Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

The Purpose of Life
Chapter 1
Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan


The first thing that a seeker after truth must realize is the purpose of life. No sooner does a soul begin to feel sober from the intoxication of life, than the first thing it asks itself is this : What is the purpose of my life ? Each soul has its own purpose, but in the end all purposes resolve into one purpose, and it is that purpose which is the seeking of the mystic. For all souls, through the right and the wrong path, either sooner or later, will arrive at that purpose - a purpose which must be accomplished, a purpose for which the whole creation has been intended - but the difference between the seeking soul and the soul who blindly works towards that purpose is like that between the material and the maker of it. Both the clay and the potter work towards the purpose of forming a vessel, but it is the potter's joy and privilege to feel the happiness of the accomplishment of that purpose, not the clay's. And so it is with the beings who unconsciously are striving towards that purpose and the souls who consciously are striving towards it, both in the end coming towards the same accomplishment; the difference is one of consciousness.


The first step in the spiritual path is taken when a soul realizes his outer purpose in life; for it is not every soul in the world who realizes even his outer mission in life. And the soul who does not realize it, may go on perhaps for his whole life and may not realize it even to the end of life. But the one who cares to realize it must sooner or later realize it, for the answer to his question is continually being heard in his own heart. As Sa'di says:

Every soul is created for a certain purpose
And the light of that purpose has been kindled in that soul.


If there is already a flame lit even before the person was born on earth, it remains for the person then to find out for himself the purpose of his life, although everything outside himself points to that purpose just the same.


One might ask, "Would the outer purpose lead to the inner purpose of life ?" Certainly it would. Everything a person does, spiritual or material, is only a stepping-stone for him to arrive at the inner purpose, if he only takes it to be so. If he is mistaken, the mistake is for himself, in himself. He is working towards the inner purpose, towards the ultimate purpose, just the same. For all is created to work as one scheme, and therefore each individual is acting towards the accomplishment of that divine plan. The right and wrong, all must sum up in the end in the accomplishment of the divine purpose. If there is a difference, the difference is for that particular individual.


There are five aspects which give one the tendency towards the accomplishment of the inner purpose: desire to live, desire to know, desire for power, desire for happiness, and desire for peace. These five things work consciously or unconsciously in the profound depth of every soul.


These five things working within one prompt one to do either right or wrong, and yet these five aspects belong to the one purpose, in the accomplishment of which the purpose of the whole creation is fulfilled. When the desire to live brings one in touch with one's real life, a life which is not subject to death, then the purpose of that desire is accomplished. When one has been able to perceive fully the knowledge of one's own being in which is to be found divine knowledge and the mystery of the whole manifestation, then the purpose of knowledge is fulfilled. When one is able to get in touch with the almighty power, then the desire for power is accomplished. When one has been able to find one's happiness in one's own heart, independent of all things outside, the purpose of the desire for happiness is attained. When one is able to rise above all conditions and influences which disturb the peace of the soul and has found one's peace - in the midst of the crowd and away from the world - in that person the desire for peace is satisfied.


It is not in one or the other of these five desires that there is the accomplishment of the purpose: it is in the fulfilment of these five desires that one purpose is accomplished, the purpose for which every soul was born on earth.



Question : If you know that something will give you peace, happiness, knowledge and love, but will deprive someone else of it, what has one to choose ?

 Answer : I will again repeat the same thing I have said. The one who has found happiness in his own heart, who has found the knowledge of himself, the one who has found the peace in his innermost self - he is not taking peace and happiness from anyone else. He has come to the source of knowledge, to the fountain where these things are never lacking, where perfection comes.


Question : Will the soul that seeks unconsciously until the end of its life realize the purpose when it reaches the sphere of the jinn ?

Answer : Certainly it must be so, for beyond there is a greater awakening. One veil is thrown away.


Question : Is it better to accomplish one's own purpose or to help others to accomplish their purpose ?

Answer : The one who is not capable of accomplishing his own purpose may, instead of accomplishing the purpose of another, spoil it. He had better engage himself first in accomplishing his own purpose. When he sees that he can accomplish his own purpose, he will feel more power, more wisdom and a greater inclination to help another in his purpose, and he also will evolve by accomplishing another's purpose. His joy in helping another to accomplish his purpose will be greater than in accomplishing his own purpose. As I have always said, forced renunciation is not a virtue. If a person is not capable of renunciation, he had better not renounce, because he is not ready for it. Renunciation can only be a virtue when you feel joy in renunciation, for there is nothing in the world which can give you a greater joy than renunciation.


Question : Then renunciation ought to be the ultimate purpose of every one ?

Answer : Yes, it is so, but renunciation is not the beginning, it is the end. If it is used as a virtue in the beginning it is a mistake, for how can one call that a virtue which brings pain? Virtue must bring one happiness. If one had done something for another and then cried in the room, "How unhappy I am that I have been so kind to another person!", one had better not have been so kind. Very often in a spell of kindness one does something for another and then in reaction one thinks, "Why did I do it?" This person has lost two things : he has lost what he has done and the virtue besides.


Question : Is that the difference between sacrifice and surrender ?

Answer : True; one is weakness, the other greatness.

Surrender, as long as it is only used in imagination, is better than in action. If in one's imagination one surrenders to the divine Being only, it is much better, for all worship and surrender is due to one Being, and that is God.


Question : Is there a difference between sacrifice, renunciation and surrender ?

Answer : They all three show different shades of meaning. Sacrifice is a loss, something one loses. Renunciation is something one gives up, and in surrender it is not necessary to give up or to lose, but to humble oneself, to give in. If you are humble, it is a surrender; if you are respectful, it is a surrender. Therefore, surrender is something which a wise person perhaps practises every moment; and sometimes one surrenders, because conditions are not always as one wishes them to be. Very often times come when one has to surrender, because there are only three conditions: either break or be broken or surrender. Surrender is the middle path which Jesus Christ has taught: "If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other cheek". One may ask, "Why did he not teach the other two things?" The answer is that people already know them.




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