The Four Acceptable Goals
I. Although for Hinduism Moksha, release from the cycle of birth and rebirth, is the ultimate goal. However there are four acceptable goals, Kama or pleasure, Artha or power and wealth, dharma or duty, and Moksha or release. Many people are uninterested in “religion” and have other fish to fry. Hindus don’t find this objectionable.
A. Kama or pleasure
1. Consider the response of the typical Christian to the life of a pleasure-seeker. For many Christians, someone who lives this way is living in sin, pursuing the wrong goal for one’s life. Such a life is in need of correction in order to avoid eternal punishment. Even in more secular circles, a life primarily devoted to pleasure-seeking is considered shallow.
2. However, in Hinduism the pursuit of pleasure is not regarded as necessarily a bad thing. Eventually a person will tire of worldly pleasure, to be sure. Enjoyment is, however a permissible goal, and pleasure-seekers need not go without guidance. Everyone’s favorite Hindu sacred book, the Kama Sutra, provides instruction on how to pursue pleasure. Someone who seeks pleasure is not criticized so long has he stays within moral rules. However, in this or some future existence he will come to realize that pleasure is not enough and that he needs something more deeply satisfying.
B. Artha, or power or substance—material possessions and social standing.
1. This is considered a legitimate aspiration and requires toughness and ruthlessness. Once again there is literature to guide people in their pursuit of this goal, the Arthasatras. But once again this is not supposed to be ultimately satisfying.
C. Dharma or duty-Being faithful in doing that duty required of a person based on that persons’s caste, sex, and stage of life. These are spelled out in the Code of Manu.
D. Moksha or release/ Negatively, this goal is release from the cycle of rebirth and redeath, positively it is pure freedom, liberation from both existence of existence and nonexistence. It is sometimes called Nirvana in Hindu literature; for the Buddhist tradition that is what it is always called.