Human goals are called purushartha. It is a compound of two words – purusha and arthah. Purusha means a human being, male or female. Arthah, like many words in Sanskrit has more than one meaning. Arthah could stand for “meaning” or it could mean wealth or it could have the meaning of purpose/goal, depending upon the context. Here, the word purusharatha, is used in the sense of goal, that which everyone is seeking.
All human goals are classified by sastra into three categories – artha, kama and dharma. All action arising out of an end that has to do with basic requirement for one’s security and survival are clubbed under artha, here used in the sense of wealth. All efforts at finding satisfaction from the more intangible factors such as art, poetry etc. beyond the basic security needs are classified under kama. Our efforts at reaching-out karma, such as helping those in need, or doing other karma that may help us move to other lokas after death (for example, svarga loka) fall under dharma.
Most people have a goal, or goals. I have done an exercise with many groups about their goal. Each person in the group is given time to think about what his/her life goals are. They may come up with many different answers: ranging from “I want to own a large apartment” to “I want to get married and have children” to “I want to amass a fortune” to “I want to be the MD of a large company” to “I want to travel the world” to “I want to be a great scientist/sportsman” to “I want to be famous” to “I want to leave behind a legacy by which I will be remembered” to “I want to help others” to “I want to go to heaven” etc. He is then asked to write down one or two most important goal/s on top of a sheet of paper.
Once one has thus written down what his life goal is, he then writes “WHY?” in capital letters in the next line and is asked to think about it. Whatever the answer to that question is, it is then written down in the next line, followed by “WHY?” again. This process is repeated as many times as necessary, till one arrives at a final word or a phrase. Interestingly, the most common words that derive from such an exercise are Happiness, or Security. You can try it yourself.
This would imply that one is not happy or secure in the current state. That is why everyone puts in so much effort, does so many actions in an attempt to change the existing situation – hopefully for the better.
It would therefore appear that all human beings are trying to make changes, reach somewhere else, where there is (more) happiness or security, because of their own sense of limitation.
Is that our purpose in life? Keep doing something that will give me more happiness or security? Till when?
Think about it.
(Swami Ganeshaswarupananda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)