Dharma and the Purusharthas

Purusharthas - "the four ends of man"

Mathur, K. S. "Hindu values of life : Karma and dharma" [repr] in Religion in India (Delhi : Oxford University Press, 1991 [Oxford in India Readings in Sociology & Social & Cultural Anthropology]) 63-77.

Mathur’s article (excerpted from his book, Caste and Ritual in a Malwa Village [Asia Publishing House: Bombay, 1964] 78-95) presents a broader understanding of the popular conception of dharma and its association with Karma in Hindu daily life. Starting with transmigration, proceeding to Karma, and then to dharma, Mathur quotes Hindus from different caste and social situations, rehearses mythological and popular sources of these conceptions, and devotes the end of the chapter to the "principles of Dharma," which he collates according to three traditional categories, required, optional, and prohibited. Within the last category, he distinguishes between "moral," which involve merit/demerit, and "ritual" injunctions, which involve purity/pollution. He ends with a discussion of how dharma injunctions for a person who is outside of the village/clan social context become less restrictive and relativized.

Potter, Karl H., "Freedom and Its Conditions," in idem, Presuppositions of India’s Philosophies (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas Publishers, 1991) 1-24.

Potter’s purpose in this first chapter is to lay a conceptual foundation for his discussion of the union of practical and theoretical philosophy in Indian thought. His thesis is that the ultimate value of classical Hinduism is not rational morality, but freedom, not rational self-control in the interest of the community’s welfare, but complete control over one’s environment (3). He defines the purusharthas as attitudes of differentiated and graduated mental attention, artha being the attitude of minimal concern, proceeding through kama and dharma to moksha, the balance of greatest attention with least attachment. A person’s goal is seen as embarking on an actualizable path toward renunciation, not resignation, and is underwritten by the doctrines of karma and transmigration.


Halbfass, Wilhelm. "Dharma in the Self-Understanding of Traditional Hinduism," in idem, India and Europe: an Essay in Understanding (Albany: SUNY, 1988) 310-33.

An exegetical exploration of meanings of Dharma in traditional Hinduism. Halbfass emphasizes the xenological implications of the "orthodox" notion of dharma, particularly as found in the Mimamasa and Dharmashastra, as compared to rational critical attempts to universalize and ethicize dharma and base it on such principles as ahimsa, compassion, or the ‘golden rule,’ which are rejected by the tradition. He also problematizes assumptions about the Vedic understanding; dharma as natural order/lawfulness; as connected to dharana, connecting, supporting; he highlights the early understanding of opening, separating, holding apart.

Carman, John B. "Duties and rights in Hindu society" in Human rights and the world's religions. Notre Dame, Ind : Univ of Notre Dame Pr, 1988. (Boston University Studies in Philosophy and Religion 9). p. 113-128.

Knott, Kim, "Hindu Women, Destiny and Stridharma," Religion 26 (Ja 1996) 15-35.

Wilhelm, Friedrich, "The Concept of Dharma in Artha and Kama Literature," in Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty and J. Duncan M. Derrett, eds., The Concept of Duty in South Asia (Delhi: School of Oriental and African Studies, 1978) 66-79.


Altekar, A. S.. State and Government in Ancient India (reprint of 3rd ed., 1958) (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 1984).

Sil, Narasingha Prosad, Kautilya’s Arthasastra: A Comparative Study, Delhi: Academic Publishers, 1985.

Scharfe, Hartmut. The State in Indian Tradition (Leiden: Brill, 1989).


Spellman, John W., "Introduction," in Richard F. Burton, trans., The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana: The Classic Hindu Treatise on Love and Social Conduct," (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1964) 1-54.


Fort, Andrew O., "Going or Knowing? The Development of the Idea of Living Liberation in the Upanishads," Journal of Indian Philosophy 22 (Dec 1994) 379-90.

Hopkins, Thomas J., "Hindu Views of Death and Afterlife," in Hiroshi Obayashi, ed., Death and Afterlife: Perspectives of World Religions. (Westport, Conn : Greenwood, 1992) 143-155.

Olivelle, Patrick, "Amrta: Women and Indian Technologies of Immortality," Journal of Indian Philosophy 25 (Oct 1997) 429-49.