1. Introduction to the purpose of life
Every now and again, we hear the clichéd question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ or ‘What is the purpose of life?’ or ‘Why are we born?’. In most cases, we have our own agenda on what our purpose in life is. However from a spiritual perspective, there are two generic reasons why we are born. These reasons define the purpose of our lives at the most basic level. They are:
- To complete the give-and-take account we have with various people.
- To make spiritual progress with the final aim of merging into God and therefore getting out of the cycle of birth and death.
2. Completing our give-and-take account
Over many lifetimes, we accumulate many give-and-take accounts that are a direct result of our deeds and actions. The accounts may be positive or negative depending on the positive or negative nature of our actions. As a rule of thumb, in the current era approximately 65% of our lives are destined (not within our control) and 35% of our lives are governed by our own freewill. All major events in our life are by and large destined. These events include our birth, the family we are born into, the person (or persons) we marry, the children we have, serious illnesses and the time of our death. The happiness and pain that we give and receive from loved ones and acquaintances are by and large simply a case of prior give-and-take accounts directing the way relationships unravel and play out.
However even our destiny in the current lifetime is just a fraction of the accumulated give-and take account that we amass over many lifetimes.
In our lifetime, while we do complete our give-and-take account and destiny earmarked for this particular lifetime of ours, we also end up creating more accounts by using our wilful action. This in turn finally adds up to our overall give-and-take account known as the accumulated account. As a result, we have to be born again to settle further give-and-take accounts and are stuck in the cycle of birth and death.
Refer to the article on, ‘Liberation from the cycle of birth and death (Moksha)’ as it explains how we get stuck in the cycle of birth and death.
3. Making spiritual progress
Samashti spiritual level refers to the spiritual level attained through spiritual practice for the sake of society (samashti sādhanā), while vyashti spiritual practice refers to the spiritual level attained through individual spiritual practice (vyashti sādhanā). In the current times, spiritual progress for the sake of society has 70% importance while individual spiritual practice has 30% importance.
The ultimate in spiritual development in any Spiritual path is merging with God. ‘Merging with God’ means experiencing God within us and all around us and not identifying with our five senses, mind and intellect. This happens at the 100% spiritual level. Most people in today’s world are at the 20-25% spiritual level and are disinclined to any spiritual practice for spiritual development. They also heavily identify with their 5 senses, mind and intellect. This is reflected in our lives when we focus mainly on our looks or are arrogant about our intelligence or success.
By spiritual practice when we grow to the spiritual level of 60% (samashṭi) or 70% (vyashṭi), we are liberated from the cycle of birth and death. After this spiritual level, we can settle whatever remaining give-and-take accounts we have from the higher subtle realms of Maharlok and above. Sometimes however, people above the 60% (samashti) or 70% (vyashti) spiritual level may choose to be born on Earth to guide humanity in Spirituality.
Spiritual development is only possible through spiritual practice which conforms to the six basic principles of spiritual practice. Spiritual paths that do not conform to the six basic principles of spiritual practice lead to stagnation in an individual’s spiritual development.
4. What does this mean in terms of our life goals?
Most of us have our own life goals. They may include becoming a doctor, being rich and famous or representing one’s country in a certain field. Whatever the goal is for the vast majority of us, more often than not, it is predominantly a worldly one. Our entire education system is set up to help us pursue these worldly goals. As parents too, we instill the same worldly purpose in our children by encouraging them to study and enter professions that give them more benefits monetarily as compared with one’s own profession.
One may ask, “How does having these worldly goals reconcile with the spiritual purpose of life and the reason for our birth on Earth?”
The answer is quite simple. We strive for worldly goals primarily to achieve satisfaction and happiness. The pursuit of the elusive ‘superlative and lasting happiness’ is intrinsically what drives all our actions. However even after we accomplish our worldly goals, the resultant happiness and satisfaction is short lived, we then search for the next dream to chase.
‘Superlative and lasting happiness’ can only be attained through spiritual practice which conforms to the six basic principles of spiritual practice. The highest form of happiness which is Bliss (Ānand) is an aspect of God. When we merge into Him we too experience perpetual Bliss.
This does not mean that we have to give up what we are doing and just focus on spiritual practice. What it does mean is that only by introducing spiritual practice in conjunction with worldly life are we likely to experience superlative and lasting happiness. The benefits of spiritual practice have been discussed in detail in our section on ‘Spiritual research for lasting happiness’.
In short, the more our life goals are in line with the intent of spiritual development, the more rich our lives become and the less pain we experience from life. The following is an example of how our perspective in life changes as we develop and mature spiritually.
5. Example of how a worldly life can work with spiritual goals
In SSRF, we have a number of volunteers, who serve God by offering their time and work experience. For example:
- One of our members is an IT consultant and looks after the technical aspects of the website during his free time.
- One of the members of the editorial team is a psychiatrist and helps in checking the information being uploaded from a medical and spiritual standpoint.
- Another member of SSRF travels to different countries on work. She uses her free time to tell other like-minded organisations in that country about the website.
- A housewife helps to prepare refreshments for spiritual gatherings.
Members of SSRF have seen a quantum positive change in their lives when they sprinkle Spirituality throughout their lives. One of the key differences is an increase in happiness and a reduction in sadness. Even when SSRF members encounter a situation that should be painful or traumatic, they have experienced being shielded from the pain.
6. What is wrong with being born again and again?
Sometimes people think, “What is wrong in being born again and again?”
As we go deeper into Kaliyug (the Era of Strife), the current era of the Universe, life will be mostly riddled with problems and pain. Spiritual research has shown that worldwide, the average human being is happy only 30% of the time while 40% of the time he is unhappy. The remaining 30% of the time a person is in a neutral state where he does not experience happiness or unhappiness. For example, when one is walking on the road or doing some mundane task etc. and not having happy or unhappy thoughts.
The primary reason for this is because most people are at a lower spiritual level. Therefore our decisions and actions quite often give others pain or end up increasing the Raja and Tama in the environment. As a result, we end up accumulating negative karma or give-and-take accounts. Therefore for most of humanity our subsequent births will be more painful than our current.
While the world has made giant steps in economic, scientific and technical progress, we are poorer than previous generations in terms of happiness which is our most basic meaning in life.
Given that all of us want happiness; rebirth and future lives will not give us the superlative and lasting happiness we desire. Only spiritual evolvement and merging into God will provide us with sustainable and lasting happiness.