Sunday, November 14, 2010


Purpose of Life

What is the purpose of our living? This question ponders in the mind of almost everyone at some point of time or other in their life. Mostly, when they are depressed. Is there any real meaning for our life?
What we seek in life? Happiness? Fame? Wealth? Love? Respect? Sex? Power? Can this search which leads to satisfaction become the purpose?  And again this search differs with people. And when one need is satisfied we go in for other and this craving increases with every success. Satisfaction therefore will remain always elusive.

In his book Mans search for Meaning of life Victor Frankl says ( I read the Tamil version of the book-Vazhvin arthaam, Manithanin theadal) don’t ask this question to yourself and if you do so you cannot find an answer. Think that your life is posing that question to you. Why are you living? And definitely you will find out an answer.

And if you know the purpose, you will try to overcome all the hardships and struggle.
Right from birth till death man is in search for something, which gives him satisfaction. And again, more the desire more is the search for satisfaction and hence more is the suffering. And the desire of people and the extent of desire differ from person to person. Some have material desire, for sex, for fame and respect. Rare are those who desire for welfare of the world and humankind.

Ultimately achievement of these desires leads to satisfaction. There is a saying that the happiest man in the world is one whose Ego is much satisfied. More your ego and more your desires satisfaction eludes you.

Satisfaction, happiness, fulfillment- all are elusive and fleeting as shadows when we search for them through fame, success, power or sexual gratification  Jesus says that the way to satisfaction and happiness lies in seeking righteousness. But what is righteousness?
We all know people who do not lie, kill, steal, commit adultery, yet they live a life of comfort ease and non involvement. Is this right? These people care only about themselves and not about the world. They think that what is happening to others will not happen to them, as long as they are good!. Of late, it has become a common thinking of the common man that, why should we unnecessarily invite trouble. For e.g. when a road accident has occurred and many were injured, the passers by are least bothered. Most of them will utter a word of compassion and just leave the place. Helping the injured to be taken to the hospital, informing their relatives and donating blood if there is a chance are the act of real compassion. These people who do not steal, kill or lie appears to be good, kind and gentle. We judge them as good people. And loving people.
If they do not make constructive, creative and sacrificial commitment for the society, take daring risk in their mission- they are good- but good for what? So being good is not the purpose of life and its more. Being satisfied and contended is not the purpose of life and it is more.

Robert H.Schuller says “I do not believe that we are all created equal. Physical and emotional differences, parental guidance, varying environments, being in the right place at right time all play a role in enhancing or limiting development. But I do believe every man or women, if given the opportunity and encouragement to recognize his or her potential, regardless of background, has the freedom to choose in our world. Will a individual be a taker or giver in life? Will he be satisfied merely to exist or seek a meaningful purpose? I believe that every person is created as the steward of his or own destiny with great power for a specific purpose to share with others through service, a reverence for life in a spirit of love

Dogs, cats, lions, deer’s, elephants, ants etc. live and die in this world. Do they have any purpose? They just live and the nature is so wonderful that it has created a food chain for their survival (and food pyramid) - their mere existence. When we see from that angle mere existence becomes the purpose of life. If everything is just happening, then can there be any ultimate purpose to it all, or life is just an accident? And this is the eastern philosophy- Life is purposeless.

Osho says that life as it is is accepted in the east. It is not moving towards some end, because if there is some end, who will decide the end and why? If God decides it, then you can ask the same question about God, What is the purpose of creating a world with purpose? Or Why should he create a purposive world? Or even more deeply “Whats the purpose of Gods Existence? Suppose you love someone. Have you asked the question for what purpose the love exists? If there is a purpose, then love is not there. It’s just a Business, a bargain. Life is like love, life is like happiness, Life is Existence. Imagine a child running after butterflies, collecting colored stones, running under the trees, colleting leaves and flowers, making sand castles in sea shore. Ask him for what purpose? All he can say is I feel good, I enjoy, I feel more alive and it is ecstatic.

Confused? Which ever philosophy you follow the satisfaction of your self esteem makes you realize the meaning of life.
And personally, I go with Dr.Victor Frankl. We are free to choose our attitude in any given situation. Think that life is posing this question to you? Whats the purpose of your living and you will find the answer. In his poem “The ambitious violet” Kahlil Gibran says that “Ambition beyond existence is the essential purpose of our being   

And for the sake of the readers I reproduce below the Poem Ambitious Violet by Kahlil Gibran

            The Ambitious Violet- Kahlil Gibran

There was a beautiful and fragrant violet who lived placidly amongst her friends, and swayed happily amidst the other flowers in a solitary garden. One morning, as her crown was embellishes with beads of dew, she shifted her head and looked about; she saw a tall and handsome rose standing proudly and reaching high into space, like burning torch upon a emerald lamp.
The Violet opened her blue lips and said, “ What an unfortunate am I among these flowers, and how humble is the position I occupy in their presence! Nature has fashioned me to be short and poor…….. I live very close to the earth and I cannot raise my head towards the blue sky, or turn my face to the sun, as roses do”
And the rose heard the neighbor’s words; she laughed and commented, “ How strange is your talk! You are fortunate and yet you cannot understand your fortune. Nature has bestowed upon you fragrance and beauty which she did not grant to any other…… Cast aside your thoughts and be contended, and remember that he who humbles himself will be exalted, and he who exalts himself will be crushed”
The Violet answered, “You are consoling me because you have that which I crave….. You seek to embitter me with the meaning that you are great…. How painful is the preaching of the fortunate to the heart of the miserable! And how severe is the strong when he stands as a advisor among the weak!”
And the nature heard the conversation of the violet and the rose; she approached and said, “ What has happened to you, my daughter violet? You have been humble in your deeds and words. Has greed entered your heart and numbed your senses?” In a pleading voice, the violet answered her saying, “Oh great and merciful mother, full of love and sympathy, I beg you with all my heart and soul, to grant my request and allow me to be a rose for one day.”
And the Nature responded, “ You know not what you are seeking; you are unaware of the concealed disaster behind your blind ambition. If you were a rose you would be sorry, and repentance would avail you but naught.” The violet insisted, “Change me into a tall rose, for I wish to lift my head high with pride; and regardless of my fate, it will be my own doing.” Nature yielded, saying , “Oh ignorant and rebellious violet, I will grant you your request. But if calamity befalls you, your complaint must be to yourself.”
And the Nature stretched forth her mysterious and magic fingers and touched the roots of the violet, who immediately turned into a tall rose, rising above all the flowers in the garden.
At evening the sky became thick with black clouds, and the raging elements disturbed the silence of existence with thunder, and commenced to attack the garden, sending forth a great rain and strong winds. The tempest tore the branches and uprooted the plants and broke the stems of the tall flowers, sparing only the little ones who grew close to the friendly earth. That solitary  garden suffered greatly from the belligerent skies, and when the storm calmed and the sky cleared, all the flowers were laid waste and none of them escaped the wrath of Nature, except the clan of small violets hiding by the wall of the garden.
Having lifted her head and viewed the tragedy of flowers and trees, one of the violet maiden smiled happily and called her companions, saying “ See what the tempest has done to the haughty flowers!” Another violet said “ We are small, and live close to the earth, but we are safe from the wrath of skies” And the third one added, “Because we are poor in height the tempest is unable to subdue us”
At that moment the queen of violets saw by her side, the converted Violet, hurled to earth by the storm and distorted upon the wet grass like a limp soldier in a battle field. The queen of the violets lifted her head and called her family, saying “ Look my daughters, and meditate upon that, what greed has done to the violet who became a proud rose for one hour, Let the memory of this scene be a reminder of your good fortune.”
And the dying rose moved and gathered the remnants of her strength, and quietly said, “You are contended and meek dullards; I have never feared the tempest. Yesterday I too, was satisfied and contended with this Life, but Contentment has acted has barrier between my existence and the tempest of Life, confining me to a sickly and sluggish peace and tranquility of mind. I could have lived the same life you are living now by clinging with fear to earth…. I could have waited for the winter to shroud me with snow and deliver me to Death, who surely claim all violets…….. I am happy now because I have probed outside my little world into the mystery of the Universe….. Something you have not yet done. I could have overlooked the Greed, whose nature is higher than mine, but as I hearkened to the silence of the night, I heard the heavenly world talking to this earthly world, saying “Ambition beyond existence is the essential purpose of our being”. At that moment my spirit revolted and my heart longed for a position higher than my limited existence. I realized that the abyss cannot hear the song of the stars, and at that moment I commenced fighting against my smallness and craving for that which does not belong to me, until my rebelliousness turned into great power, and my longing into great will……Nature, who is the great object of our deeper dreams, granted my request and changed me into a rose with her magic fingers.
The Rose became silent for a moment and in a weakening voice, mingled with pride and achievement, she said, “I have lived one hour as a proud rose; I have existed for a time like a queen; I have looked at the Universe from behind the eyes of the rose; I have heard the whisper of the firmament through the ears of the rose and touched the folds of Lights garment with rose petals. Is there any here who can claim such honor?” Having thus spoken, she lowered her head, and with the choking voice she gasped, “I shall die now, for my soul has attained its goal. I have finally extended my knowledge to a world beyond the narrow cavern of my birth. This is the design of Life……. This is the secret of Existence. Then the Rose quivered, slowly folded her petals, and breathed her last with a heavenly smile upon her lips…..a smile of fulfillment of hope and the purpose in Life…… a smile of victory……a God’s smile.


Nietzsche says this in another word “A man who has a purpose to live, will withstand everything that happens to him at any cost

Let our purpose and actions are oriented towards the betterment of the world. Buddha too says that “A man who toils for the welfare of himself and as well as for the welfare of other is the noble person, than the person who do not work either for himself or for others, than the person who works for himself and not for others and the persons who works for others and not for himself.” (There cannot be any selflessness without selfishness.  If somebody boasts that he is selfless then definitely he is lying). Ensure that your deeds, helps for the betterment of the world.

Sincere self-forgetting sacrificial service to searching and suffering souls satisfies my self esteem more than the stimulation of a celebrity status- Robert H Schuller. Robert H Schuller expects his self esteem to be satisfied and this is his selfishness. You need not be even sacrificial. Yet you can do something good to the world through constructive and creative commitments and the world provides you with ample such opportunities.


Thanks to Kahlil Gibran, Dr.Victor Frankl, Robert H.Schuller and others who inspired this writing.

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