Ratan has recently being nagged by the eternal question that inevitably bugs us all, i.e. What indeed is the purpose of life. In his words:
Is there a higher purpose or are we basically here to make a career, support our families and eventually grow old and die? Or in other words, make our lives more comfortable while continuing the cycle of life…Iím fairly certain that there is more to my life. And Iím going to find out what the heck it is, even if it kills me!
Purpose. It’s something that we have touched time and again and again on the Arif & Ali blog. The below answer summarises our views on this topic till date. Me and Ali have discussed this topic endlessly. Have covered various books, lectures and podcasts on it. We are of the view that the below answer addresses this enigma as completely as it possibly can be. We’d be really keen to hear your views, do drop a comment whether you agree with us or not.
This life is certainly not just to eat, drink and be merry. (Although that has it’s place too). If indeed our purpose was to simply exist and maximise our pleasures while we are here, that would make us nothing but glorified animals.
What! Did you then think that We had created you in vain (Quran Ch 23: Verse:115 )
What is the life of this world but amusement and play?; (Quran Ch 29: Verse:64)
So what’s our purpose? We have found peace with this question in different answers:
First Answer: The purpose of this life is growth.
It’s progression. As long as you are becoming a better you tomorrow than you are today, you are achieving your purpose of life. Growth comes in many dimensions. You can make yourself stronger either physically, intellectually, skill-wise and/or spiritually. If the entire of humanity were clearly focussed on mutual growth, which at times require sacrifice, (sometimes great sacrifice), wouldn’t we collectively be in a much better world today?
All growth is good, but it’s not complete until it’s accompanied by spiritual growth. After all what does God want from us? Does He want more prayers, more fasts, more chants on the rosary beads? What use is this worship if it doesn’t bring about any change from within. If after 40 years of praying I am still the same Arif who cusses and swears, what use has my prayer been. The value of Worship is directly proportional to the degree of purity that it produces. And if indeed there has been no internal growth, then all my years of worship have been for naught. They were nothing more than a rootless oak tree whose core has been consumed by termites. So grand and awe-inspiring to look at, but it doesn’t have the trunk to stand up to a whisper of a breeze.
Second Answer: Realise that everyone has an Inner Purpose and an Outer Purpose.
An Outer Purpose is what you do. It’s generally what keeps you busy from most of the hours of the day. It’s what you use to identify yourself to friends at a party. Your Outer Purpose may be that you are a Businessman, a Software Engineer even a House-wife or a Parent. You may be in the unique few who have found their dream job and look forward to work every single day or you may be with the bulk of humanity of that groan and grumble all their way to work, every single morning. If you have not found your ideal Outer Purpose, the below questions are a gold-mine to help you identify it and then even eventually work towards in living your ideal life.
- What are my unique Talents?
- How can I use my unique talents to serve others?
- What gives me peak experiences and Joy?
- What would I be doing, if I had all the time and money in the world?
- What do I love to do?
- What are the top values I believe in and uphold the most?
Why is it, that even those who are living their Dream Lives are still not happy? They have not found their peace and are always looking for something more? The entertainment industry specially has plethora of examples, Elvis Presley killed himself at the age of 42 by overeating and drugs, Marilyn Monroe committed suicide via a drug overdose and as on date it seems poor Michael Jackson might have killed himself (figuratively speaking) because of being addicted to the same evil. They were leading the lives that millions dream of. Yet it was still not enough. Why? What was missing?
Although everyone’s Outer Purpose may differ, everyone’s Inner Purpose is the same. What is this Inner Purpose, that holds the key to Eternal Peace? It is to, “Know Yourself”. As hokey and spiritual-ovy it may sound, there is deep truth and wisdom in that statement. But how do you get to “know yourself”? And what is this “know yourself”, business in the first place? Knowing yourself is realising that you are not your physical body, because it keeps changing, but the core of you is the same. I may chop of my arm (and my other limbs too) but the core of me, my thoughts, feelings, ideas and opinions have hardly changed. Similarly knowing yourself is realising that you are not just an Engineer, a Doctor, or a Parent or even your name. Although they are a part of ‘You’ it’s hardly your essence.
So, who are you? Well, I can’t tell you. That’s for you to find out, however answering the below questions is a great place to start:
1. Where have you come from?
because you certainly did not come from nothing
2. Where are you heading towards?
whether you like it or not or agree with it or not, you are moving, progressing in some direction intentionally or inadvertently. Where is that you are going?
3. What brings you permanent, everlasting pleasure and happiness?
realise that it’s not a new job, car or even a new wife :-P. Well, then what is it?
4. What is it that brings you permanent everlasting sadness and gloom?
Once you have fulfilled your Inner Purpose, your Outer Purpose will seem less significant. But since, you are not just a spiritual being and are stuck in this time space continuum. Hence you have got to have an Outer Purpose too, but it’ll not longer be the means and source of your satisfaction. You then can work towards aligning your Outer Purpose (ie your job) with your Inner one.
Eckhart Tolle’s, A New Earth
Ali has written this excellent blog post on fulfilling your outer purpose.