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The Purusārthas: An Axiological Exploration of Hinduism

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Three doctrines have often been identified in the context of Hindu civilization as its distinctive markers: the doctrine of the varnas (or the doctrine of the four classes), the doctrine of asramas (or the doctrine of the four stages of life), and the doctrine of the purusarthas (or the doctrine of the four goals of life). The study of the last of these has been comparatively neglected and the doctrine has even been dubbed a myth (Krishna 1996, 189–205). The purpose of this article is twofold: to establish the cogency of the doctrine of the purusarthas in the face of such criticism and to indicate the directions in which the doctrine could be developed further.
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Keywords: Asramas; Hindu ethics; Purusa¯rthas; pleasure; self-realization; value theory; varnas; virtue; wealth

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: McGill University, American Academy of Religion

Publication date: 1999-06-01

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