The Four Purusharthas – The Goals of Life
To lead a meaningful life, every person should have goals in his/her life. As per the Indian scriptures these are four goals to achieve in life, which are nothing but Purusharthas. The four Purusharthas are Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. Many of us heard them many times, but understanding the real meaning and following them in life will only lead to a meaningful life.
Dharma represents ethical and moral practices, a set of principles one can follow in life, to have a conscientious, orderly and holistic living. It is the right way of doing things. Doing what is right but not what is nice or fun or easy.
To understand the concept of dharma best narration is Ramayana. Rama did what is right not what is easy. He has taken right and wise decisions with the help of followers of dharma, he followed it, and suggested to others. He followed dharma in his personal life, as well as a king. On the other hand Ravana did what he liked despite knowing what is right and despite having people who can guide him in right path.
Some of the concepts relating to dharma are fearlessness, truthfulness, fulfilling of responsibilities and duties towards personal, family, society etc.
Artha literally means money. Artha represents the economic and material aspects of life, it includes money, wealth, physical or tangible possessions etc. It is also called as Lakshmi, means money or wealth earned in the right way, which is needed for the well being of yourself and your family members.
We will also hear ‘Subh Labh’, which means profit earned in a right way. One should earn money to live by following Dharma (good way). A person has to earn money to live, but should not live to earn money.
The most intelligent way to acquire money is to discover a way by which money runs after you but not you run after money. The best practice to achieve this is to be a master in your profession. Once you mastered it, automatically your abilities will make you to get sufficient money.
Kama means desires, wants or wishes. Once money is earned, then a person will work to fulfill his desires with the money in hand. It might be for sensual pleasure or material wealth or for good position. It is for the sake of having a good experience.
Desires must be acknowledged and reasonably satisfied with mindfulness, in a way of getting freedom from them. But having more desires leads to even more dissatisfaction. Happiness is being satisfied with what you have.
Food, clothes and shelter are the basic needs for any person. Luxury depends upon the money (artha) earned. If a person wants iphone or music system etc., he can buy them with his money or he can earn and a desire them. If the same person does theft to get them, it becomes unethical and this way of satisfaction, is opposed to dharma. If a person who do not even possess money for his basic needs desires for space travel, it becomes greed. The main theme of kama is to control the wants or desires. Do not exceed than a certain limit and getting satisfied in the right path.
Moksha is a state that should be attained right here in this very life. Moksha means self realization or nirvana, wisdom, deeper and wider perspective by following of dharma without any obstacles in artha and kama. A perfect judgment about the right path can help avoid taking the wrong paths, and avoid unnecessary suffering. Moksha also prevents confusion, anxiety and stress.
While all the purusharthas are important, dharma is the elementary or fundamental principle. To achieve moksha one has to follow dharma while earning artha and while satisfying kama.
Whether you have little income or lot of income, lot of material possessions or little material possessions, whether you have lot of exposure or experience or little exposure or experience – you always have the option of doing things as per dharma i.e. what is right. In that way dharma allows everyone to adopt it.
As you can see the Sanathana Dharma religious philosophies does not ask for deprivation. They suggest a righteous pursuit of wealth and moderation of worldly experience. They also recommend self reflection to help choose the right paths to avoid the pains of taking the wrong paths that many times come from not stepping back and reflecting on the big picture.