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Artha

Photo courtsey flickr/Khans'

Photo courtsey flickr/Khans'

Artha, which loosely translates as "getting ahead," is one of four goals of Hinduism. Students explore this concept using a translated political doctrine from 4th century B.C.E. and also through a story about a young boy.

Through this activity, students will be able to

  • explain the concept of artha
  • recognize strategies that allow states to survive
  • see how elements useful in political science can be applied to getting ahead in everyday life (for long version only)
  • consider when and how students survive, get ahead and have a good time


Group discussion to demonstrate understanding of a complex concept by analoging artha to events in world history and in the students' own lives.


  1. In order to introduce the four goals of life in Hinduism, ask students to make up a list of ten wishes. They can make the list for homework or do it in class.
  2. As students share their various wishes, group the wishes into categories such as Things I Like (Pleasure), Things I Want (money and power), Things I Hope to Offer to Society (doing what's right). If anyone has a transcendent goal, make a category for that as well.
  3. Share the four goals in Hindu thought - duty (dharma), pleasure (kama), wealth and power (artha), and release from samsara (moksha). Help students see their "Things I Like" is really kama and "Things I Want" is really artha.
  4. Ask students how people go about getting ahead, getting rich or famous. Lead them to consider how powerless people survive and get ahead. Why do basketball players use a "fake"? Why do spies give misinformation?
  5. (Skip this if teaching short version).Present each of the Seven Ways to Greet a Neighbor. Suggest historic examples of when nations or leaders used one or more of these tactics, and encourage students to offer examples as well. For example, what role did saman play in the period between WW I and WW II? How did the US use danda in the Gulf War? How did Eisenhower use maya, trying to convince Hitler that Allied troops were planning to attack at Calais and not Normandy? Wasn't the US using Indrajala when it made it appear we had an unlimited supply of atomic bombs in August of 1945?
  6. (Skip this if teaching short version). If time allows, tell the class to imagine they want to convince a teacher to put off a test or a parent to extend a curfew, or something of the sort. Then divide the class into six groups. Give each group one of the first six "ways to greet a neighbor" (Indrajala is hard to act out), and tell them to create a skit that illustrates how they would use that tactic to achieve the goal. Have the various groups put on their skits and ask the class to identify which tactic it illustrates.
  7. (Skip this if teaching short version). Summarize the concept of artha making sure that students realize it can be both a goal in political science and a personal goal.
  8. Give the story Eight Rupees as homework (or read as a class for short version of this lesson), and ask the students to look for why the sahib gave the shoe-shine boy the eight rupees. "Sahib" referred to Englishmen during colonial rule, and is used now as a term of respect. A rupee at the time this story was written (early 1980's) would have been equivalent to a dollar. There are 100 naye paise in a rupee.
  9. Discuss Eight Rupees. Consider questions such as:
    • What initial impression does the sahib have of the shoe-shine boy? How does the boy get to shine the sahib's shoes?
    • Why does the boy ask to borrow eight rupees? Why does he want eight and not five? Why won't he take ten rupees? Does the sahib think the boy will ever return the rupees? Why does he lend the boy eight rupees?
    • How does the sahib's impression of the boy change? Why does it change?
    • What's the significance of the boy's smile when the sahib gives him the eight rupees? Why did the sahib smile when the boy reminded him about the 25 paise? Why did the sahib walk away with a "pleased as punch" smile?
    • What does the last paragraph tell us about the boy? Were you surprised?
    • Discuss how this story illustrates how "little fish" might get ahead in the amoral world of the fishes.