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Yoga Articles by Julene Packer-Louis

Four Aims of Life & Astrological Correspondences
by Julene Packer-Louis

The four aims of life are called Purusharthas in Sanskrit. Purusha means eastern dawn and represents the creative consciousness of Brahman, the absolute truth and eternal reality of the universe. Artha means objective. Together Purushartha means the objective of pure consciousness as an objective of human life.

Purusha is pure consciousness as the ultimate organizing principal of supreme intelligence in the universe. Our connection to the Purusha within is called the Atman and represents our higher self and connection to the god who dwells within all of us. Purusha is the male aspect of Brahman. The female aspect is Prakriti. Together the two aspects of Prakrit are called Iswara.

Prakriti means that which gives shape. Prakriti is Mother Nature, the substance of the manifest universe, the primal matter, and represents our primordial nature. Prakriti has three qualities called gunas: rajas, tamas, and sattva which is an another article in itself. For the purposes of this article Prakriti is responsible for the duality we perceive and illusions of maya - the manifest world around us. The influence of and our involvement with Prakriti gives us the ego self or false self called ahamkara.

The idea behind the four aims of life is to achieve liberation [moksha] from the ego self and thus ultimately the wheel of life, death, rebirth [samsara]. This is not to deny Prakriti for Purusha but to strike a balance; to act with pure consciousness while experiencing the joys and pains physical manifest life on Earth. It is the manner in which we pursue the four aims of life that either entangles us with further karma or liberates us. Intent has much to do with it. The idea is to enjoy life without attaching to the things in it or the outcome of it.

The major conundrum of human life reminds me very much of a quincunx aspect (150 degrees) in western astrology between Leo and Pisces, the 5th and 12th house. For Leo and the 5th represents the ego consciousness and Pisces and the 12th represents spiritual consciousness. A quincunx aspect is a conundrum, where one often feels darned if you do and darned if you don't, where a psychological adjustment is needed to bring two things together that have seemingly nothing in common. For example Leo is a masculine, fixed, fire sign and Pisces is a feminine, mutable, water sign. All signs that quincunx each other have a difficult time seeing each others point of view because there is no common gender, element or quality. This is why a psychological adjustment is required. Of course it is the nature of Prakriti and duality that provides this perception of no common ground. So with this particular quincunx we have to overcome the duality of Prakariti that veils Purusha by ceasing to identify with perceptions of the ego-mind (Leo/5th) and through non-attachment reveal the Atman within (Pisces/12th).

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali address this conundrum. See if you can hear the concepts of Purusha & Prakriti within them. The translation below is by Mukunda Stiles.

I, 2: Yoga is experienced in the mind which has ceased to identify itself with its vacillating waves of perception.
I, 3: When this happens, the Seer is revealed, resting in its own essential nature, and one realizes the True Self.
I, 12: The vacillating waves of perception are stilled through consistent earnest practice and dispassionate non-attachment.
1, 16: The ultimate state of non-attachment arises from self-realization, in which there is indifference to the primordial forces of desire, as everything and everyone is experienced as one's own True Self.

The four aims of life are ways we can move forward on our spiritual path to experience the grandeur life has to offer with non-attachment while fulfilling the purpose of our True Self at the same time. The purpose of the Purusharthas is to make life a rewarding and enriching experience that is balanced in the spiritual and material. The pursuit of Dharma keeps us on the righteous path. The pursuit of Artha & Kama enrich our life experience and provide us with lessons in non-attachment. The pursuit of Moksha leads to salvation, liberation, Nirvana.

Dharma: Life Purpose & Righteousness

Element [Dhaatu]: Fire [agni]
Astrological Signs [Rasis]: Aries [Mesha], Leo [Simha], Sagittarius [Dhanus]
Astrological Houses [Bhavas]: First [Tanu Bhava], Fifth [Putra Bhava], Ninth [Dharma Bhava]

Dharma in its broadest sense is the immutable nature beyond a mutable physical reality. Dharma is the binding spiritual force that upholds and regulates the universe, kind of like how gravity holds everything on Earth. Dharma exists on all planes or levels of creation. On the spiritual level, Dharma is the law of God, the divine justice that rewards and punishes our actions. Dharma on the physical level is the archetypal patterns of nature and society that define our responsibilities, moralities, sense of justice or justness, and society's rewards and punishments for our actions. However what is right [dharma] and wrong [adharma] is not always black and white in the physical realm. One must quiet Prakriti and seek Purusha, then act in accord.

Astrologically these are the life houses and western psychological astrology recognizes each of these as the beginning stages of development of the ID (Aries/1st, instinctual development), Ego (Leo/5th ego consciousness), and Super-Ego (Sagittarius/9th, quest for universal consciousness). These houses describe our sense of purpose and the spirit (fire) that moves us to fulfill our purpose.

Arhta: Acquisition of Wealth

Element [Dhaatu]: Earth [mahii or dhariti]
Astrological Signs [Rasis]: Taurus [Vrishabha], Virgo [Kanya], Capricorn [Makara]
Astrological Houses [Bhavas]: Second [Dhana Bhava], Sixth [Shatru Bhava], Tenth [Karma Bhava]

Artha means wealth and this covers both spiritual and material wealth. Wealth is not a bad thing, and being wealthy is not the antithesis of being spiritual, though being attached to it is. We need money on Earth to put a roof over our heads, food on our plates, keep the utilities on, take classes to further our development, etc. Money, wealth and prosperity are divine forms of energy because they are manifestations of the abundant nature of the universe. Acting to acquire wealth based on the selfishness or the ego is negative, acquiring it because you have stepped into the flow of non-attachment and it comes to you by your merit is positive. The point of the matter is neither poverty nor greed are virtues. Renunciation of wealth is often erroneously taken to mean a total disregard for money and material things, to sell everything and live an impoverished life. What it really means is detaching from wealth and being indifferent to the comforts they provide. It's ok to buy the most luxurious home you can afford, but don't attach it as an extension of yourself. What happens then if then if your home is taken from you? It is much more devastating when it is wrapped up in who you are rather than a place of survival against the elements, to share with loved ones, and to comfortably rest your head at night - that my friends you can have in many houses of all shapes and sizes.

Artha is often one of the most difficult things for spiritual practitioners to reconcile "if I care about money how am I being spiritual?" or "How can I charge what my service is worth and still be providing a self-less service?" The duality of Prakriti in this question is inherent in the opposition between Virgo/6th and Pisces/12th. The idea is to balance both by stepping into the universal flow of abundance which is a natural law of the universe. The fact of the matter is that two of the wealth houses are in sextile to the 12th: the 2nd house of moveable possessions and liquid assets, and the 10th house of career, status and achievement. Therefore these two houses provide an opportunity (key word for a sextile) for us to acquire these things without attaching to or identifying with our possession or the outcome of our career and its accompanying social status. The ultimate goal of Artha is seek these things not for selfish desires of the ego but because in doing so we are fulfilling our dharma, the purpose of our True Self.

Kama: Desires & Emotional Fulfillment

Element [Dhaatu]: Air [vaaya]
Astrological Signs [Rasis]: Gemini [Mithuna], Libra [Thula], Aquarius [Kumbha]
Astrological Houses [Bhavas]: Third [Sahaj Bhava], Seventh [Kalatra Bhava], Eleventh [Labha Bhava]

Kama means desire and is associated with the air element because desires are born in the mind. Kama is about both sensory and sexual pleasure, hence the Kama Sutra. Things born in the mind eventually lodge themselves in our emotional body and all sorts of feelings arise around the objects of our desires. Therefore Kama is the root cause of our suffering because desires are often not satisfied by the enjoyment the object we desire, instead we often want more. It is like the insatiable thirst. This leads to the greed which is the negative of Artha and thus takes us further from our purpose or Dharma. It's like throwing more and more logs on a fire until eventually the smoke enshrouds the fire. This is how our burning desires enshroud our mind as we feed them more and more logs. We become deluded or egotistic and a slave to our desires. The idea again is non-attachment to the objects to our desires and to the sensual or sexual gratification they bring; to do work or to perform duties not for gratification that the fruit of the results brings, but with the knowledge that it is really God or Spirit, working through you. To perform right action and right interaction with others is the goal of Kama.

These are the air signs of the intellect and houses of relationship. Planets in these signs and houses tell how we communicate our desires in relationships. In the 3rd it is our siblings and class mates of early education, our earliest relationships. In the 7th it is our partners and open enemies. In the 11th it is the groups of like mind we align our self with. How our desires were fulfilled in these relationships leads to the water signs an houses of synthesis where they become lodged in our emotional body as unquenchable desires.

Moksha: Liberation & Spiritual Transformation

Element [Dhaatu]: Water [jala]
Astrological Signs [Rasis]: Cancer [Kataka], Scorpio [Vrishika], Pisces [Meena]
Astrological Houses [Bhavas]: Fourth [Matru Bhaba], Eighth [Mrityu Bhava], Twelfth [Vyaya Bhava]

Moksha is liberation from samsara. Samsara means worldly illusion and the cycle of worldly existence. It is the ultimate aim of the four and includes mastery of the three that precede it. To attain Moksha there are four types of Yogas: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Jnana Yoga. Karma Yoga is the yoga of service; it is work for the sake of service without motivation or attachment to the fruits of labor. Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion; it is rituals of purification, mantras, meditation on scriptures, and similar things. Raja Yoga is more mystical and involves meditating on the many forms and aspects of God. Jnana Yoga is the yoga of knowledge; it seeks Truth of self, life, God and the universe.

These are the water houses where the cycle of the elements is synthesized. Cancer synthesizes the instinctual development process that began with survival need in Aries, to Taurus where we first attach our self to the sensory pleasures, to Gemini where learn to communicate our desires. Cancer synthesizes this in the form of nurturance, where our desires are first quenched, fed, or lulled by mother. Scorpio synthesizes the ego development process that began with the ego needs of Leo where we learn what our creative talents are, to Virgo where we use those talents to serve others, to Libra where we get married and harmonize our ego with another as we reflect them and they reflect us and we learn diplomacy. Scorpio synthesizes by creating our patterns of relating that become paradigms lodged in the psyche to avoid the ego from getting hurt. Pisces synthesizes the trans-personal process that begins in Sagittarius with the quest for Truth through the exploration of philosophy, religion and higher learning to Capricorn where we earn a living, set goals, and achieve status, to Aquarius where we take our Truth into the world with others who share our Truth to make a difference in the world for the benefit of humanity. Pisces synthesizes this experience in the spiritual ocean where we catch a glimpse of God or Spirit in our self and everyone one and everything around us. It is no coincidence that the 12th house is the house of Moksha. It is also no coincidence that the 9th house is the house of Dharma. For, it is our quest for Truth with a capital T that sets us on the path to liberation that is synthesized in Moksha. "And the Truth shall set you free."

© Julene Packer-Louis 2010