There is a third puruÀ¡rtha, dharma, that is neither artha nor k¡ma. Dharma is a word with many meanings, as we shall see.
Here, it refers to the pleasure born of harmony, the pleasure derived from friendship, sharing, helping another person, and so on. For example, when you are able to relieve someone's suffering, you experience a joy that is not k¡ma. This form of pleasure is different from both artha and k¡ma in that you do not usually seek out a person in pain in order to pick up some pleasure. It is not the same as going to Hawaii or to a concert. You happen to come across someone in pain, you are able to alleviate the person's discomfort, and you feel happy.
A doctor who does not work purely for financial gain enjoys this kind of pleasure. Charity works in the same way.
Those who are able to discover joy in such work do so, I would say, because there is inner growth and understanding, a certain sensitivity on their part. This sensitivity is also required to understand love, for to love another person thoroughly is to understand the other person, for which one should be educated, cultured. If a person has not learned through experiences, if a person is not cultured, what kind of joy can he or she get out of life? For such people, there can be only sensory pleasures, eating, for example. But many simple joys are lacking in their lives. Thus, the gain in one's life is commensurate with what one knows.
It seems that a certain professor of medicine, in his introductory class, said, 'What your mind does not know, your eyes do not see.' What he meant was that, without medical knowledge the cause for a disease would continue to elude a person, even though the symptoms are everywhere. The eyes may see the symptoms, but the mind does not know. In life also, the more I know, the brighter life is, because I cannot see more than what I know. This is not to imply that I should necessarily get more out of life, only that my life is to be lived properly, fully, which implies a lot of understanding.
Living does not simply mean dragging yourself around from day to day — from bed to work, back home and to bed again. The whole process repeats itself until the weekend comes. Then you drag yourself to some recreation in the hope of forgetting yourself — which is why recreation becomes so important. In fact, your whole life can be a recreation. Someone once asked a Swami, 'Swamiji, do you not take any holidays? You seem to be working every day.' In fact, the Swami's life is one long holiday.
If you enjoy what you do, life is very simple. If you do not enjoy what you do, then you have to do something to enjoy, which can be very costly. On the other hand, any pleasure that comes out of one's maturing process is a different type of joy. Not hurting someone, or doing the right thing at the right time, for instance, gives you joy — if not immediately, later. Suppose you have postponed doing something, like the laundry, vacuuming, or letter writing, the day you decide to do it — and do it, you find that there is a joy in finally having done it — a joy that is neither pleasure nor security. It is just doing what is to be done; it is dharma, a very big topic that we will discuss later. For now, it is enough to know that as you grow in your understanding, your dharma also grows.
These, then, are three of the four puruÀ¡rthas- artha, k¡ma and dharma. Because of the importance we place on dharma, the order can now be reversed — dharma, artha, and k¡ma.
Dharma accounts for your maturity. The more mature you are, the more dh¡rmika you are. In order to be mature, an understanding of dharma and conformity to it become of prime importance in one's life. Thus, dharma occupies the first place among these three human ends. Without violating dharma, doing what is to be done, you pursue artha and k¡ma, security and pleasure. This is how these three universal human pursuits are to be understood.