The Four Stages of Life
The four ends of life or goals of humanity are called purusharthas. In Hindu tradition, these four comprise a scheme or set of goals that tell what life is for. The scheme has been maintained in its current form for over 2,000 years.
Artha is the first aim of life. It signifies material prosperity and achieving worldly well-being. The word literally means “thing, object, or substance,” but signifies the whole range of tangible objects that can be possessed, enjoyed, and lost, and which you require in your life for the upkeep of a household, raising of a family, and discharge of religious duties. Wealth and material well-being is not its own end; rather, it is a means to an enriched life.
Successes in the stage of artha are means to ends, since they help you support a household and discharge your civic duties. But there are limitations even at this stage, since success can be very private — success here is private, not cooperative. There is another problem: Wealth, fame, and power do not survive death and are, therefore, ephemeral.
Kama, which is the second aim of life, has to do with fun, but more generally pleasure. In Indian mythology, Kama is the counterpart of cupid; he is the Hindu god of love. Kama refers to the emotional being, feelings and desires. According to Indian philosophy, people denied their emotional lives and fulfillment of pleasurable desires are repressed and live under a continual strain. All of this is ruinous to their sanity and well-being.
Who was the
There is little doubt that the Kama Sutra was written for a predominantly male audience, setting out to cater to their sexual desires. Some passages refer to how men might better satisfy women's sexual pleasure, but even these passages are male centered.
Kama teaching is exciting because it runs counter to frustrations resulting from arranged marriages of convenience. As time went on, marriages became more and more family managed affairs. There were no limits to how meddlesome the parents might be. Bargains struck by the heads of families, based on the horoscopes cast by astrologers and economic and social considerations, determined the fate of the young bride and groom.
The third of the four aims includes, in essence, the sum and substance of your religious and moral duties comprising your righteousness. Indian literature contains rituals and numerous social regulations for the three upper castes. Brahman (priest), Ksatriya (noble), and Vaisya (merchant and agriculturalist) are meticulously formulated according to the teaching of the Creator himself (in the Vedas).
Dharma is the doctrine of the duties and rights of each group and person in the ideal society, and as such the law or mirror of all moral action. Ethical life is the means to spiritual freedom as well as its expression on earth. At this stage, the individual undertakes a kind of religion of duty. Here, energy is directed toward helping others, but this service is also finite and will come to an end.
What people really want is found in the fourth aim, which is spiritual release. The chief end of man is the full development of the individual. The Upanishad tells us that there is nothing higher than people, but people are not mere assemblages of body, life, and mind born of and subject to physical nature. The natural half-animal being with which man confuses himself is not his whole or real being; it is the instrument for the use of spirit, which is the truth of his being. It is the ultimate aim, the final good, and as such is set over and above the other three. Artha, Kama, and Dharma, known as the trivarga, the “group of three,” are the pursuits of the world; each implies its own orientation or “life philosophy,” and to each a special literature is dedicated.
By far the greatest measure of Indian thought, research, teaching, and writing has been concerned with the supreme spiritual theme of liberation from ignorance and the passions of the world's general illusion. Moksa, from the root muc, (“to loose, set free, let go, release”) means “liberation.” These and other terms taken together suggest something of the highest end of man as conceived by the Indian sage.