4 Objectives of Human Life
According to Vedic philosophy human life has a definite purpose. Whilst the final Goal of life is "Moksha", there are three other (intermediary) goals of life. These together are called four objectives or pursuits of life, which are as follows:-
1. DHARMA - Righteousness
2. ARTHA - Acquisition of wealth by proper means and its right use
3. KAMA - Fulfillment of noble desires
4. MOKSHA - Liberation or the final Goal
It is essential to have the proper understanding of these objectives (as also because these terms are highly used in our daily language to mean different things). We shall describe these briefly in the following paras:-
This is the first and foremost objective or pursuit of life. Dharma is a Sanskrit word and it has no exact equivalent in English language. It has much wider significance than the word 'religion', in its ordinary sense, as currently in vogue in the existing conventional forms. The word DHARMA has been derived from its root Dhri which means 'to uphold', 'to adopt', 'to safeguard', etc. In essence, therefore DHARMA means that which is worthy of being upholded or being practiced. Thus, DHARMA is a comprehensive term which covers an entire range of values.
DHARMA has two factors: (a) Genuine faith and devotion to God, as all noble qualities emanate from God; and (b) Practice of righteousness in ones life, also called as 10 basic principles of Dharma. The above two factors can be the unifying basis for all conventional religions. Hence, it has also been called as Sanatan (forever) or Manav (human) Dharma.
The ten basic principles of Dharma are the following:-
1. Forbearance:- It is the quality to remain calm and composed in all circumstances.
2. Control of mind:- One should exercise full control over the mind which is always restless and changing.
3. Kshama (Forgiveness):- It is virtue of those who are physically and morally strong. However, it is not desirable to forgive a habitual wrong doer.
4. Non Stealing:- One should not steal or take away or acquire anything which belongs to others, without paying its proper price and without permission of the rightful owner
5. Shauch (Cleanliness):- One should keep the body, mind and physical environment clean and pure.
6. Wisdom:- One should always try to gain wisdom through study, self experience and wise company.
7. Control of Senses:- One should keep one's sense (of action and knowledge) under control and become their master. There are five senses of Knowledge and five sense of action.
8. Knowledge:- One should acquire knowledge both of physical and spiritual domain from all possible sources
9. Truth:- One should practice truth in thought, words and deed
10. Non Anger:- One should try to remain calm and balanced even in the face of provocation.
ARTHA or the acquisition of wealth is the second most important pursuit or objective of human life. DHARMA comes first and ARTHA has to be based on Dharma. The observance of DHARMA takes priority. The following are the forms of ARTHA:-
1. Knowledge is the greatest wealth; both material and spiritual. Material Knowledge relates to our worldly life, requirements and activities, while spiritual knowledge relates to spirit, God and inner life. Material knowledge is necessary to live worldly life and it can be gained thru proper education, intellecual pursuits and everyday experience, etc. However, the spiritual knowledge is much difficult to acquire. Spiritual knowledge leads to self realisation. It can be attained through the hard practice of yogic discipline
2. Health is another form of Wealth. One has to acquire and practice the knowledge of attaining good health, which includes the well being at physical, emotional and mental levels. Good food, proper regular exercise and good thoughts are some of the fundamentals of good health.
3. Contentment is another wealth. It means abstinence of desire to possess more and more of life requirements and material possessions. It aso implies that one should work honestly, try his best and be satisfied with the results of his efforts. Contentment give mental peace and moral strength t remain calm in al circumstances
4. Material Wealth is another wealth. It should be acquired keeping the DHARMA. Some portion of money should be used for charitable purposes. It should be expended only for the necessities and not for one's greed (luxuries). One should not become slave of the material wealth but should master it.
KAMA (Controlled fulfillment of desires)
The third pursuit of Life is KAMA - the desire for the satisfaction of sensual urges in which sexual gratification occupies the prime position. On a wider scale, it includes fulfillment of other material desires also.
KAMA is two faceted.
- One (controlled and beneficial desire) acts as a catalytic agent for actions in life. Much of the personal and worldly progress is the result of desire to achieve something, to discover something new.
- Another (uncontrolled or not beneficial desire) can lead to destruction.
It is therefore utmost important to gain knowledge on differentiating between the facets and then to entertain the desires in a controlled way. Let us now examine how desires are produced.
- Desires are produced in the mind through thought process when mind dwells on the objects of senses. When this happens, attachment to external objects is produced. From attachment springs desire.
- The desire goes on increasing and one desire leads to another and so on. Like fire to which fuel is added, KAMA grows more and more with indulgence are overwhelmed by KAMA, the soul also gets deluded and the result is deterioration and destruction.
- Therefore, we should keep KAMA under proper check and at its desirable level in order to make life useful and purposeful.
- We should limit out desires to as low as necessary for the daily living and fulfilling ones duties. Desires which arise out of lust, greed and anger should be curbed absolutely.
- Such control should be enforced from the beginning through wisdom and discrimination. In another words, control of desires should be observed through proper understanding about the consequences of the desires; and should not be by suppression as suppressed desires will bounce back. Repeated reminders, checks and strong determination are useful tools to avoid harmful desires. The observance of principles of DHARMA plays a vital role in the curbing and control of unwanted and harmful desires.
This the fourth an final objective of human life. It is the state of liberation from misery and pain which are so abundant in human life. It is the state of Ananda (perfect bliss) after attaining which nothing more remains to be attained.
Human life is unique. He (/she) is at the top of all creation. Only human beings, unlike other living beings, are endowed with higher intelligence, an ability to think, analyse and discriminate between right and wrong. Unless these endowments are used to full advantage, there is not much difference between human and animal life. Only human beings can go beyond the animal level and reach higher spiritual goals.
The attainment of MOKSHA is extremely difficult to achieve. This usually takes efforts on many births (and rebirths) and may or may not be achieved in one's current span of life except in a few rare cases. It requires arduous spiritual practice, constant and unselfish devotion to GOD an attitude of non-attachment, etc. Our knowledge, selfless action, pure and constant devotion are some of the means which are helpful in attaining MOKSHA.
The attainment of Moksha is the highest goal of life. This the final objective of human life. But there is no instant Moksha. One has to first go through and attain the first three objectives of DHARMA, ARTHA and KAMA. Taking sanyasa (renunciation) from the very beginning from world life, except in certain rare cases, is not recommended. Life has to be first lived at the material level, when ARTHA (wealth) has to be acquired and subsequently all noble desires have to be fulfilled, but all these are required to be attained within the constraints of DHARMA. Thus KAMA and ARTHA have to be accomodated within the over all control of DHARMA