Ayurveda & The Four Goals of Life (Purushartha): First in a 4 part series

“Vedic knowledge teaches that there exist four basic goals of human life. These goals are so fundamental that every person is motivated to some extent by them. Because they are so basic to our nature, human beings easily become attached to them. Attachment to these fundamental goals is the basis of most of our problems and an obstruction to actually receiving them. The four basic goals of human life are Kama (pleasure), Artha (prosperity), Dharma (service), and Moksha (liberation). Over the next four days, we will explain each of the four goals, beginning with Kama – pleasure.


Kama means “pleasure.” However, depending upon the context, it can also mean “lust,” “beauty,” or “desire.” As a goal, Kama is the pursuit of pleasure and ecstasy. This is the primary goal of the senses and essential to the manifestation of life, as often what is pleasurable is also what is good for us and keeps us alive. The sweet taste of food is a good example. The sweet taste of food is the most nourishing and the most pleasurable. 

The senses, through which the mind experiences pleasure, are ultimately the agent of the ego. Through the senses, the ego seeks to pursue pleasure and avoid pain and suffering. However, sometimes what appears pleasurable, such as the use of drugs or alcohol, eventually leads to suffering. Neither the senses nor the mind are capable of discernment and thus the senses, without a higher source of control, lead a person astray. 

It is not pleasure that is itself harmful, it is the attachment to pleasure. However, pleasure establishes samskaras (tendencies) that then lead to a desire for more pleasure. The constant pursuit of pleasure leads to over-indulgence. It is not the nature of the ego or the senses to self-regulate. They are only kept in balance through the maturity of awareness. It is gross human nature to indulge until the indulgence itself leads to suffering and compromises the potential for life. One only needs to look at the epidemic of obesity, diabetes and heart disease today to see evidence of this. 

As Self-awareness increases, the indulgence of the senses are kept in check by a higher desire. This desire is for liberation of the soul (Moksha). When kept in check, the senses bring joy to a person. This is not the joy of transient, unsustainable ecstasy but rather the joy of simple pleasures. Without Self-awareness, the senses cannot be restrained. Overindulgence is guaranteed and suffering is the result.”

Over the next three days, the remaining three Goals of Life will be discussed: Artha (prosperity), Dharma (alignment with nature), and Moksha (liberation), so please check back!

Excerpt from “Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine,” by Dr. Marc Halpern, Founder of the California College of Ayurveda