The Purpose of Human Life
Throughout all history humans have been trying to understand the meaning of life. At one time or another, most of us have wondered where we came from, why we are here, and where we will go after death. This search for the purpose of life distinguishes humans from every other species. In every age there are those who have a special insight into these questions. These mystics or saints understand who we really are and what our real purpose is.
As Soami Ji says:
Soul, who are you?
Where have you come from?...
The mind has created worldly entanglements –
why have you strayed into this net?
You are a child of Sat Purush, the true Lord,
and once you were a resident of the eternal home.…
Through the Master’s grace
and the company of realized souls,
reverse your direction
and you will reach your home.
Listen to the Boundless Shabd within.
Radha Soami has said this for you to understand.1
In these verses, Soami Ji tells that we are not who we think we are. We are not limited beings defined by race, gender, wealth, and the hundred and one parameters we use to define ourselves. He says, “You are a child of Sat Purush, the true Lord, and once you were a resident of the eternal home.” The Saints remind us of our legacy. They clearly and unequivocally tell us that it’s just an illusion that we are limited beings. And it’s just an illusion that we are separate from one another. Our real self is a particle of the eternal and ultimate reality, and when we realize that, we will understand that we are all one.
Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh says: “When we belong to him who belongs to everybody, we then also belong to everybody.”2
The world may tell us that we have no value, but the saints tell us the opposite. They talk about our potential and show us how to realize that potential. As Mark Twain reportedly advised a young girl in the early twentieth century: “Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”3
That’s what the saints do. Their purpose in coming here is not to be worshipped but to encourage us to seek and experience the divine within ourselves. They tell us about our divine potential and show us how to realize the spirit within ourselves.
Saints say that we have been in this world for ages. We have experienced what this world has to offer. We know what it is like to be healthy and sick, rich and poor, powerful and powerless. We have done both good and evil deeds and had them done to us. We have done it all, repeatedly. Now in this life we can take a different path. We can move in an inner direction. And we can do this only as humans.
Yet, even after getting initiation, we sometimes get sidetracked and forget our purpose. It’s so easy to get caught up in the problems of the world. So many things happen that are not to our liking – in the realms of politics, health, finances, family. We get very upset by these things. But masters tell us that a satsangi should take the world lightly. We can take action when action is called for, but the trick is not to let these things penetrate our hearts. If we do, we will forget our purpose in life. Hazur used to remind us that if we allow every problem in life to be the size of the Himalayas, then how will we be able to concentrate and meditate?
Masters understand the obstacles that lie in the way of our realizing our potential. To repeat what Soami Ji advised us: “The mind has created worldly entanglements – why have you strayed into this net?” He calls the world a net that entraps us.
Many of the problems we experience in life happen because of two reasons: We act without thinking or we keep thinking without acting. We act without thinking when we get so entangled in the world that we just react as others do. We mindlessly follow the crowd and incur karmas that further entrap us.
In the book “What Is God?” the philosopher Jacob Needleman discusses this passive approach to life: “We constantly disappear into our emotional reactions.We do not live our lives; we are lived and we may die without ever having awakened to what we really are – without having lived.”4
When we just mindlessly react and follow the crowd, before we know it our life is over and we have wasted a precious opportunity. Equally problematic is thinking without acting, as when we receive initiation but then fail to put our heart into our meditation; we don’t put the teachings into practice.
To achieve our purpose in life, our actions need to be consistent with our desire to find the truth, and the Master shows us how to do this. As Soami Ji says in the poem quoted above: “Through the Master’s grace and the company of realized souls, reverse your direction and you will reach your home.”
It is only a true Master who can help us to reverse our direction – from outward to inward. This reversing of our direction is extremely important, much more vital than we realize and no small achievement.
Hazur Maharaj Charan once responded to a questioner this way: “Meditation means that we are training our mind to go inward and upward.... To create that tendency in the mind is the purpose of meditation.” The exchange continued:
Q: I know you say we shouldn’t expect results, but what part do results play?
Master: Results come and go. Often you may not see anything within, but you feel so happy, so contented, so at peace within yourself – you feel detached from everything.
Q: And that is enough at the time of death to take us up?
Master: That is more than enough. Because your tendency is not toward the creation now.5
Reversing the direction of our attention is so important that Hazur used to call this the real miracle in the life of a disciple:
What more important miracle can come in a disciple’s life than that his whole attitude to life is changed?... People who were running after worldly things and worldly desires don’t want to look at them anymore.… Day and night they are filled with love and devotion for the Father. What more of a miracle can a disciple have than this? His whole approach to life changes.6
Elsewhere Hazur says:
Mystics come to give their teachings, to change our attitude and approach to life. Their main purpose is to detach us from this creation and to attach us to the Creator. That is the miracle they perform. And this miracle is individual with every disciple. He feels that miracle within himself.7
Just as Soami Ji advises us to “listen to the Boundless Shabd within,” all the Masters emphasize that we need to meditate on Nam. We know from the teachings of the saints that the boundless Shabd is within us, but the process of coming to the level of that Shabd can seem like the work of a lifetime or many lifetimes. So, when the goal seems so far away, how do we avoid abandoning our purpose? One step is to realize where we’ve come from during our journey in this world.
There is a relevant story from a Buddhist text:
Many years ago a traveler developed a great thirst. Fortunately he came upon a wooden conduit with clear water running through it. He drank until he was satisfied and, when he was done, he held up his hand and said to the running water, “I am finished drinking now. Water, stop running at once.” Though he had spoken these words, the water went on running. When the man saw this he became very angry….
People are like this. They develop a great thirst in the realm of birth and death and therefore, they drink the bitter water of the five senses. Then, in time, they grow weary of these desires and, like the man who drank his fill, they say, “You forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and things I have touched, I demand that you no longer appear to me.”8
As satsangis, we may wish to no longer feel the pull of the world. But it’s not so simple. Just getting initiated doesn’t remove our desires and attachments. We have so much previous association with lower species and have incurred so much karma over many lifetimes. A change in direction from outward to inward requires that we rise to a higher level.
Just putting in sincere effort on the path gives us a profound sense of satisfaction, even if our effort seems to produce no tangible results. What happens when we work hard on something that is really important to us – something that ties into our core values? We feel happy. Conversely, if we work hard on something that is not important to us, we feel uneasy – we find it unnatural. Even if we succeed in something that is not important to us, we don’t feel so good about it. So, if we establish our priorities and then we focus on achieving them, the effort we put into those high-priority items is valuable. If we are practising and working hard on something that is a high priority for us, just that effort alone will give us enough happiness to sustain us.
In his book What Is God, Needleman asks, “What, after all, is the meaning of my own human life if I live without the yearning for ‘what the religions call God’?”9 If we abandon the search for truth, life has no meaning. We might as well have been born as animals.
Our Master has specifically and repeatedly asked us to do our meditation. He wouldn’t do that if it wasn’t important. That makes meditation meaningful to us.
Progress on the path is reflected in and strengthened by a positive attitude – and an attitude of accepting his will and having a grateful heart. He will take us as and when he likes. The results of our efforts are not in our hands. As Soami Ji has written: “Put your faith in the Lord’s will, not in your labour, not in your effort.”10
One action the Masters tell us we can take is simran. Perhaps we are not yet experiencing the boundless Shabd. That’s not in our hands, but we can do simran. These are words that we can repeat, just as we repeat words of the world. Soami Ji tells us to “turn the rosary of your mind with simran”11 and, according to Maharaj Sawan Singh:
By simran alone the soul leaves the body and goes up…. When the simran is complete, one hears the sound within. If you can vacate (withdraw the current from) even half the body, you will see light inside.12
This meditation is not something to be done with half a heart. This is a path of love. It is a path of forgetting ourselves and letting go of the world. Following this path is the purpose of our life. Great Master urges us to give it our best effort:
Reach your eternal spiritual home in Sach Khand so that your wanderings in the worlds of mind and matter may end. Do it now, while alive. This is the purpose of human life. Love, faith, and perseverance make the Path easy and possible to attain the unattainable.13
- Soami Ji, Sar Bachan Poetry, p.115
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, #589
- Website www.quoteinvestigator.com
- Jacob Needleman, What Is God? (Tarcher/Penguin, 2010), ch. 19
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol.I, # 272, p. 217
- Ibid., Vol. III, #539
- Ibid., #536
- K. Tanahashi & P. Levitt, A Flock of Fools: Ancient Buddhist Tales of Wisdom and Laughter from the OneHundred Parable Sutra.(Grov/Atlantice Press, 2004), “The Wooden Conduit”
- Jacob Needleman, What Is God (Tarcher/Penguin, 2010), p.224
- Soami Ji, Sar Bachan Poetry (Selections), p. 315
- Ibid, p.243
- Spiritual Gems, letter 9, p.15
- Ibid, letter 89, p.121