Hinduism takes a holistic view of living. It has four goals and stages of human life; – “Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha,” – namely learning of rules (ways) of life, Acquisition of wealth, fulfillment of desires and liberation from worldly attachment are the four “purushartha” or purpose of human life. Similarly, – “Brahmacharya, Grahasthashra, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa” – Student hood, householder, retired and renunciate are the four stages of life.
Dharma – Law, Duty
Dharma is the righteous way of living, is akin to do your duty and follow the law. It is the rule book pertaining to various aspects of life. It enunciates the principles, ethical and moral values of living, essentially guides the ways in which other three goals of life – of acquiring financial wealth, fulfillment of desires and how to exit the life from these two stages can be fulfilled with least resistance. Virtuous and proper and productive living is the construct here and educating one of the duties and rules of the game called life is the goal.
Artha – Wealth
The dictionary meaning of Artha is meaning, purpose, money, worldly prosperity, wealth. Artha is the material potential that includes all means of material needed for livelihood and security of livelihood. The survival and the thriving of humans requires wealth – that is, economic activity, wealth and its creation, worldly success, profit, political success and all that that is necessary for human existence. Wealth and prosperity is closely linked with all the other goals and is essential to fulfill them and absence of it means difficulties in goal fulfillment.
Kama – Desire
Kama refers to the principles of desire, drives, pleasure, enjoyment, wish, emotional fulfillment, sensuality and sexuality. Artistic desires such as art, music, material possessions such as jewelry, cloth, fine house and gourmet food, sport and sex fulfillment are the instances of desire and fulfillment of these is encouraged in the righteous manner.
Moksha – Liberation
The goal of moksha is self-realization, self-knowledge, and liberation from worldly aspirations. Freedom and spiritual aspirations are the goals of this space.
Stages of life vs principles of life
Stages of life are aligned with goals of life. In the first stage of studentship educations is the goal, where in, one learns the rules of life including what is life is all about and how to acquire things that are needed to make it successful and righteous way of living. Discipline in cultivation of knowledge, control of ones thoughts, actions and deeds with respect to desires and enjoyment, staying away from entertainment and forces that distract one in his studies, and focus in studies are the goals of this stage. Equipping one self, learning and knowledge and skill building are the primary focus in this stage , Having learnt the rules of life, earning and living he sets forth to lay the foundation of what is called family life
In the second stage which is of householder, one is married, and duties include maintaining a home, raising a family, caring for the children, parents, and society around. Acquiring wealth and fulfillment of one’s desires are the purpose of this stage and is considered to be the happiest stage in one’s life. Here all the desires and physical, emotional and social needs of person are to be fulfilled. The necessary means for it to be acquired. Wealth, security, pleasure and sexual needs fulfillment, and family are the main focus in this stage of life. One is encouraged to fulfill ones legitimate needs and desires be it physical, emotional, familial, financial and societal in this stage of life.
In the third stage of retirement, the person slowly starts disengaging oneself from the family responsibilities and starts handing over the responsibility to the next generation taking an advisory role. Here he is to prepare oneself for the attainment of spiritual liberation.it is one of detachment and being useful to the society serving as judge, teacher, counselor and wayfarer that marks this stage.
The fourth and final stage is that of ascetic, is marked by renunciation of material desires and prejudices, represented by a state of disinterest and detachment from material life, and has the purpose of spending one’s life in peaceful and spiritual way.
One is prepared and encouraged to face and lead the life according to the time and stages one finds oneself. One is expected to age and evolve naturally and gracefully. Each of the above stages equip one for the stage he is in and prepares him for the successive stage in life. The stages of student, family man, advisor and ascetic are applicable in that order for majority of the human being with a few exception, where a person can skip family stage and become a monk. For a successful living the learner stage is the foundation and how each one has lived in the previous stage decides the current stage the man is in.
Hindu way of life is simple living and high thinking. Poverty is not glorified and wealth by rightful means is encouraged. Moderation is encouraged and excess is abhorred. It is based on logic, reasoning and experience. However somewhere along the way these principles have got corrupted and sadly, Hinduism has got solely associated with rituals and dogmas and nihilism.
Hinduism stresses the importance of education in student hood, pursuit of wealth and happiness for householders, advisory role and preliminary detachment during retirement stage and liberation and spirituality in the final stages of life. Adhering to these principles paves way for happy and fulfilled life and good society.