The aim of life in Hindu thought is fixed. It is well accepted that the first aim is to establish righteousness (dharma) in our lives. And the ultimate aim of human life is liberation (moksha) from the world and the cycle of rebirths. Earning and accumulating money (artha) and fulfilling material desires (kama) come in between, making the sequence of aims as follows: dharma, artha, kama, and moksha. Because moksha is the ultimate purpose of human life, no matter how many lives it takes to get it, we can call it the “aim of Hindu life,” and the other three can be referred to as preliminary objectives. The labeling of dharma as the first aim shows that all other aims are useful only when they fulfill dharma. If responsibilities are ignored, even moksha may not be pursuable. Artha is about working and saving money. It is only an important intermediate objective, but a major part of humanity assumes it to be all there is. Kama includes all aspirations other than professional placement and bank balances, including technological pursuits, need for expression and communication, friendships, emotional relationships, and sensual pleasures. When artha and kama are coupled with dharma, they convert to concepts like non-possessiveness (aparigraha), disattachment, and contentment—which can eventually lead to moksha.
Excerpted from Devotional Hinduism by M.S. Goel (2008), p. 8.