Virtue, Success, Pleasure, and Liberation: The Four Aims of Life in the Tradition of Ancient India

Overview

What is the Nature of the social order that unquestionably produced one of the greatest and longest lasting civilizations known to humankind? Alain Daniélou, distinguished Orientalist, musicologist, and linguist, reveals the foundations of India's culture and the four aims of human life as they are viewed in the traditional Hindu society: virtue on a moral plane; success on the material and social planes; pleasure on a sensual plane; and liberation on a spiritual plane. Coexistent with these aims are the four ...

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Virtue, Success, Pleasure, and Liberation: The Four Aims of Life in the Tradition of Ancient India

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Overview

What is the Nature of the social order that unquestionably produced one of the greatest and longest lasting civilizations known to humankind? Alain Daniélou, distinguished Orientalist, musicologist, and linguist, reveals the foundations of India's culture and the four aims of human life as they are viewed in the traditional Hindu society: virtue on a moral plane; success on the material and social planes; pleasure on a sensual plane; and liberation on a spiritual plane. Coexistent with these aims are the four stages of life: quest for knowledge, family life, retreat into the forest, and renunciation.

A four-fold division can be found in all traditional societies throughout the world, symbolically representing the progression of creative consciousness into physical reality. In India, this division is reflected in the caste system, a social order that differs profoundly from those accepted in the contemporary Western world. Exploring he fundamental concepts of the caste system, the author addresses issues of race, individual rights, sexual mores, martial practices, and spiritual attainments. In this light, he exposes the inherent flaws and hypocrisies of our modern egalitarian governments and shows how the shadow side of the ancient caste system persists, disguised and unacknowledged, beneath contemporary economic regimes. Daniélou explains how Hindu society has served as a model for the realization of human potential on many levels, addressing sociological and human problems that are both timeless and universal.

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Editorial Reviews

<i>Library Journal</i>
"This book is important not only for those wanting to understand India and Hinduism as traditional Indians see them, but also for what different assumptions and values reveal by comparison about our own Western culture . . . Highly recommended."
Collin Cleary
"Offer[s] us an abundance of excellent advice about how to understand life and to live well."
The Institute of Hermetic Studies
"This is one of those books you should give your child when they come of age so that they may understand the natural rhythm of life, their duties, how to find their place, and along with it happiness and freedom in a seemingly chaotic world."
From the Publisher
"Offer[s] us an abundance of excellent advice about how to understand life and to live well."

"This book is important not only for those wanting to understand India and Hinduism as traditional Indians see them, but also for what different assumptions and values reveal by comparison about our own Western culture . . . Highly recommended."

"This is one of those books you should give your child when they come of age so that they may understand the natural rhythm of life, their duties, how to find their place, and along with it happiness and freedom in a seemingly chaotic world."

Dec 2007 The Institute of Hermetic Studies
"This is one of those books you should give your child when they come of age so that they may understand the natural rhythm of life, their duties, how to find their place, and along with it happiness and freedom in a seemingly chaotic world."
From the Publisher

"This is one of those books you should give your child when they come of age so that they may understand the natural rhythm of life, their duties, how to find their place, and along with it happiness and freedom in a seemingly chaotic world."
Library Journal
Danielou, an Orientalist and musicologist who lived in India for more than 20 years and is a leading Hindu scholar as well, provides a sympathetic presentation of the way Hindu society coped with racial and cultural diversity. Danielou rejects Western perspectives of democracy and alleged equality by presenting Indian social thought and order on their own terms. His book is important not only because it shows Hinduism as traditional Indians see it but because it clarifies Western culture and cultural imperialism by examining a different set of assumptions. Highly recommended for seminary, academic, and large public libraries.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892812189
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Publication date: 8/28/1993
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,357,787
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Alain Daniélou currently resides in Italy and is the author of more than thirty books about the philosophy, religion, history, and arts of India. Following a series of successful careers as a dancer, musician, and composer (Cocteau, Diaghilev, and Stravinsky were among his friends), he eventually settled in India where he spent fifteen years in the study of Sanskrit, philosophy, and music. Daniélou speaks and writes Hindi fluently and is an accomplished player of the vina. After numerous university appointments in India, he returned in 1963 to Europe, where he established an international institute for the reevaluation of the religious music of the Orient. Daniélou's other Inner Traditions titles include The Complete Kama Sutra, Gods of Love and Ecstasy, The Myths and Gods of India, While the Gods Play, and Yoga: Mastering the Secrets of Matter and the Universe.

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Read an Excerpt

That Odd Mary Magdalene

It seems that even among Jesus’ disciples, Mary played a privileged role. Why, then, did the Roman Catholic Church feel obliged to almost entirely erase this female figure and her role? Was it because of a now proven anti-feminism that existed at the heart of the Church from the early Middle Ages? The Christian conception of femininity, which has certainly greatly evolved in the modern world, especially since the council of Vatican II, is due both to Greco-Roman legacy and to the Hebraic options. With the exception of the female characters of Genesis, who are gripping figures to say the least, the scribes of the Bible lowered the status of Woman by making her impure and thus not apt, for example, to play a sacerdotal role. The idea that Mary Magdalene enjoyed total equality with the apostles has never crossed the minds of Church theologians. Because priests are the legitimate heirs of the apostles, such a standing would make Mary Magdalene, on the one hand, a priestess—how horrible!—and on the other, one of those on whom the apostolic sacerdotal filiation was founded.

Yet, when Mary of Bethany washes Jesus’ feet and anoints him with precious perfume, which Judas, the group’s treasurer, believes could be put to a more profitable use, she and Jesus are enacting a kind of sacerdotal and royal ordination—with Mary serving as the priestess who performs the ritual.

Is it forbidden to think that Mary of Bethany, over the course of those long moments spent at the feet of the Lord, could have heard what he had to say or at least sensed the full scope of Christ’s mystery even if she did not grasp it in its entirety? Jesus persistently tried to lead his disciples to realize this—if only in the Fiat of the Transfiguration!—but their hearts remained curiously closed all the way to the end. Mary, however, did perceive and accept it. On that day she knew the moment had come to manifest this mystery in chiaroscuro. In a kind of prophetic intuition . . . Mary anointed the head of Jesus, recognizing and presenting him as King and Priest, and anointed his feet as Messiah sent from God.

Such a presentation obviously involves a rite of enthronement that can be performed only by a person vested symbolically with sacerdotal powers. Jesus was fully aware of this when he answered Martha’s reproaches by saying that Mary “had the best part.”

At that time there were two sites named Bethany: a town two miles east of Jerusalem, where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived; and on the left bank of the Jordan, at a ford just before the Dead Sea, where John the Baptist baptized. In addition, there was a place called Bethabara, “house of passage,” by the gates to the desert. John the Baptist and later Mary, each in their own way, granted baptism, initiation, the right of passage, or the means of crossing the threshold. The two Bethanys, then, seem to mirror each other. Magdalene extends the echo of her precursor, John the Baptist. One is a man clad in hides and the other is a woman clad in her long mane of hair. The chief difference between them is that John remains in a harsh and terrible place, screaming in Essenian rigor his curses and his calls to repent, whereas Mary in Bethany, on the opposite where all is blooming and gay, speaks of love and forgiveness and the transition from one world to the next. While Jesus received from John a baptism in water, he did not receive, as the ancient kings had, a consecrating anointing with oil. Just before his Passion and “baptism by spirit and fire”—the crucifixion—he received the perfumed oil from the female Magdalene. The old and ancient notion of the priest-king applies to Jesus, but this royal unction, let me repeat, can only be performed by a priest—or priestess.

The unction in Bethany is surely one of the most important events in the life of Jesus. Furthermore, this is what Jesus himself says to his disciples who are always more or less hostile toward the whims of Woman: He declares to them that this woman truly did “what she had to do,” and even adds, according to Mark 14:9, “In truth, I declare to you, everywhere the Gospel is to be spread, throughout the whole world, one will also recount, in memory of her, the deed she has done.” This is acknowledgment of an uncommon power possessed by Mary that went far beyond a mere gesture of female vanity, which is clearly what the first disciples thought it to be, and underscores the importance Magdalene was given in the very words of Jesus.

Why, then, was Mary Magdalene relegated to such a minor role in the evangelical tradition as revised and corrected by the Church Fathers? Is the Christian sacerdotal class ashamed to owe so much to a woman?

And I cannot forbear from asking myself: what has the memory of the Church done to these words of Jesus? Isn’t there something yet to be explored there? And wouldn’t this something be the consecration of a specifically female ministry of a prophetic and charismatic nature that Jesus would himself have recognized and proclaimed as existing in tandem with the apostolic and sacerdotal ministry? What a unique place woman would hold in the very heart of the Church if this was the case!

The question certainly has been raised—and it seems that Abbe Saunière may have answered it in his own way in the church of Rennes-le-Chateau.

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Table of Contents


Note from the Publisher

Introduction by Robert Lawlor

Part One

1. The Historical Background
History and Legend
The Birth of a Civilization
Sanskrit

2. The Bases of Social Order
The Cycles
The Origin of the Ages, the Races, and the Castes
Elements of Social Order
The Castes
Occupation, Heredity, Environment
The Four Tyrannies
Race and Racism
Duties and Privileges
Caste and Marriage
Caste and Diet
Caste and Conquest
The Outcastes
Protection of Less Advanced Races

Part Two

3. The Nature of the World
The Nature of the World
Creation and Perception
Matter, the Stars, and Life

4. The Four Aims of Life
The Four "Aims of Life" (Purusharthas)
Action (Karma)

5. The First Aim of Life
Dharma: Duty, Virtue - Self-realization on the Moral Plane
Ethics
Moral Purity, Ritual Purity, and Untouchability
The Three Debts of Man
The Role of Women
Population Control

6. The Second Aim of Life
Artha: Material Goods, Wealth, Success, Power - Self-realization on the Social Level
Material Goods
The Acquisition and Use of Wealth

7. The Third Aim of Life
Kama: Pleasure, Sexuality, Enjoyment - Self-realization on the Sensual Level
Pleasure
Pleasure and the Other Aims of Life
Pleasure and Liberation
Pleasure, the Individual, and Society
The Forms of Erotic Realization
Erotic Arts and Techniques

8. The Fourth Aim of Life
Moksha: Liberation - Self-realization on the Spiritual Plane
Liberation
Degrees of Divine Union
Transcendent Reality
Qualifications
The Paths of Liberation
Samadhi

9. The Four Stages of Life
The First Stage of Life: The Quest for Knowledge (Brahmacharya)
The Second Stage of Life: Family Life (Grihastha)
The Third Stage of Life: Retreat into the Forest (Vana Prastha)
The Fourth Stage of Life: Renunciation (Sannyasa)

10. Conclusions
Hindu Society in the Modern World

Appendix 1 - The Thirty-Two Sciences

Appendix 2 - The Sixty-Four Arts

Sources

Index

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