Purpose of Creation
In every scripture it is mentioned that man is the ideal of creation. In the Qur'an it is said, "We have made man the Caliph of the whole creation", in other words, the master of creation. The deeper we study life the clearer we see that life, under all its aspects, under all its names and forms, is constantly working towards the plane of the human being, helping the human being in his life's purpose which is to become God's instrument. One can see that camels, elephants and horses yield to the will of man. One sees that animals like dogs and cats, that birds like parrots and many singing birds, such as canaries, in time become satisfied even when imprisoned in a cage; in their captivity they can enjoy the companionship of man.
It is said that saints and sages in ancient times knew the language of animals. That was not only true in the ancient days, it is true in all times. One can hear what the animals say, one can understand their language. It is a matter of opening the heart, it is the ears of the heart that can hear their language, which cannot be understood in any other way. What one hears is a word, coming from the heart of the animals, which is expressed most in their glance that says not only, "I love you", or, "I adore you", but, "I would like to be like you". When the dog and the cat look at man, they do not only say, "I love you", it is more than that; it is, really speaking, the perfect desire. Desire has its stages, there is a stage of desire where one wishes to be like another. That desire reaches its highest stage when one wants to become another, and herein lies the secret of the mystics and the mystery of life.
When a sculptor wishes to create an object he needs clay, and with it he makes different models in order to produce, to bring forth the perfect object he desires. So all God's creation, in all its stages from animal and bird to man, and in all the different aspects of names and forms which we see before us, is a preparation to fulfil the desire of God which is man. God's words in the Qu'ran are, "We have made man that he may enjoy the creation". If there is any form of life that pleases God it is man.
No doubt man, through his ignorance, has exaggerated this ideal and has gone a little astray ( i.e. wanting enjoyment for his own pleasure- not for the sake of God.). He does not recognize divinity in man, he wants to separate the divine from man. Christ did not. He did not say, "My Father in heaven", he said, "Our Father in heaven". But when man in his ignorance separates Christ from God and Christ from man, man from Christ and man from God, he misinterprets that most beautiful idea of God given by Christ: the Fatherhood of God and the blessed sonship of man.
Through all the different processes of life evolution has progressed and man, as the ideal of creation, has risen higher than all, which shows that man represents divinity to the whole universe. For instance, the mineral is in man, the vegetable kingdom is in man, the angel is in man, and there is no being of the heavens and of the earth that man does not reflect. No one has ever pictured an angel as different from man; whenever man's imagination produces an angel it sees the angel which is in man - as it also finds a devil in man. Man embraces in himself all the different classes of beings, and at every step he develops and becomes greater than those. If he develops the animal nature, he is more animal than the animals, if he develops devilishness he becomes greater than the devils, and in developing the angelic nature he becomes greater than the angels, for after all angels have bowed at the feet of man.(It is told in the Qur'an that God ordered the angels to make an image out of clay. God breathed into that image which then became living, and asked the angels to bow down before it. All the angels bowed except Iblis, who thus brought God's displeasure upon himself.) Thus every spirit, every element throughout the whole world, is to be found in man - and yet man is puzzled as to the purpose of his life.
The moment man realizes this, the soul begins to open its eyes to truth, but until then man is asleep, his soul is not yet born. No doubt the answer to man's questions comes in time. Perhaps a thousand answers will come one after another. Every answer will explain something and yet something will be left unexplained. Every veil we lift gives an answer, and yet not the answer. Another answer is still waiting to come in time.
When we observe the purpose of the lives of the different beings in this world we shall surely find a distinct purpose in the life of the human being. For instance, man is very much inclined to pleasure, food, drink and play. Now if he was born for that, how is it that the animals also have those tastes? They also are fond of food and play, but gaining those necessities of life - those animal necessities - causes great disturbance in the case of man, whereas with animals they cause very little of it. If food and sleep and free dwelling can give happiness, then the animal is much happier than man. Man, after the toil of the day, thinks, "How can I find the means to satisfy my desire for pleasure?". He can never be so peaceful, so contented as the animals. If food, drink and play were the purpose of his life, man would be the most miserable of beings.
Then arises the question: is man born to cause all the falsehood, deceit, treachery and harshness that he inflicts upon others? The answer is that, no doubt, he makes life easy for himself by falsehood and by doing harm to others, but at the same time he often is very miserable and cannot avoid the result of everything he does. All the hurt and harm he causes to others must return to him some time or other a thousandfold.
If it were purposed that man should be an angel and lead a pious, good and retired life in the wilderness, in the forest, or in the caves of the mountains, there would have been no necessity to create him. The angels would have been sufficient, for through the very nature of his being a man cannot live as pure, pious and spiritual a life as the angels who are not burdened with the material world. This shows that man was born neither to become an angel (To be human, to live a really human life on earth, is man's first objective. Then, in order to become perfect and to attain "self-realization", two further grades are to be reached: the angelic stage and finally union with the divine Being. This is explained in the chapters Self-Realization, 1, 2, 3.) nor to be an animal, living the life of an animal. The whole universe is for man.
How can we find out the qualities which may be considered human qualities? They will be apart from the angelic, devilish and animal qualities, and there chiefly is one which can be called a distinct quality of man: sympathy. A great poet has said in Hindi,
the root of religion,
This means that religion and morals can be summed up in one thing and that is sympathy, which in the words of Christ, as interpreted in the Bible, is charity. All beautiful qualities as tolerance, forgiveness, gentleness, consideration, reverence and the desire to serve - all these come from sympathy. Another poet has said in Urdu that it was for sympathy that man was created, and the day when man discovers this special attribute in himself, he is shown his first lesson of how life should be lived.
First we find how many things there are in life that we should be grateful for, but in our troubles and in the miseries around us the things for which we should be grateful are forgotten, and instead of thankfulness we develop an ungrateful nature. The more complaining a person, the less gratitude he shows in his nature, and the more his gratitude develops, the more he will begin to understand. Sa'adi says, "The sun, the moon, the planets, the air, the water and the earth are all serving you, aiding life's purpose and preparing for your food. Yet you regard all this unthankfully, absorbed in your own little troubles which are as nothing before the great forces of nature, always working, night and day". Our little troubles overwhelm and disorder our life, and by our absorption we are robbed of the knowledge of God's perfection and greatness.
The first lesson given to man was to be grateful for his daily bread, because that was the greatest necessity of his life. Now that has become so simple and life has changed so much that man forgets to be thankful. He even thinks, "Why should I give thanks?" He forgets that behind his own personality he covers God. His own toil seems more to him than the toil of every atom of nature that is preparing blessings for him.
Self-pity is the worst poverty; it is the source of all unhappiness and blinds man to all he should be thankful for. The constantly complaining habit and the tendency to demand sympathy from others bring the greatest thorn into man's life: he becomes dependent upon the sympathy of others. The best thing is to give sympathy. The food of which every soul is in need is the understanding and sympathy of another.
Man's greatest enemy is his ego which manifests itself in selfishness. Even in his doing good, in his kind actions, selfishness is sometimes at work. When he does good with the thought that one day it may return to him and that he may share in the good, he sells his pearls for a price. A kind action, a thought of sympathy, of generosity, is too precious to trade with. One should give and, while giving, close the eyes. Man should remember to do every little good action, every little kindness, every act of generosity with his whole heart, without the desire of getting anything in return making a trade out of it. The satisfaction must be in doing it and in nothing else.
Every step in evolution makes life more valuable. The more evolved you are, the more priceless is every moment; it becomes an opportunity for you to do good to others, to serve others, to give love to others, to be gentle to others, to give your sympathy to souls who are longing and hungering for it. Life is miserable when a person is absorbed in himself; as soon as he forgets himself he is happy. The more he thinks of himself, his own affairs, work and interests, the less he knows the meaning of life. When a person looks at another he cannot at the same time look at himself. Illness, disappointments and hardships matter very little when one can look at them from a higher standpoint.
Besides this moral point of view there is the mystical aspect, and when looking from the mystical point of view one sees that God's greatest purpose is accomplished by man. In explaining this philosophy I should like to give you the simile of an artist who has produced a beautiful picture. The dogs have looked at it and the cats have looked at it, but that is not enough. When a man who has not understood the idea of the picture, the art, the feeling of it, comes, looks at it and says, "There is nothing in it", then the purpose for which the artist painted the picture is not attained. At last some one else comes, looks at the picture and says, "Oh, what a beautiful idea! It suggests something to me, I can read something from it, it tells me something, it is living". It means that his man has not only understood the picture, but has understood the soul of the artist.
The whole beauty of creation - the dogs have seen it, the cats have seen it, the peacocks and other birds have seen it and in their way they have been delighted, they have enjoyed it, they have danced and rejoiced over it. They have admired it in their own way, but man - besides admiring - sees beyond, his sight penetrates all he sees, and he touches God, the Creator. It is not only praising God, but it is knowing and understanding God which gives the greatest satisfaction to the Deity, because that is the purpose of the creation of man: that he may understand and know. And it is only by seeing the sublimity of nature's beauty, by being impressed by it, by understanding it, by knowing its language, by hearing its voice, that this can be done. The man who is living, who can hear and see and whose heart can feel, has risen above ordinary humanity. It does not mean that man has to become an angel: he needs to live a fuller life, a really human life.
What a great thing is understanding! 1t is priceless. No man can give greater pleasure to his fellowman than by understanding him. The closest friend in life is the one who understands most. It is not your wife, brother or sister, it is the one who understands you most who is your greatest friend in the world. You can be the greatest friend of God if you can understand God. Imagine how man lives in the world - with closed eyes and closed ears! Every name and every form speaks constantly, constantly makes signs for you to hear, for you to respond to, for you to interpret, that you may become a friend of God. The whole purpose of your life is to make yourself ready to understand what God is, what your fellowman is, what the nature of man is, what life is.
Now coming to a still greater secret of life I want to answer the question: how can we grow to read and understand the message that life speaks through all its names and forms? The answer is that, as by the opening of the eyes you can see things, so by the opening of the heart you can understand things. As long as the heart is closed you cannot understand. The secret is that, when the ears and eyes of the heart are open, all planes of the world are open, all names are open, all secrets, all mysteries are unfolded.
The question arises: what is the manner of opening the heart? The way to it is a natural life, the life of the child, smiling with the smiling one, praying with the praying one, ready to learn from everyone, ready to love. The child has enmity against no one, he has no hatred, no malice, his heart is open. It is in the child that you can see the smiles of angels; he can see through life.
When the grown-up person is made ready, when he has acquired the attributes of the child, then he creates heaven within himself, he understands. The child with his innocence does not understand, but when a man with understanding develops the childlike loving tendency, the purity of heart of the child with the desire to be friendly to all - that is the opening of the heart, and it is by that blessing that he can receive all the privileges of human life.