THE PURPOSE OF
Every living being has a purpose in life and it is the knowing of that purpose that makes every soul able to fulfil it. As it is said in the Gayan,
"Blessed is he who knoweth his life's purpose".
Do not be surprised if you find many groping through the darkness all through life, doing one thing and going from one thing to the other, always dissatisfied, always discontented; and nothing they undertake has the desired result. The reason is the absence of that knowledge, the knowledge of the purpose of life.
Individuals apart, every object has its purpose. The mission of science is to discover the purpose in objects. It is from that discovery that science has come; be it medical science or philosophy, all the different aspects of science are the result of discovering the purpose of things. But mysticism is to find the purpose in the lives of human beings the purpose in one's own life and the purpose in the life of others. As long as man has not found this purpose he may have success or failure, he may seemingly be happy or unhappy but in reality he does not live; for life begins from the moment a person has found the purpose of his life.
You will find people with all riches, with position, with comfort and conveniences in life and yet they are missing something, missing the main thing which alone can make them happy: the knowing of the purpose of their life. This is the very thing they miss and at the same time mankind is ignorant of this. Man will be interested in a thousand things, in one thing and then in another thing and so on, but he will never come to that point where he finds the purpose of his life. Why? First of all because he does not look for it.
Now coming to children's education, the education of youth, very often the parents never think about this problem. Whatever seems to them beneficial for the child they recommend him to do. They do not pay attention to the fact that the child, the youth has to find the purpose of his life. How many lives have been ruined for this reason! A child may have been brought up with every facility and yet always kept away from the purpose of his life. Sa'di says, "Every infant is born for a certain purpose and the light of that purpose is kindled in his soul". It is a psychological and mystical secret that however unhappy man may be, the moment he knows the purpose of his life a switch is turned and the light is on. He may not yet be able to accomplish it, but the very fact of knowing the purpose gives him all the hope, vigour, inspiration and strength to wait for that day. If he had to strive after that purpose his whole life, he would not mind as long as he knew that that was the purpose. Ten such persons have much greater power than a thousand people working from morning till evening, not knowing the purpose of their life.
Besides, what we call wrong and right, good or bad is also according to our purpose in life. There is for instance a person whose vocation in life is to write plays and there is another person who is studying medicine. Both have their examination before them. There is a play advertised which makes them both feel, "I want to go and see it". The medical student thinks, "My examination is near, I must study at home but this is an attractive play" and then he says, "I must go and see it". The student who is a play-writer thinks, "To go and see the play might be beneficial". Both act in the same way, both see the same play but one loses the sense of studying and the other is inspired.
Now we come to the purpose of all, the ultimate purpose. We begin our lives with an individual purpose but we come to a stage where the purpose of every soul is one and the same. And that purpose can be studied by studying the inclination of man. Every soul has five inclinations hidden in the depth of his heart. Being absorbed in the life of the world man may forget that ultimate purpose, but at the same time there is a continual inclination towards it; which shows that the ultimate purpose of the life of all persons is one and the same.
One of these five inclinations is the love of knowledge. It is not only the intellectual and intelligent beings who seek after knowledge. Even an infant wishes to know what every little noise is. Every child in seeing a beautiful colour and line in a picture asks what it is. And so - it may be more or less - every individual is striving after knowledge. No doubt in life as it is today many are placed in a situation where they never have a moment in which to gain that knowledge which they seek after. From morning till evening they have their duty to perform, they are so absorbed in it that after some time that hunger for knowledge is gone and their mind becomes blunted. It is not one person, there are thousands of people whom life has placed in a certain situation where they cannot help but put their mind to their work and never have time to think about things that they would like to think, that they would like to know. We have made this life. Can we call it progress? We call it freedom, but it is not freedom of mind. The mind is thrown into a limited horizon and we call it a sphere.
Besides that, in education we can see everyday that the examinations for different things are becoming more and more difficult, not with regard to the knowledge but in order to make less people fit for it. I happened to ask the captain of a ship if they had to pass an examination. "Yes", he said, "and every year it becomes more difficult". I asked, "What is the reason"? He answered, "We have to read so much and not all of it is useful for our work, it is only to make it difficult. There are so many candidates for this examination that learning is made more difficult for them". If all think, "Life consists in studying something only in order to earn one's bread and butter" then when can they give thought and mind to what their soul is seeking after?
Among those who have a little freedom in life, who have time for seeking after some knowledge, there are many who seek after novelty. They think that to learn means to get to know something they did not know before. There are very few seekers who will find, who will see that in every idea, however simple, when they put their mind to it a revelation rises from it which begins to teach them more and more things they had never known. I have experienced this myself there was a couplet of a Persian verse I had known for twelve years. I liked it, it was a simple every day's outward expression, but after twelve years one day a glimpse of inspiration came and the very couplet became a revelation. It seemed as if once there had been a seed and then came from it a seedling which turned into a plant and from that plant sprang fruits and flowers.
The difficulty with so-called truth-seeking people is that when they have a little time to look for truth they are restless. One thing does not satisfy them, so they go from one thing to another and so on. Instead of coming to the real idea, they get into confusion because every new idea confuses them again.
Someone asked an artist, "Can you make a new picture"? "Yes", he said, "I can". He put two horns and two wings on the body of a fish and people said, "How wonderful, this is something no one has ever seen"! Everyone has seen wings on birds and horns on beasts, but there are many souls who need such a novelty. Many are the souls who admire it and few think that - as Solomon has said - there is nothing new under the sun, especially when we come to the domain of wisdom, of knowledge. For one does not arrive at concentration, contemplation or meditation by studying many things and by going from one idea to another.
The next inclination is the love of life. Human beings apart, even little insects escape if you want to touch them. Their life is dear to them. What does this show? It shows that every being wishes to live, however unhappy he may be, however difficult his life may be. Perhaps in the sadness of a moment a person might wish to commit suicide, but if he were in his normal condition he would never think of leaving this world. Not because the world is so dear to him, but because the soul's inclination is to live. As is said in the Gayan, "Life lives, death dies". Since life lives, life longs to live, and nobody wishes for one moment that death should ever take him. The great prophets, masters, saints, sages, philosophers, mystics what was their striving? Their striving was to find some remedy to cure man from mortality. But was his mortality his conception or his condition? It is a condition when seen outwardly; in reality it is a conception. The soul wears the physical body as its garb and when it cannot carry it any longer then the purpose of the garb is fulfilled and the soul wishes to leave it; for no one wishes always to carry his heavy coat. Even the king feels more comfortable when the crown is put in the cupboard.
It is the soul's happiness to be free from its physical burden, but it can only be happy when it can be itself. As long as man thinks he is his body, he is a mortal being, only conscious of his mortal existence. What is it? It is a garb. But this, intellectually understood, will not help. The soul must see itself, the soul must realize itself. How to do it? In the Scriptures it is said, "Die before death". What is this dying? This dying is playing death. The mystics have through their life on earth practised playing death; by playing it they were able to see what death is. Then it is not only intellectual knowledge; they actually see that the soul stands independently of this physical garb. Buddha has called it Jnana, which means realization. The absence of it is called Ajnana, the lack of realization. Buddha was asked to give an example of this, and he told about a person clinging to a branch of a tree in the darkness of the night. Every moment he was trembling for fear of falling and did not know what was there beneath his feet, water, a ditch or a rock. After the break of morning he saw that his feet were not very far from the ground, he had trembled in vain. He said, "Alas, if only I had known". And so it is with every person.
Every thoughtful person, when he thinks of the day when he will have to depart from this earth where he has his friends whom he loves and his treasure, feels very sad that a day should come when he shall have to leave. Not only that, but what makes him most sad is to feel, "Once I am gone I will be nothing", for life does not wish to become death; life wants to live. But this means ignorance and a false conception of life which is gained by the senses, by experience through the senses. The one who has lived with the senses, who has realized life through the senses, things through the senses does not know life. Life can be very different from this.
The third inclination man shows is to gain power in any way whatever. Every person strives throughout life to gain power. The reason is that the soul strives to exist against the invasion of the condition of life, because life's conditions seem to sweep away everything that has no strength. When the leaf has lost its strength it falls from the tree; when the flower has lost its strength it is thrown away. Naturally the soul wishes to keep its strength; therefore every individual seeks for power. But the mistake lies in the fact that however much power a man may have, it is limited. With the increase of power there comes a moment when a person sees that there can be another power greater than the one he possesses. This limitation makes man suffer, he becomes disappointed. Besides, when we look at the power that man possesses, the power of the world, what is it? It did not take a moment for a powerful country like Russia to drop down, or the power of Germany to be crushed. If such enormous powers and strengths, built in hundreds of years, can be crushed in a very short time what is their power? If there is any power it is the hidden power, the almighty power. And by getting in touch with that power one begins to draw from it all the power that is necessary. The secret of all the miracles and phenomena of sages and masters is to be seen in the power that they are able to draw from within. There are fakirs and dervishes who practise jumping into the fire or cutting their body and healing it instantly. But there exists a power even greater than that. Those who can do great things do not show them; small things they show. At the same time there is this power which gives proof that spirit has power over matter. Spirit is buried under matter for some time - and that makes one powerless.
The fourth inclination man shows is to be happy. Man seeks happiness in pleasure, in joy, but these are only shadows of happiness. The real happiness is in the heart of man. But he does not look for it. In order to look for happiness, he seeks leisure. Anything that is passing and anything that results in unhappiness is not happiness. Happiness is the very being of man. Vedantists have called the human soul Ananda, happiness. The soul is happy, that is why it seeks happiness. And because the soul cannot find itself it is looking for something that will make it happy. But what it finds can never make it perfectly happy. Sin and virtue, good and bad, right and wrong can be distinguished and determined on this principle: What brings real happiness cannot be bad, it is virtue. What is called right is that which leads to happiness. What is good is good because it gives happiness; and if it does not do so it cannot be good, it cannot be virtue, it cannot be right. Whenever man has found virtue in unhappiness he has been mistaken, whenever he was wrong he has been unhappy, miserable. Happiness is the being of man. Therefore he craves for it.
The fifth inclination mans shows is for peace. It is not rest or comfort or solitude which can give peace. It is an art which must be learned, the art of the mystics by which one comes to experience peace. One may ask, "If it is natural for the soul to experience peace, why must one strive for peace by practice, by meditation, by contemplation"? The answer is that it is natural to experience peace, but life in this world is not natural. Animals and birds all experience peace, but not mankind, for man is the robber of his own peace. He has made his life so artificial that he is as moved away from what is called a natural life. He can never imagine how very far he is removed from what may be called a normal, natural life for mankind to live. It is for this reason that we need the art of discovering peace within us. It is not by making outside conditions better that we shall experience peace. Man has always longed for peace and he has always caused wars. It was not only in ancient times that people sought for wars. At the same time every individual says, "I am seeking for peace". Then where does war come from? It comes because the meaning of peace has not been fully understood. It is therefore that man lives in a continual turmoil, in a restless condition, and in order to seek for peace he seeks war; if this goes on for many more years we shall not have peace, for everybody must seek peace within himself first.
What is peace? Peace is the natural condition of the soul. The soul which has lost its natural condition which practically belongs to it, is restless and longs for peace. The normal condition of mind is tranquillity, and at the same time the mind is anything but tranquil, the soul experiences anything but peace.
The question which arises in the mind of every thoughtful person is, what was the reason, what was the purpose of the creation of this world, of this manifestation? The answer is, to break the monotony. Call it God, call it the Only Being, call it the source and goal of all; being all alone, He wished that there should be something for Him to know. The Hindus say that the creation is the dream of Brahma. One may call it a dream, but that is the main purpose. The Sufis explain it thus: that God, the Lover, wanted to know His nature; and therefore through manifestation the Beloved was created, in order that love might manifest. And when we look at it in this light, then all that we see is the Beloved. As Rumi, the great writer of Persia says,
"The Beloved is all in all, the lover only veils Him;
Sufis have therefore called God the Beloved, but they have seen the Beloved in all beings. They did not think that God was in heaven, apart, away from all beings. In everything, in all forms they have seen the beauty of God. And in this realization the main purpose and the ultimate purpose of life is fulfilled. As it is said in the old scriptures when God asked Adam, "Who is thy Lord"? he said, "Thou art my Lord". Briefly explained, this means that the purpose of creation was that every soul might recognize his source and goal and surrender to it and attribute to that source and goal all the beauty, wisdom and power and by doing so may perfect himself. As the Bible says, "Be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect".