What Do We Live For?
Everybody experiences the days surrounding the birth of a child or the death of a beloved family member in his or her own way. At the same time, those experiences don’t seem to be so different in essence. In addition to the emotions that these intense moments can bring, they often lead to a degree of introspection, because of the stillness that often accompanies them. Stillness – because they bring us so close to the essence of life, so close to the mystery of life and death. Introspection – because these moments allow us to see so clearly the temporal nature of life and the relativity of so many things.
Reflecting on this temporality and relativity raises questions, questions such as:
What do we live for?
What is the purpose of our life?
What do we do with our lives?
These are just a few, very simple questions. At the same time, reflecting on these questions can have a major impact on us, because they make us stand still in the midst of all our hectic activities, all the obligations and routines in our lives. They hold up a mirror for us to reflect on what we are doing. Nothing is easier than turning that mirror over, not looking into it, and moving on. But in doing so, we deprive ourselves of an opportunity.
In this essay we will consider how mystics answer these kinds of questions – not with the intention of giving ready-made answers, but for inspiration and consideration as we try to answer these questions for ourselves.
What do we live for?
In the Catechism of the Catholic faith, this question is asked in a slightly different form, namely: For what purpose are we here on earth? And the answer that follows is: We are on earth to know and love God, to do good according to His will, and to go to heaven someday.
In fact, this is the universal message of mystics and saints throughout the ages. Regardless of their religious or cultural background, they all claim that life is given to us to know and love God, to do good according to His will, and to realize oneness with Him.
Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh is quoted in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I
The main purpose of life is to realize God. This privilege the Lord has bestowed only on human beings. The human body is the top rung of the ladder of creation. From here we can either drop down to lower species or we can go back to the Father and escape from the cycle of birth and death. Everything else we have been getting every time we have come into this world, in any form, in any species. But the privilege of going back to the Father can be achieved only in the human life.1
Sardar Bahadur Jagat Singh Ji makes it even clearer, saying:
…. We do not seem to realize the great value of this precious gift which the merciful Lord has bestowed upon us. We get the human body after passing through millions of lives in lower species. As worms, birds, and beasts, we had father, mother, wife and children. Love, hate, lust, hunger, and greed were experienced even then. What then is the superiority of man? Our benign Creator’s main purpose in giving intelligence was that we may know ourselves and seek and meet our Creator in this life. If we fail to do that, we are not better than beasts.2
And eight centuries before Sardar Bahadur Ji and Hazur Maharaj Ji shared these spiritual teachings with us, Shams-e-Tabrizi, a Sufi saint from Persia (perhaps better known as Rumi's master) wrote:
The human being has been created for a specific objective: to know himself from whence he has come, and to know where he will return. Necessary inner and outer senses have been given to him specifically for this quest, but he uses them for other things. In this way, he does not provide himself with the security he needs so that his pleasure will be joyful and so that he will be aware of his own beginning and end ….. and thus remains distant from his objective.3
So, what is our purpose in this life?
Is it to discover where we came from, to know to where we will return, to realize who or what we are? Is our objective to get to know and love God, to do good according to His will, and to realize oneness with the Lord someday? Probably we would agree with this statement – otherwise we would not have been attracted to this spiritual path. But is that really our goal? Does it reflect in our daily lives or is it still more of wishful thinking?
What is really necessary to be able to reach this goal?
If we listen to the message of mystics, we will know there is one way to know and love God, which is to become completely still, and sit in mystical silence. As written so succinctly in the Bible:
Be still, and know that I am God.4
What does it mean to be in mystical silence? A Spanish mystic, Miguel de Molinos, answers:
There are three kinds of silence: the first is of words, the second of desires, and the third of thoughts. The first is perfect; the second, more perfect; and the third, most perfect. In the first, the silence of words, virtue is acquired; in the second, the silence of desires, quietude is attained; in the third, the silence of thoughts, internal recollection is attained. By not speaking, not desiring, and not thinking, you arrive at the true and perfect mystical silence in which God speaks with the soul, communicates Himself, and in the most intimate depths, teaches it the most perfect and exalted wisdom.5
So, to be in mystical silence means to be absorbed within without words, without desires, without thoughts. It is in the inner solitude and mystical silence in the most secret and hidden depths of the heart where God is to be found, and where he will show Himself to the soul, as soon as there are no more words, no desires and no more thoughts. Molinos continues:
If you desire to hear his sweet and divine Voice, you must hold yourself in this mystical silence. To attain this treasure, it is not enough to flee from the world, to renounce your desires, and to detach yourself from all created things, if you have not weaned yourself from all desire and thought. Rest, then, in the mystical silence, and open the door, so that God may communicate Himself to you, unite with you, and transform you into Himself.6
How can we get into that mystical stillness? How to come to that intense quietude and inner remembrance of God? The masters teach us that the practice of meditation is necessary for this, because it is in meditation that we can come to deep concentration. Only meditation can make our minds totally still. Only in meditation can we come to a deep inner prayer without words, without desire, without thinking, and be in mystical silence, with a completely open heart.
Maharaj Charan Singh is quoted:
In our body, the seat of the soul and mind knotted together is at the eye center.… From here our soul is being pulled down by the senses, and our consciousness is spread into the whole world through the nine apertures of the body (the two eyes, the two ears, the two nostrils, the mouth, and the two lower outlets).7
As long as you are living below the eye centre, you are not worshipping the Father, you are not in touch with the Spirit. If you want to make the best use of the human form, “lift up your eyes” – lift up your consciousness to the eye centre.
Withdrawing our consciousness up to the eye centre, where the mind can be stilled, is also referred to in Psalms: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Our spiritual journey starts from the eye centre and, once we have stilled the mind at this point, according to the instructions of our Master, can we know God….
Christ says: When you are able to be at the eye centre and still your mind there, "Look to the fields; for they are ready to be harvested." Once you have raised your awareness to the eye centre,… the crop of your meditation is ripe and ready for harvesting, and you can begin to gather it. He says: The Lord is always there waiting for you. The nectar is flowing there day and night. The ringing radiance, that Spirit, is there day and night, waiting to pull you to your own destination, your eternal home of peace and bliss.
But not until you lift up your consciousness to the eye centre can you be in touch with that Spirit, the Father, and return to your destination, your source.8
So, withdrawing our consciousness from the world and letting our awareness rise to the eye center by doing simran, is the first step in becoming silent and still. The second step is listening to the ringing radiance of the Spirit that is resounding there. This powerful Holy Spirit will bring us into silence by stilling our minds, purifying our consciousness and so revealing God to us step by step. As the English mystic Walter Hilton wrote in his book Ladder of Perfection:
Silence is brought about by the Holy Spirit in the contemplation of God, for His Voice is so sweet and so powerful that it silences the clamor of all other voices in the soul. It is a mighty Voice, sounding gently in a pure soul.9
The fourteenth-century English mystic Richard Rolle writes about the heavenly music that becomes audible in complete silence. He confirms that the Shabd further intensifies the depth of silence and fills us with divine love:
Very sweet indeed is the silence that the spirit experiences when sweet divine music comes down and brings it joy. Then the mind is rapt in sublime and joyful melody, and sings the delights of everlasting love.10
So, as Hazur Maharaj Ji advised us:
Do not put off your meditation on one excuse or another. Make the best use of your time and withdraw your soul current back to the eye centre. The harvest is ready for you; the Lord is waiting for you there.11
What do we do with our lives?
If learning to know and love God, do good according to his will, and realize, some day, that oneness with Him is really the purpose of our life, the reason for which we like to live, then are we making the best use of our time? Do we practice our meditation daily? Or do we postpone it every now and then, or perhaps very regularly?
If we tend to procrastinate or have trouble focusing on it, it might be helpful to honestly and without self-blame ask ourselves: What does this spiritual path mean to me? What does meditation mean to me? What desires, needs, or feelings are holding me back from my practice? Which activities or obligations distract me from it? And deep down in my heart, am I happy about it or not?
The idea behind asking these questions is to find an impetus to change habits; to be able to take a new step – a step towards living a simple meditative life, while standing in the midst of everyday life and fulfilling all our obligations associated with it diligently. For in order to know and love God, do good according to His will, and realize oneness with God, we will have to do something, and inherently we will leave something behind. We have to focus our attention at the eye center. Nobody else can do that for us.
As difficult as that step may be for us sometimes, it is more than worth taking, according to mystics and saints. Why else would they give their whole lives to get that message through to us? It is so that we, now, do have the chance to discover the mystical stillness and silence within our body and merge deeply into divine love, once and for all, with the help and support of our master.
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I, Q # 251
- Sardar Bahadur Maharaj Jagat Singh Ji, The Science of the Soul (A Spiritual Bouquet), 10th edition, # 47
- Shams-Tabrizi, Rumi’s Perfect Teacher, first ed., 2011, p.112
- Bible, Psalm 46:10
- Miguel de Molinos, quoted in Awareness of the Divine, p. 135
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Saint John, 9th ed., p. 292
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Saint John, 9th ed., p. 67
- Walter Hilton, quoted in Awareness of the Divine, p. 144
- Richard Rolle, quoted in Awareness of the Divine, p. 145
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Saint John, 9th ed., p. 67