The Concept of the Three Cardinal Values in the works of M. Hiriyanna

A paper titled "The Perspective of Practical Vedanta in the Works of M. Hiriyanna" was presented by Arjun Bharadwaj at the international conference "New Frontiers in Sanskrit and Indic Knowledge" (NFSI) on 12th June 2017 organized by the Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth. The current article contains excerpts from the paper.

Introduction: The Vedānta School of Philosophy

Indian philosophy originated under the presence of a practical need arising from the presence of moral and physical evil in life. The ancient Indian’s interest in solving puzzles of knowledge was chiefly to find out a remedy, if possible, for the ills of life. All schools of Indian philosophy have for their ideal the concept of mokṣa, although the definition varies from one school to the other. The philosophy of the Upaniṣads as retold by Śaṅkara in his advaita doctrine however, removes the mystical and other-worldly character of mokṣa and has jīvanmukti - ‘deliverance during life’ for its goal. It brings the ideal of mokṣa within the sphere of practical experience [1], [2]. Hiriyanna observes that mokṣa as defined in the advaita doctrine can be justly regarded as the point of union of philosophy and religion. It is this school of philosophy that will be referred to as ‘Vedānta’ throughout this article.


Why is Mokṣa the Ideal?

It is common experience that all human beings consciously try to be happy and attempt to maximize the duration of their happiness. All our actions in day-to-day living are directed towards being happy. No one consciously wishes to be unhappy. Besides, man has the capacity for self-criticism, which points to an awareness of a standard by which he judges, and this standard can be nothing short of absolute perfection, for the simple reason that the need for criticism will continue to be felt until an ideal, which is free from all imperfections and is therefore completely satisfying, is reached [3]. The existence of this ideal urges him to strive towards reaching a state in which he may rest with a feeling of contentment. Moreover, imperfections are functions of space and time. It is the presence within him of this ideal of perfection that makes man a spiritual being.  The craving for perfection and peaceful contentment is common to all humans.  The quest after this perfect ideal is the process of Vedānta and the ideal is mokṣa. The ideal is a conscious experience of the perfect Bliss, jñānānanda, that transcends space and time and that is the very nature of the Absolute Entity, the Brahman.


The Three Cardinal Values:

A value differs from a fact in that, the latter is simply anything that becomes the object of explicit consciousness and suffices for the purposes of a purely theoretic investigation. The satisfaction of desire or attainment of ends as the result of knowing facts is a ‘value’ [3], [4].

For example, the information that the glass that is placed before me contains water, is a fact. When I drink the water and it quenches my thirst, it becomes a value. Similarly, I know it as a fact that Paris is a big, cosmopolitan city, but when I go and experience living in the city, the fact will graduate to become a value. Thus, mere theoretical information constitutes a fact and a realization of the fact through practical experience constitutes a value.


Hiriyanna observes that one of the most distinguishing features of Indian philosophy is that, through out its long history, it has consistently given the foremost place to values. This is seen in the Upaniṣads too, as they speak of the final goal and the means to its attainment as the state of peace and joy, which signify the state of ‘being’ than of ‘knowing’ [4]. Thus, the goal of the Vedāntic pursuit is not merely to ‘know’ the ideal, but to ‘be’ the ideal. Indian philosophy may, on this account, be described as essentially a philosophy of values [4].

Hiriyanna writes incisively about the identification and implementation of the three eternal values – Beauty, Goodness, Truth – that serve as the practical means in achieving the ideal of mokṣa.The three values are defined below and their relation to the ideal is discussed.


  • Beauty: The contemplation of a work of art leads to an attitude of mind which is impersonal. Man not only grows unselfish here, but also forgets himself completely; and in the supreme aesthetic moment, he is conscious of nothing but the object or the situation portrayed in the work of art in question. (It is in common experience that while watching a theatrical performance or reading poetry, we remark "I forgot myself. I did not know where I was and that so much of time elapsed". i.e., we 'forgot' our mind, body, space and time.) This self-forgetfulness results from the contemplative union of the subject with the object. This kind of pure and spontaneous aesthetic joy characterizes the realization of the ultimate ideal too. Thus, practice and contemplation of art give us a glimpse of the eternal Bliss. The glimpse of the ideal thus obtained, although fleeting and dependent on art as its external trigger, helps us gain confidence that the ideal is something that can be achieved. The experience of Bliss during suṣupti  (deep sleep) and the aesthetic joy derived from rasānanda (art experience) serve as empirical proofs for the existence of the ideal, thus, proving its practical value.


  • Goodness: In its most usual sense, goodness can be taken as ‘moral good’ and can be roughly translated as ‘dharma’. It is signified by the golden rule that we should do unto others, as we would desire them to do unto us. When man realizes that he is a social being, with obligations to discharge towards others amidst whom he lives, he performs activities that suit his sva-dharma (intrinsic nature). The Dharma-śāstras and the smṛtis are concerned with the elaboration of this preliminary moral training intended for persons in lower stages of spiritual evolution.


  • Truth: The pursuit of philosophic truth has direct reference to reality. Unlike the truths of the pure sciences, those of philosophy and kindred subjects of study necessarily influence life. A scientific fact such as the number of rings the planet Saturn has does not directly affect man’s life, but the philosophical truth, such as the truth concerning the survival of the self has a practical implication on his activities. Philosophy is not a game of speculation meant only to afford intellectual satisfaction by dispelling doubts, but a practical study which should issue in the right mode of life.

The pursuit of the good signifies altruistic service; that of the beautiful results in relief from the perpetual tension of life; and that of the true yields comprehensive knowledge which, by removing all doubt and uncertainty produces a stable conviction. No final ideal can exclude altruistic service or restful peace or a comprehensive knowledge of reality. Disinterestedness should be a constant and outstanding feature in the quest after perfection. With it, conscious effort must disappear in the case of goodness and moral action must become spontaneous and joyful - these are also the qualities of a person who has realized the ideal. The result of subordinating the good to mokṣa is to elevate the moral quality of actions above their subject-matter. Furthermore, no voluntary action is intelligible without some reference to the self [5]. The restful peace resulting from the appreciation of beauty must not be provisional, but constant, which necessarily implies that it should be derived from the contemplation of the whole of reality and not merely a portion of it, or of an imaginative situation created by the artist.

The ideal, thus, is not a mere combination of the three values but represents a creative synthesis of them, by which they are fused and welded into a new unity. The ideal not only includes the triad but transcends them. It is a state of absolute unselfishness and of spontaneous joy that manifests itself always. The three values are like the three legs of a tripod stand and the ideal stands on it. Thus, the three have equal significance and the ideal transcends them.


A note on the triad of values:

The triad ‘satyam, śivam, sundaram’ as  equivalents of truth, goodness and beauty was first coined by the Brahmo Samaj. The spirit of these three values as the defining characteristics of the ideal, is found in the Upaniṣads, as follows:

satyam - “satyaṃ jñānam anantaṃ brahma”  Taittiriyopaniṣad (2.1.1)

śivam – “śāntaṃ śivam advaitam” - Māṇḍūkyopaniṣad (mantra 7)

sundaram – “raso vai saḥ rasaṃ hyevāyaṃ labdhvā ānandī bhavati”  Taittiriyopaniṣad (2.7.2).

The reference to ‘rasa’ is equivalent to the enjoyment derived from the contemplation of the beauty, i.e., sundaram. Śankarācārya defines rasa in a similar manner in his commentary on the above phrase of the Taittiriyopaniṣad , “raso nāma tṛptihetuḥ ānandakaro madhurāmlādiḥ prasiddho loke”, rasa is that which brings a sense of contentment and of joy, just like savouring sweet, sour and other tastes gives joy in our daily lives.

Deriving inspiration from Hiriyanna, Dr. V Raghavan equates śivam, satyam and sundaram, to dharma, brahma and rasa, respectively as the aspects of practical life.

Thus, the triad of values have their basis in the Upaniṣads and have an implication in practical life.


A short biographical sketch of M. Hiriyanna’s life:

Professor M. Hiriyanna (1871-1950) is recognized in learned circles both in India and abroad as an outstanding authority on Indian philosophy. Deeply versed in Sanskrit classics and equally proficient in English literature, Hiriyanna worked with single-minded devotion to the cause of Indian philosophy and literary studies. He was the one of the first modern scholars to draw the link between Indian philosophy and aesthetics. He was a professor of Sanskrit at the Mysore University and also served as the curator of the Mysore Oriental Library. He has written over eight original works and has edited and translated several works [6].


[1] Hiriyanna M, The Mission of Philosophy, Kavyalaya Publishers (Mysore: 2004)

[2] Hiriyanna M, The Aim of Indian Philosophy, New Era (Madras: 1929)

[3] Hiriyanna M, The Quest after Perfection, Journal of the Madras University, Vol. xiii. 2 (Miller Lectures, 1940)

[4] Hiriyanna M, Indian Conception of Values, Kavyalaya Publishers (Mysore: 1975)

[5] Hiriyanna M, The Ethics of Advaita, Vedanta Kesari (Madras: 1942)

[6] Ramachandran T. P., The Builders of Indian Philosophy Series - M.Hiriyanna , Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers (New Delhi: 2001)


Thanks to Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh for his inputs



Arjun is a writer, translator, engineer, and enjoys composing poems. He is well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, English, Greek, and German languages. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature. He has deep interest in the theatre arts and music. Arjun has (co-) translated the works of AR Krishna Shastri, DV Gundappa, Dr. SL Bhyrappa, Dr. SR Ramaswamy and Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh

Prekshaa Publications

Indian Perspective of Truth and Beauty in Homer’s Epics is a unique work on the comparative study of the Greek Epics Iliad and Odyssey with the Indian Epics – Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata. Homer, who laid the foundations for the classical tradition of the West, occupies a stature similar to that occupied by the seer-poets Vālmīki and Vyāsa, who are synonymous with the Indian culture. The author...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the sixth volume of reminiscences character sketches of prominent public figures, liberals, and social workers. These remarkable personages hailing from different corners of South India are from a period that spans from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. Written in Kannada in the 1970s, these memoirs go...

An Introduction to Hinduism based on Primary Sources

Authors: Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh, Hari Ravikumar

What is the philosophical basis for Sanātana-dharma, the ancient Indian way of life? What makes it the most inclusive and natural of all religio-philosophical systems in the world?

The Essential Sanātana-dharma serves as a handbook for anyone who wishes to grasp the...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fifth volume, episodes from the lives of traditional savants responsible for upholding the Vedic culture. These memorable characters lived a life of opulence amidst poverty— theirs  was the wealth of the soul, far beyond money and gold. These vidvāns hailed from different corners of the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom and lived in...

Padma Bhushan Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam represents the quintessence of Sage Bharata’s art and Bhārata, the country that gave birth to the peerless seer of the Nāṭya-veda. Padma’s erudition in various streams of Indic knowledge, mastery over many classical arts, deep understanding of the nuances of Indian culture, creative genius, and sublime vision bolstered by the vedāntic and nationalistic...

Bhārata has been a land of plenty in many ways. We have had a timeless tradition of the twofold principle of Brāhma (spirit of wisdom) and Kṣāttra (spirit of valour) nourishing and protecting this sacred land. The Hindu civilisation, rooted in Sanātana-dharma, has constantly been enriched by brāhma and safeguarded by kṣāttra.
The renowned Sanskrit poet and scholar, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R...

ಛಂದೋವಿವೇಕವು ವರ್ಣವೃತ್ತ, ಮಾತ್ರಾಜಾತಿ ಮತ್ತು ಕರ್ಷಣಜಾತಿ ಎಂದು ವಿಭಕ್ತವಾದ ಎಲ್ಲ ಬಗೆಯ ಛಂದಸ್ಸುಗಳನ್ನೂ ವಿವೇಚಿಸುವ ಪ್ರಬಂಧಗಳ ಸಂಕಲನ. ಲೇಖಕರ ದೀರ್ಘಕಾಲಿಕ ಆಲೋಚನೆಯ ಸಾರವನ್ನು ಒಳಗೊಂಡ ಈ ಹೊತ್ತಗೆ ಪ್ರಧಾನವಾಗಿ ಛಂದಸ್ಸಿನ ಸೌಂದರ್ಯವನ್ನು ಲಕ್ಷಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ತೌಲನಿಕ ವಿಶ್ಲೇಷಣೆ ಮತ್ತು ಅಂತಃಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಅಧ್ಯಯನಗಳ ತೆಕ್ಕೆಗೆ ಬರುವ ಬರೆಹಗಳೂ ಇಲ್ಲಿವೆ. ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಕಾರನಿಗಲ್ಲದೆ ಸಿದ್ಧಹಸ್ತನಾದ ಕವಿಗೆ ಮಾತ್ರ ಸ್ಫುರಿಸಬಲ್ಲ ಎಷ್ಟೋ ಹೊಳಹುಗಳು ಕೃತಿಯ ಮೌಲಿಕತೆಯನ್ನು ಹೆಚ್ಚಿಸಿವೆ. ಈ...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fourth volume, some character sketches of the Dewans of Mysore preceded by an account of the political framework of the State before Independence and followed by a review of the political conditions of the State after 1940. These remarkable leaders of Mysore lived in a period that spans from the mid-nineteenth century to the...

Bharatiya Kavya-mimamseya Hinnele is a monograph on Indian Aesthetics by Mahamahopadhyaya N. Ranganatha Sharma. The book discusses the history and significance of concepts pivotal to Indian literary theory. It is equally useful to the learned and the laity.

Sahitya-samhite is a collection of literary essays in Kannada. The book discusses aestheticians such as Ananda-vardhana and Rajashekhara; Sanskrit scholars such as Mena Ramakrishna Bhat, Sridhar Bhaskar Varnekar and K S Arjunwadkar; and Kannada litterateurs such as DVG, S L Bhyrappa and S R Ramaswamy. It has a foreword by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh.

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective to every discussion. These essays deal with the philosophy, history, aesthetics, and practice of...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...