthas are important, but in cases of conflict, Dharma is considered more important than Artha or Kama in Hindu philosophy. Moksha is considered the ultimate ideal of human life. At the same time, this is not a consensus among all Hindus, and many have different interpretations of the hierarchy, and even as to whether one should exist.
Indian scholars recognized and have debated the inherent tension between renunciation and Moksha on one hand, and the active pursuit of Kama and Artha on the other. They offered a creative resolution to the tension between “action”-filled life and “renunciation”-driven life, by suggesting the best of both worlds can be achieved by dedicating oneself to “action with renunciation”, that is when “action is without attachment or craving for results“. This idea of “craving-free, dharma-driven action” has been called Nishkam Karma in Bhagavad Gita.

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