We have a reader question by Ganesh
Every great person and enlightened sage exhorts everybody to find out the purpose of this life and to seek the ultimate truth. What exactly is this purpose? And what is the truth they are talking?. I am a doctor who is pursuing mba in hospital management. When I used to treat patients, I did that work diligently and when I am a student now, I invest my faculties in improving my knowledge. Is discharging the role that one is assigned either through circumstance or due to one`s own efforts the purpose of life or is this some other thing. Also does the purpose of life change for each individual.
Thanks and regards,
You have asked a very difficult as well as a very easy question.
If I know what is the purpose of my life, then this question is very easy one. I will give you a straight answer that so and so is the purpose of life.
If I don’t know what is the purpose of my life, then this question is a very hard one. I will tell you that life doesn’t have any purpose or maybe I don’t know what is the purpose of life.
So you see, whether or not life has a purpose depends on who is asking the question and who is answering it.
So if a Deer asks this question to a Lion – “What is the purpose of life?”, the Lion will reply that the purpose of your life is to satiate my hunger. And then he will go and kill the deer and eat it to fulfill his need.
If a patient asks this question to a Doctor – “What is the purpose of life?”, the Doctor will reply that the purpose of my life is to cure your disease and the purpose of your life is to pay me a fee so that I can pay my bills.
So we see that, whenever we seek the answer to this question – What is the purpose of life, there is a relationship between who is asking the question and who is answering it. If these two parties are not related to each other in any way, then the discussion ends.
The Vedic Point of View For “Purpose in Life”?
If you seek the answer from Vedas, it is clearly mentioned that anything you are aware of, you cannot be that. Please read this – I am not this, I am That!
Vedas clearly tells us that what you think you are, you are not that. You think you are a Doctor, teacher, musician, student, business man or whatever definition you want to give but in reality, these are simply illusions. You are not what you think you are.
So you think you are a doctor. Just because you treat patients doesn’t mean you are a doctor. I drive my car everyday that doesn’t mean I am a driver. I wash my clothes everyday, that does not mean I am a washerman. Sometimes, I cook food for me and my family, that doesn’t mean that I am a chef
These definitions have been created by human society and civilization and purpose has nothing to do with these definitions.
Coming back to purpose, different people will give you different definitions and according to vedas, all these definitions are incorrect.
- Somebody may tell you that the purpose of life is to find happiness. Then you can question him back if purpose of life is happiness, why is nobody happy in this world?
- Somebody may tell you that the purpose of life is to find meaning and fulfillment. Then you can question him back then why do people are always searching for meaning and fulfillment and never satisfied with what they get out of that search?
- Somebody may tell you that the purpose of life is to find God. Then you can question him back then why has noone seen or realized God yet?
- Somebody may tell you that life doesn’t have any purpose. Then you can question him back if life doesn’t have any purpose, then what are we doing here?
Material definitions cannot define what is the purpose of life. What you are asking is from your material point of view – I am a doctor, I treat patients, what is the purpose of life?
Suddenly, if you become a millionaire tomorrow and have access to lots of money, you will start doing something else. Maybe you will become a business man or maybe you will start doing charity. Then you will say – Oh, service to human kind is the purpose of life.
If you get married and have kids, you will have a different purpose now – I have to protect and provide the needs for my family. If you fall in love with a different woman – you will have another purpose – to leave your family and find solace in the company of that woman.
This goes on and on.
What happened to the original purpose of being a doctor? Poof, it’s gone and it is no longer relevant to your situation, circumstances and context.
People who say that they have a purpose in life are living inside an illusion, thinking that what they are doing is what their purpose in life is. It is completely false. The moment there is a big change in circumstance and situation, that purpose will no longer be upheld. And this is true for everyone. Look at saints, holy people and all those who say that realization of God is the purpose of life. Look at them carefully, you will know that they are professionals who are using religion and God to fulfill their own objectives of maintaining their existence alone. It’s just a show, just like you are doing the job of a doctor to earn a salary.
According to vedas, life’s code of conduct is to abide to one’s Dharma. If you are doctor, your code of conduct is to help human kind with your service. That is your Dharma. If someone is dying and needs medical attention, you have to provide for it, that is your Dharma.
But Dharma is not purpose in life. Dharma and purpose are different.
Purpose or “Why do I exist?” or “Who am I?” is again answered by that question – I am not this, I am that!
Na tatra chaksur gachati, na vaag gachati, na manah
Na vidmo na vijaaniimo yathaitad anushishyaat
anyad eva tad viditadd atho aviditaad adhi
iti shushruma purveshaam ye nas tad vyaacha chakshirey
Let’s understand what this shloka is trying to say.
- Na tatra chaksur gachati – The eye cannot reach there.
- Na Vaag gachati – Neither it can be described through words.
- Na Manah – The mind cannot reach there.
- Na vidmo na vijaaniimo yathaitad anushishyaat – Nobody can teach this to anyone, it is impossible to convey the definition of “That” based on human understanding.
- Anyad eva tad viditadd atho aviditaad adhi – It is indeed other than the known but it is not the unknown either.
- Iti shushruma purveshaam ye nas tad vyaacha chakshirey – it is not divine, neither human, not something which people worship. The understanding of this is the goal of life, death and beyond.
The understanding of something where the mind cannot reach, is the “That” that is being referred here. Your real identity cannot be defined, understood or described through words. None of what you think about yourself or what the world thinks about you is the truth – understand this.
If your “identity” itself cannot be defined, then how can the purpose be defined? It cannot be defined. I am not saying that there is no purpose of your life. What I am saying is that it cannot be defined that – “This is the purpose of my life”
In One life, you live infinite lives. You transform, you change, you die and take birth every morning. Your life is not just one life, it is a collection of infinite lives. There can be one fixed purpose and there can be no fixed purpose and there can be varying purpose(s), it is completely up to you, what you choose and where your karma takes you. So do not worry if you do not know what is the purpose of your life, it is perfectly fine not to have any purpose whatsoever. Purpose, after all, is not a necessity.
And purpose is something which can never be defined. Just like your position in this universe can never be defined (read Heisenberg’s uncertanity principle). Nobody can calculate precisely where you are currently present in this universe, since the universe itself is moving, contracting and expanding at a huge dimension which can never be measured.
In the same way, the “purpose” can never be defined or measures since your identity itself cannot be defined in a precise way. What you think you are, you are not that! You are something beyond that, something beyond what you perceive yourself. Something beyond human rationale and thinking. Something beyond the obvious!