The Four Goals of Hindu Life: Kama, Artha, Dharma & Moksha

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Hindu Rituals, Ceremonies, and Festivals

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:58 Kama
  • 1:48 Artha
  • 3:27 Dharma
  • 5:14 Moksha
  • 6:14 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will seek to explain the four permissible goals of Hindu life. In doing so, it will define the ancient concepts of kama, artha, dharma and moksha.

Hindu Goals

In today's lesson, we're going to tackle the four permissible goals of Hindu life. They are kama, artha, dharma and moksha. To do this in such a short amount of time will require some serious oversimplification of a very deep topic. Add to this the fact that most of the terms we're going to use are completely foreign to the Western tongue, and it's not hard to see how this lesson could get a bit hairy.

In order to make this lesson easier to navigate, there are three things I'd like you to grasp:

  1. Hinduism teaches that the pursuit of these four goals is permissible. In other words, it's okay to want and seek them.
  2. Each goal is considered more important, or noble, than the previous goal.
  3. These goals traditionally apply to men only.

With this in mind, let's get on with our goals.


The first permissible goal is kama. To put it simply, kama is pleasure, and it refers to the desires of the mind and the physical body. It is the human desire for passion and emotion. In other words, it's ok to love; it's ok to experience attraction and desire. In fact, the Hindus' god of love is actually named Kama. From this name comes the famous and very ancient Hindu guide to the physical expression of love known as the Kamasutra.

Although kama, or pleasure, is a permissible goal, a spiritually maturing Hindu will realize it is not the end all to life. There is more to strive for. This brings us to our next goal, Artha.


Simply put, artha can be loosely translated as wealth and power, and according to the goals of Hinduism, it's ok to want these two things. In fact, the pursuit of them is considered noble since a person needs them in order to raise a family and keep a household.

This is especially true for those who exist in the upper classes, or castes, of Hindu society. For them, artha, or wealth, is sought after in order to fulfill one's destiny. In other words, some were made to be rulers and kings; others were made to be beggars. Those who were made to be kings have every right to seek wealth and power. It's not just a noble goal; it's their duty and the best way to keep society in balance. If they are born into the upper ranks of Hindu society, then by all means, they can seek wealth.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true for those in the lower castes of Hindu society. Although it is permissible for them to seek to provide for their families, they should not seek wealth as a means to move on up the social ladder. On the contrary, it is incumbent upon them to accept their low station in life as part of their duty or dharma.

Although this idea of one's predestined role or duty is very foreign to those of us in the West, it's a huge part of the Hindu faith. In fact, this idea of duty, or dharma, is actually the next goal. Although kama and artha are permissible goals, they are not as significant as the fulfillment of dharma.


Since the goal of dharma is probably the most alien to our Western paradigm, we'll spend a bit more time on it. To simplify, dharma means duty. It's sort of a set of standards by which a person should live. However, dharma can be very circumstantial and very personal. In other words, each person's dharma is different. Since this is rather confusing, let's use a tangible example.

Most faiths hold to the idea that murder is wrong. Across the board, it's usually a no-no and would go against dharma. However, sometimes murder may be necessary for the greater good. For instance, what if a ruler kills a few people in order to avoid an all-out war? Although this is a rather violent argument on the use of personal dharma, it's a famous one taken right from the pages of the ancient Hindu story about dharma, known as the Bhagavad Gita.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account