Most people believe they have to frame goals in life and then keep achieving one goal after another. Don’t they wonder where it all ends? We must ponder what the ultimate goal is, rather than moving from mundane goal to the next.
The first goal in life is to cultivate a righteous way of living (Dharma). It is about tuning into ourselves and the world around. The word dharma has a wider and deeper meaning too. Beyond righteousness, it refers to the essential nature of a thing, without which it cannot retain its independent existence.
With the foundation of dharma, we pursue the other two goals in life – wealth and prosperity (artha) and fulfilment of our desires (Karma). Goals in life are for example, an educational degree, serving one’s country, marriage, earning wealth, acquiring assets, building relationships, protection, etc. these goals are vary from person to person and are time bound.
Goals in life are constructed for one to mature and grow through their experiences of life and see, for themselves, the limitations of pursuing power, prestige, and pleasure. Thus, pursuing the goals in life will eventually lead to the goal of life when we become dissatisfied by the incomplete joys the world has to offer and we are ready to look for more.
Goal of life is actually the other version of moksha. It is liberation from the finite body-mind complex and all its bondages with the world. Bondage refers to the sense of, and identification with, limitations of body, mind, intellect; and time, space and objects. Moksha is the ultimate goal of human life, attaining which, there is nothing left to attain.
Everyone must move through these four goals – Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha and not get stuck at any one. It is only when the ultimate goal is realised that a human life is fulfilled.
And all we want is freedom from the shackles of life. If we observe the human desires closely, can see just they will fall under one of these four categories like Righteous, Wealth & Property, Enjoyment of worldly pleasure and the ultimate goal of life – freedom. But these four categories must be looked at as water-tight compartments. They are actually graded. Pleasure and wealth without the foundation of right thinking are hollow and binding, and send us into the thorns of misery. To give a straightforward example, if we keep eating whatever we fancy without paying attention to our health, we will easily be stricken by diseases. Or if we chase after money ruthlessly with no regard of moral codes of conduct, we will live a life of fear and dissatisfaction. On the other hand if we adopt a healthy lifestyle and earn our livelihood honestly, our quality of life will be much better. Dharma helps us to achieve this point of equilibrium.