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The Four Pillars of Life: Dharma, Artha, Moksha and Kama
Gaining balance in purpose, material success, relationships and spirituality
The houses in a natal chart cover all aspects of our lives, but the four pillars that describe the essence of what we are include the first house (self), the 4th house (home, heart and happiness), the 7th house (partner) and the 10th house (career and reputation). In Western astrology, these are called the angular houses and in Jyotish (Vedic astrology) they are called the Kendras.
In Jyotish, each Kendra forms a trine with two other houses, and this combination is regarded as a whole. Here are each of the trines and what they stand for.
The Dharma trines
In Vedic astrology, the houses 1, 5 and 9 show your Dharma. Dharma means purpose, and these houses can show the natural path you should take to fulfil the role you were born to take on. The first house is your inner self, the 5th house is your intelligence and ability to learn and the 9th house is knowledge and the wisdom you gain from teachers.
In many ways, I think people in the West are longing for what the Dharma trines have to offer more than ever before, which is great, but not always an easy (see next trine).
The Artha trines
The West is definitely all about the Artha trines. The houses 2, 6 and 10 show money, your ability to compete and come out ahead and your social standing and standing. The second house is your finances, the 6th house is your ability to work hard and the 10th house is your status and career.
In a standup act I recently watched on YouTube, the comedian Jimmy O. Yang talks about how he told his father he wanted to become an actor. His father asked why he’d ever want to do that and he said because that’s what he loves to do. His father shook his head and told him he’d gotten it all wrong: You do what you hate for money, so you can buy the things you love. As funny as this story was in his routine, it’s sadly the reality for a lot of people, especially those who aren’t lucky enough to have their Artha match up with their Dharma in a way that allows them to make a good living – if they’re able to find their Dharma in the first place.
The Kama trines
As far as the pleasure of those things you love (that you hopefully didn’t have to buy with money earned from a job you hate!), that’s the domain of the Kama trines. Like that Kama Sutra book people used to secretly leaf through and then hide somewhere random when I worked at Waldenbooks back in the days before Amazon (very few people were actually brave enough to buy it), the Kama trines do indeed include sexuality. But they also stand for partnerships, children and yes, the pleasure one might feel when they hold the latest iPhone in their hands after camping out in front of the Apple store, if people still do that kind of thing.
The 7th house shows the spouse/partner, the 11th house shows the gains we make that allow us to buy things that give us pleasure and the 3rd house is hobbies, games, entertainment and copulation.
The Moksha trines
Moksha means liberation or freedom, and the Moksha trines are all about spirituality and spiritual growth. The Kendra in this trine is the 4th house, which stands for home, heart and direction, the 8th house is about the inner work one needs to do to grow spiritually and the 12th house is about away time spent meditating or on spiritual retreats.
In many ways, I think this is one of the more difficult trines in the West because our culture mostly doesn’t value this kind of work because it can’t be measured in dollars and cents. Sometimes people get a bit lost here or fall into dubious spiritual practice, but that’s another topic for another time.
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Achieving balance between the four pillars
We all know people who are out of balance in one or more of the trines: The wealthy businessman whose life has no meaning or real sense of pleasure, only the nose to the grind stone; the adventurer who flits from party to party and place to place, but feels empty inside; the wonderfully generous person who does so much good in the world and yet they can never find love in their own lives; the spiritual seeker who can barely afford to pay the rent. The list goes on and on.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
That’s one of the many things I love about the Vedic astrology tradition I’m learning: in our consultations, besides addressing acute issues, the focus is about finding balance between these four pillars.
When things are out of balance, as they are to varying degrees in every person’s life, remediation techniques can bring a sense of equilibrium. More on this later, so stay tuned!