Purusharthas: The Goals of Life
By Miten Kana
NHSF Learning Team
Students often find themselves contemplating the mysteries of life; what purpose am I serving as a human being on this earth? Am I here to just eat, drink, sleep and attend lectures? Surely there is more to this? I am sure many of you have, at some point, questioned your own existences. This is perfectly natural. As human beings we have a tendency to question and contemplate deeper thought. Thanks to the beauty of Hindu Dharma, such mysteries need not exist. Such a system exists that gives meaning and depth to not only to an individual, but to society as a whole. Even more enlightening is that you need not be a Hindu to follow these objectives, these goals are called the Purusharthas.
The word Purushartha is a Sanskrit compound that directly translates to human purpose. This translation demonstrates the objectives are for Human society. Hindu Sadhus realised the four simple goals to leading a fulfilled life are: Dharma (duties), Artha (material prosperity), Kama (desire) and Moksha (liberation). Dharma incorporates finding the truth by leading a disciplined life. One must fulfil their duty rather than be selfish. For example, it is an MPs duty to lead his whole constituency, not just those who voted for him. Honesty, truth, love and justice are the virtues which should be practised in life.
Artha recognises the need for material things in order to live a suitable life. As humans, we cannot be expected to live like animals in a forest. Everyone needs a home, food and money in order to live a worldly life. Money should be earned by fair and honest means and should be spent wisely on necessities. Gaining wealth should not be ones only objective – there is more to life than money.
Kama understands the need to enjoy worldly happiness through the five senses. However, we are warned that not all desires can be fulfilled immediately as the karmic effect would lead to unhappiness. Students should understand that the desire for sexual happiness is natural, but there is time set aside for it in life, called the Grihastha Ashram (family life). Therefore is a necessity to lead a disciplined life. Moksha is the final objective of life and is to gain freedom from worldly sufferings and inevitably the continuous cycle of birth and death. This can be achieved by leading a virtuous, righteous and disciplined life.
Just as a student plans and studies for exams, so should one set a guideline to uphold and maintain these Purusharthas. This not only gives meaning to ones life, but benefits society as a whole – what better objective than understanding Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – The Whole World is One Family.