The first goal, kāma, is not just “pleasure,” but it is happiness itself. It is the underlying motivation for everything we do, and the ultimate objective of all the other goals. Consciousness itself has direct access to such kāma pleasure, described as ānanda, but since we are enamored with external existence we neglect to seek this kāma within our natural being, and make efforts to discover it outside ourselves. This necessitates the three other goals…
The second goal, artha, is not just stability but wealth, abundance, and prosperity. We resort to Artha when we need some way of bolstering and fortifying our external concept of pleasure. For example, everyone likes to play on the playground, but after a while we get hungry and need to eat. Having a supply of food, or some way to get food, is a primary example of artha.
The third goal, dharma, is morality in the sense of accepting a certain role in society and not violating the limits of that role. The need for this dharma only arises when our concept of kāma is directed to the resources of the external world. To illustrate… we like to play on the swing, and we have enough food and drink in our lunchboxes so we can play for a long time, but there are other people who also want to play and eat, so now we need some sort of morality concerning how to take turns on the swings and not steal each others lunchboxes.
The fourth goal, mokṣa, is freedom – the ability to rest, give up activities, and be liberated from responsibilities. This one is required because the quest for external kāma is exhausting and we need to rest. After playing on the playground for a long time, even with sufficient food and drink, and good manners and morals, eventually we get tired of it and need mokṣa – a break. A chance to just go in a corner somewhere by ourselves and stop everything, fall asleep, and recoup.
The most ambitious form of mokṣa is to entirely cease external existence altogether.
– Vraja Kishor dās