The purpose of life is often the biggest reason why people turn to religion. When you realize that the cycle of birth and death cannot be all that there is to life, that is when comes the awareness of what is, then, the purpose of this life. Every religion has its answer and path to this question.
The path or purpose of life according to Hinduism is four-fold and they comprise dharma, artha (money), kama (pleasure), and moksha. This concept is called Purusharth in Sanskrit that means an “object of human pursuit”. Let us understand what each means and how every single of them ties together for a fulfilling life.
In Sanskrit Dharma means ‘the way of life’ the way one lives, acts and behaves. This is the overall individual conduct that should guide you in every aspect of life. It refers to the duties and the actions that one takes in their path of righteousness. There is no one-size-fits-all guide to dharma that everyone must live their life by. While every Hindu is free to, rather encouraged to follow their dharma, the goal is to live a pious and righteous life. The basic teachings of dharma are kindness, truthfulness, love, and morally right decisions that will help attain good karma.
2. Artha (Money)
Artha translates to ‘money in Sanskrit and refers to financial or material prosperity. Hinduism understands that it is natural to have the desire for prosperity. Thus the pursuit of wealth is not morally looked down upon in the religion. It does not force people to curb their desire but instead encourages them to guide it in the right direction and stay on the noble path to success. Hinduism believes that a person should achieve their goals and aims, honorably, honestly, without harming someone else, and attain material wealth if they so desire. This will help them come to the awareness that money is not the end goal of life. Thus an intense attachment to wealth is forbidden in the path of moksha.
3. Kama (Pleasure)
Kama is a Sanskrit word that translates to ‘pleasure’, or love and desire. Pleasure is an essential part of every individual’s right and Hinduism lays a major emphasis on it. Several forms of pleasure make a person happy. It can be a cultural quest, learning something new, or even material pleasures of life. However, a crucial aspect of pleasure also comes from fulfilling sexual desires. The word Kama is rooted in sexual pleasure. Hence the conjugal relationship between a couple is considered utmostly sacred in the religion. Instead of abstinence, the followers of Hinduism encourage to embrace their sexuality and cherish the pleasure.
The word Moksha in Sankrit means salvation. In Hinduism, it is the ultimate goal in life that one strives for. When a person breaks free from the cycle of samsara, or worldliness, that is when they can achieve moksha. The path to moksha lies through good karma or actions and deeds that help you free yourself from the cycle of rebirth and reincarnation, to be one with god.
Key Note: Hinduism is more of a path of life than a set of religious teachings. It does not preach denial, but discourages excess, and encourages balance. Its acknowledgment of human flaws and desires makes it easy to follow this path to enlightenment.