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On Hinduism$
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Wendy Doniger

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199360079

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199360079.001.0001

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Three (or more) Forms of the Three (or more)–Fold Path in Hinduism 1

Three (or more) Forms of the Three (or more)–Fold Path in Hinduism 1

(p.21) Three (or more) Forms of the Three (or more)–Fold Path in Hinduism1
On Hinduism

Wendy Doniger

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the existence of triads in Hinduism and Hindu intellectual history. In Sanskrit, the number three signifies both “plural” and “complete.” An example of this triad is that of the three human goals or purusharthas (also known as the triple path or trivarga) invoked by the Kamasutra: dharma, artha, and kama. In the last book of The Laws of Manu, Manu correlates these three human goals with the three qualities of matter, which are linked to three kinds of bodily action (good, bad, and neutral), three bases of action (the mind-and-heart, speech, and the body), the three times (past, present, and future), and the three species of rebirth (gods, humans, and animals). Many of the Vedic triads became quartets due to the Vedantic shift away from sacrifice and worldliness. The Indo-Europeans divided the world into three social classes: kings (who were also priests), warriors, and producers of fertility. This triad soon became a quartet within the text of the Rig Veda. Some new quartets in the Puranas never seem to have been triads.

Keywords:   triads, Hinduism, dharma, artha, kama, The Laws of Manu, quartets, social classes, Rig Veda, Puranas

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