concepts

The five types of anarthas and how to get rid of them

The word anartha means anything that is not artha- or that which is not the goal. Anything which is undesirable for bhakti to Kṛṣṇa is anartha, even though it may fall under dharma, artha, kāma or mokṣa.

There are five types of anarthas which progress from the first to the last1
as follows:

avidyā -> asmitā -> rāga -> dveṣa -> abhiniveśa.

While these are described in Patañjali’s yoga-sūtras, the Bhāgavatam has a parallel description of these as shown in the table below

Bhāgavatam Yoga-sūtra Meaning
tamas avidyā The tendency to consider unreality as reality
moha asmitā Illusion of being the current body
mahā-moha rāga Intense desire for material enjoyment
tāmisra dveṣa Anger or hatred
andha-tāmisra abhiniveśa Fear of death, considering it as the end

The verse from the Bhāgavatam is

“sasarja cchāyayāvidyāṁ pañca-parvāṇam agrataḥ
tāmisram andha-tāmisraṁ tamo moho mahā-tamaḥ

First Brahma created ignorance of five types from his shadow: tāmisra, andha-tāmisra, tamas, moha and mahā-moha (SB 3.20.18).”

  1. Avidyā is the tendency to consider unreal objects as real, temporary objects as permanent such as thinking the body to be the self. This ignorance is beginningless (anādi) and is the cause-less cause of the jīva’s eternal existence in the material world.
  2. Avidyā (the tendency to mis-construe unreal as real or untruth as truth) gives rise to asmitā (asmi-tā) = attachment of one’s ego to one’s current body or ‘I-ness’ in relation to that body.
  3. Asmitā (attachment to the current body) gives rise to rāga = intense desire for accumulating material sense objects, i.e. attachment to those objects
  4. Rāga gives rise to dveṣa = the desire to remove (i.e. hatred for) any obstacle to accumulating the sense objects.
  5. Avidyā also gives rise to abhiniveśa = fear of death i.e. fear of the body’s destruction.

How to get rid of anarthas is explained in the following verse from the Bhāgavatam:
bhayaṁ dvitīyābhiniveśataḥ syād īśād apetasya viparyayo ’smṛtiḥ
tan-māyayāto budha ābhajet taṁ bhaktyaikayeśaṁ guru-devatātmā

Maharajji explains this verse as follows (Sri Guru Darsanam, p. 25), “Bhaya (fear) comes because of abhiniveśa (absorption in the body). Then follows viparyaya (knowing things wrongly), which means taking asatya as satya, or mistaking unreal things as real and then forgetfulness (asmṛti) of reality. All these anarthas can go away if one takes shelter of the guru and serves him.”

So the translation of the verse is: “A person who is not devoted to Bhagavān because of Bhagavān’s māyā has forgetfulness, improper knowledge, and fear because of absorption in the second (bodily conception). Therefore, an intelligent person should worship Bhagavan who is the teacher, the worshipable deity, and the object of love”.

Bhakti is the solution to the anarthas. But as improper knowledge is one of our key problems (see verse above), it is critical to get proper knowledge of bhakti.


  1.  Sri Guru Darśanam. Vrindavan: Shri Haridas Shastri Goseva Sansthan. 2015.

 

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