In the previous post, we talked about four main objects of human pursuit. How can we pursue these goals effectively? With the help of Sharira, Mana, Buddhi and Atma, we can attain the highest goals in life. These four features body, mind, intellect and soul are to be cared for. In Bhagvad Gita, there is a beautiful simile to explain the importance of these four aspects of human life. The body is a chariot and the soul is a traveler who visits the Earth to gain experiences and attain knowledge. Heartfelt desires set the motion of the chariot. Intellect is similar to reins that steer the chariot in the right direction. It is the responsibility of intellect to discern between right and wrong and pursue only those desires that are aligned with one’s life purpose, or one’s dharma.
Body is the primary means of attaining goals in life. It should be looked after properly with healthy food and appropriate lifestyle. Similarly, mind can be nourished with positive thoughts and feelings. It should not be let loose with uncontrollable desires and licentious yearnings. Mind creates bondage and freedom. Mind is the cause of all sorts of attachments and aversions. Intellect plays an important role in human life. It reins the wandering mind and leads it on the right path. It steers clears of all the hurdles and helps us to reach our destination in life. Total harmony among body, mind, intellect and soul is essential to attain highest goals in life.
In Hinduism, four main objects of human pursuit are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Mokasha. These are the four main goals of human life. Pursuing all the four objectives rationally gives peaceful and stable existence to an individual and society as a whole. Chasing one of them at the cost of ignoring the rest of them creates imbalance in life.
Dharma is the first and fundamental objective to be pursued. However, the definition of dharma varies according to place, time and situation. In simple words dharma can be defined as code of conduct or ethical behavior. Dharma is not to be confused with religion or spirituality. Dharma can be defined as duties and responsibilities of an individual towards himself, his family, his country and humanity. Dharma can be interpreted as a form of self expression, also. Each of us is born with a unique set of talents and capabilities. Acknowledging these gifts and cultivating them is the most fulfilling objective of life. Rooted in one’s dharma, we can easily pursue the rest of the objectives in life.
Artha can be interpreted as attaining material wealth through meaningful activities that offer fulfillment in life. The ultimate goal of attaining wealth is to experience happiness and well being. If earning livelihood creates a lot of stress and anxiety, we must think about the reasons behind it. Shouldn’t it be the expression of your creativity? Shouldn’t it be a pleasurable experience? If not, how can we make it interesting?
Kama is the pursuit of heartfelt desires. It encompasses a wide range of emotions including longings, cravings, yearnings, aspirations and ambitions. Pursuing one’s desires require a sense of discernment. We need to use our intellect while choosing right kind of ambitions and discarding harmful yearnings. Proper understanding of dharma helps in making right choices. Desires that are not in conflict with one’s dharma or true nature are divine. Pursuing such desires can lead us to moksha.
Moksha is the ultimate liberation. If all the above objectives are followed properly and whole heartedly, moksha can be attained naturally.
What is the meaning of life? I am not talking about spiritual or philosophical aspects of the question. In day to day life, what do we aspire to attain or experience? For some the priority may be to earn abundance of money and for some it may be to experience love and harmony in relationships. Some people may wish to become successful in public life and initiate change. Some people wish to attain Nirvana after death, whereas some people want to create heaven on Earth. Some of us like to contemplate and inquire about deepest secrets of life, its meaning, purpose etc while others may not be even vaguely interested in analyzing such matters. They just want to live moment to moment without long term goals or plans.
There is one common element in all the answers above. And that is we seek the meaning, purpose or goal somewhere outside ourselves or in future. We miss to feel fulfilled and content in present moment. If we take a moment and look within ourselves, it is not so difficult to realize that all the time we hanker to experience something. Life is a series of experiences consisting of feelings, thoughts and sensations. Or we can say life is a vast ocean of consciousness where waves of different experiences such as excitement, attachment, attraction and aversion rise and fall. These life experiences, incidents and events illuminate our intellect and lead us to knowledge. So, the ultimate goal of life is knowledge.
In Sanskrit, it is well said: Gyanam Paramam Dhyeyam. Knowledge is the ultimate goal of life.