The Four Goals of Life is a valued concept in Hindu culture, and a key aspect of the philosophies behind yoga and Ayurveda. It’s said that when these four goals, or purusharthas, are sought after and achieved, a person leads a happy, fulfilled, and therefore successful life. By incorporating these goals into a daily practice, you’ll notice a greater sense of peace and purpose in your own
life. Each one builds on top of the other, so take it one step at a time.
Here they are:
Artha essentially means “wealth,” and it refers to material security. This is the foundational goal of having our basic needs met as humans. We need to be able to support ourselves and our family, and even other people as well, at least from time to time. It’s our innate right as humans to feel secure. You deserve, just as much as anyone else, to feel taken care of. You deserve to have all the things you need (i.e. healthy, fresh food, safe shelter, clean clothes, a good job, perhaps a car to get you to that job, etc.) so that you can focus on the bigger things like following your heart’s desires and digging into your Soul Work.
Remember, we may be spiritual beings, but we are having a human experience, so denying ourselves basic worldly needs is not recommended! If you have any sort of lack mentality, see if you can start working through that shadow. Give yourself permission to have and enjoy all the things you really need in order to thrive.
Kama means pleasure. It’s the goal of embracing the joy and pleasure of being human. Having desires is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a necessary part of life (hence it making the cut for this ancient list!). Our desires give us drive. Even the smallest inclinations provide clues to the path we’re meant to take during our time on earth. Follow your heart, listen to your soul’s desires, and you’ll uncover your life’s purpose.
Life isn’t meant to be lived without fun or even occasional indulgence. We’re here to enjoy greatly and love deeply! We’re here to really live! Finding joy in daily life and fulfilling our deepest desires is an important aspect of fully coming alive as a human. We actualize our highest potential first by getting in touch with our desires, and then honoring them. But it's important to distinguish between pure desire and pleasure, which brings you closer to your truest soul essence, and your materialistic, ego pleasures which are superficial and fleeting by nature.
Dharma has many different definitions, but in this context, dharma means “life purpose.” This is something the human psyche has always yearned to understand. What are we here for?
Everyone’s dharma will look different, but ultimately, it will serve the greater good of humanity and the world at large. The goal of dharma is to find your life’s work and then give your everything to it. This may be your vocation or career, but not necessarily. Dharma is work that aligns with your moral values, lifts you up and makes you feel good, all while selflessly serving and enriching the lives of others. Basically, it’s a win for everyone!
Moksha means liberation. Becoming free from suffering is one of the biggest drives for taking on a spiritual path. We come to yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, and all other spiritual practices, looking for more connection with ourselves, the earth, and spirit. We want peace and freedom and answers.
Moksha is inner freedom; total liberation from worldly attachments and aversions. The aim is to maintain a deep seated sense of peace, regardless of what life throws your way. Moksha is the ultimate goal, as it essentially transcends this body and life by looking at the bigger picture.
You’ll still have ups and downs, of course, but you won’t be so shaken by them. You’ll know in the deepest part of your soul that everything is going to be okay. You can let go of your expectations, fears, and desires, and truly experience peace in the present moment. Moksha is a surrendering to the infinite. When you achieve this utmost sense of freedom, you will know peace from the inside-out, and nothing can take it away from you.
Which of the four goals do you feel you need to focus on most? Which one comes naturally to you? Let us know in the comments!
About Emily O'Brien:
Emily is an Ayurvedic practitioner, yoga teacher, and mother with an overall “crunchy” approach toward life. Writing about what she’s learned throughout years of study is her favorite way to share with others. She hopes her articles can spark awareness and inspiration within readers to lead happier, healthier, more peaceful lives.
Find out more about Emily at https://www.emilyobrienwellnesscom/