What is the Purpose of Life? ~ Life has an extraordinarily deep meaning and purpose, and it is amazingly fascinating when understood. Many of us are unaware of it, that that is why we suffer life instead of basking in the glory of its purpose and beauty.
Let me begin by a summary of my long answer, in one simple paragraph.
Life provides a platform for gathering experience for our consciousness, so that it can evolve and become better, wider and more encompassing. This evolution, expansion (or whatever you may call it) goes on endlessly deeper and deeper and far beyond the human life with which we are familiar. The purpose of life is evolution. It is the singular purpose, and nothing else. Absolutely nothing else!
Life is not about a meaningless thing like being born, growing up and dying. It is not about school, college, grades, profession, working, earning money, building houses, buying cars, pub, marriage, having sex, producing children, becoming prosperous, more prosperous, and then becoming old, and dying. It is not about going to the temple, mosque, church or living a pious life with the name go God on our lips. It is not about becoming great rulers and bringing reforms to society, or a tyrant dictator. It is not about accumulating knowledge or accumulating wealth. It is not about feeding the poor, philanthropy, or religion. It is not even a quest for God, to find God and become united with God. These are all peripheral aspects of life, the outcomes of living different types of life, or simply stated the side-effects of the sole purpose of life – evolution.
What is this evolution? Why am I so emphatic that evolution is the sole purpose of life? How does life help our evolution?
Life means consciousness. Each one of us has a particular consciousness, an individual consciousness. This consciousness is driven by our inner intelligences. It gives us a sense of awareness about us and about our surrounding. It gives us a set of understand too, and equipped with this understanding we live our lives. My consciousness feels to be different from yours. Someone’s consciousness may be a wider (or more awake) than another. So we have different grades of consciousness, though within the human kingdom, among human beings all the grades are within a narrow band. It is similar, but not identical. That is because, as individuals (individual human beings) we have evolved differently. We may have young souls as well as older souls among us. Older souls will obviously have a slightly different (or greater) consciousness than a younger one.
Animals have consciousness too. Even the plants have consciousness. But this consciousness is of a very different kind (less evolved) in comparison to human consciousness.
There is also a continuum in consciousness. It is not that I have jumped into this world from nothingness when I was born, and I will jump out into nothingness when I die. There must be a past, and a future too. That perhaps explains why one is born rich and another poor, why one struggles and suffers while another happily enjoys his life and commits every sin. This means, there is a cause-effect law, though many of us are unable to recognise it. This continuum is there in life and afterlife, and in life once again. Rebirth? Yes, you got it right. There must be rebirth, as otherwise there wouldn’t be a continuum.
Suppose we are able to understand the continuum in human life, is there a continuum across the different types of life like the plant life, animal life and human life? Yes, there has to be continuum. Human beings cannot just pop in from nowhere and so suddenly as super intelligent beings in comparison to the animals. There must be something preceding the human kingdom. It is the animal kingdom. They are the animals. And, animals also have consciousness like human beings, but a very different consciousness. Within the animal kingdom there are different grades of animals and some are ore intelligent than the others. So there is a continuum too within the animal kingdom and lesser intelligent animals evolve into more intelligent animals. Not that the bodies change like a mouse changing into a wolf and then a dog. It is not Darwinian evolution but a different kind of evolution which happens in parallel to Darwinian evolution because of which the consciousness which once operated as a mouse, evolves to become a wolf and then a dog.
Similarly, the animal kingdom has a precedence too. It is the vegetable kingdom or plants who have spiritually evolved into animals, and then finally into human beings. And, human beings will also evolve spiritually further to become members of a still higher kingdom of life (called the Dhyan Chohanic kingdom of life) about which I will not describe here. Event the vegetable kingdom has a precedence, but I will not go into that too.
If you have followed so far, do you see what is happening? The consciousness that was once a plant-consciousness has evolved and expanded into animal-consciousness and then into human-consciousness. It has mutated and expanded. This mutation, this expansion of consciousness has happened because of some type of growth or some type of change. No change can ever happen in a static field just because time has gone by. It can only happen when because of the living as a plant or animal, something has been gathered, learnt or acquired by the plant or animal consciousness.
Terrestrial life provides this platform. Non terrestrial life also provides a similar platform for growth, but I will not go into that. Though slightly unrelated, you may see my answer to the question Let’s suppose an afterlife exists. Do animals have an afterlife? Do plants have an afterlife? Do aliens have an afterlife? for a little more on this.
Terrestrial life provides experience for the evolution of consciousness, not only for plants but for animals and human beings too. The type of experience it provides is of course very different for the different kingdoms, yet it is experience which results in the growth or change of consciousness.
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Now come back to human life. What is human life all about? Isn’t it to understand relationships and interactions not only among human beings but also with the environment, with nature, with plants and animals too? Doesn’t life teach us about joys and suffering and what causes it? Doesn’t it teach us about laws of nature and how to live in harmony with other fellow beings and nature? Doesn’t it teach us about psychological fears, domination, greed, successes, failures, accumulation of knowledge, development of fixed beliefs and prejudices, and what all these things ultimately lead us into?
All this learning does not come in a single life. It comes in slow and gradual patches over a series of lives, from what we have learnt in each life. We may not be able to consciously connect or interconnect these patches of learning happening over many lives; we will never remember them in out brain. But our soul, the eternal storehouse, keeps the distilled learning or wisdom intact. In animals, this is reflected in their instinct. And, equipped with this distilled wisdom, we become slightly better or wiser in a later life. This continues to happen life after life. Each time we become a little wiser or better. Our understanding evolves and with the evolution of our understanding our inner intelligence changes too. This results in a change in our consciousness. That is how consciousness evolves, because we have lived a life and learnt a new thing or two.
When your consciousness has evolved to a certain level or threshold of maturity, you go beyond the human kingdom into a higher kingdom of life. You then have a far greater degree of freedom and you are no longer constrained into human limitations. But even then the evolution continues.
If you understand all this, you will easily understand how important life is, how grand is its purpose. You will then begin to value life and treasure life much more than you do today. You will discover “tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons on stones and good in everything”.
Having understood so far, how best can one live her or his “poor miserable life”? What should we do? Should we go to the church and pray, or prepare to do well in our college for good grades, become like Mother Teresa and serve the destitute, or do we become a preacher and start spreading the word of God?
Nothing of that sort is necessary. You need not do any of that. It is silly! Just live your life, whether good or miserable, treasuring it always but by remaining vibrantly alert, watchful and aware. Learn awareness in daily life. For, if you are not aware, you are partly asleep. Many of us are actually that way. We are half asleep even when we are not sleeping. We observe something but not everything. We rarely observe ourselves, the way the mind behaves and how it acts. When we are studying we cut out our senses to such an extent we fail to observe and become aware of the sound in the streets or a bird singing or the noise in the neighbourhood. We live a life like a drug addict who may be perpetually on a high or in a daze. Thats not living!
When you do that (ie practice awareness) while going about your life as you would have otherwise done, you will easily recognise you can really do almost next to nothing to change the circumstances. Things will happen to you for which you have little control. And, in the midst of that to will find how you make so much of effort for a better life, to become something big, great and so on. You will see how your mind enters into a gloom when you do not succeed in you self-invented goals. My suggestion is, live your normal life as you would have otherwise done, but just remain aware, fully aware, of everything around you and about your own self. If thoughts enter your mind (it will always enter) observe the thoughts too – how the mind generates them, how you respond to it, and why you respond to it. Just keep observing!
This is the right art of living and this will bring you the fastest learning in any single life for the evolution of your consciousness.
The sole purpose of life is evolution of consciousness.
For the longest time, I believed that there’s only purpose of life: And that is to be happy.
Right? Why else go through all the pain and hardship? It’s to achieve happiness in some way.
And I’m not the only person who believed that. In fact, if you look around you, most people are pursuing happiness in their lives.
That’s why we collectively buy shit we don’t need, go to bed with people we don’t love, and try to work hard to get approval of people we don’t like.
Why do we do these things? To be honest, I don’t care what the exact reason is. I’m not a scientist. All I know is that it has something to do with history, culture, media, economy, psychology, politics, the information era, and you name it. The list is endless.
We are who we are.
Let’s just accept that. Most people love to analyze why people are not happy or don’t live fulfilling lives. I don’t necessarily care about the why.
I care more about how we can change.
Just a few short years ago, I did everything to chase happiness.
You buy something, and you think that makes you happy.
You hook up with people, and think that makes you happy.
You get a well-paying job you don’t like, and think that makes you happy.
You go on holiday, and you think that makes you happy.
But at the end of the day, you’re lying in your bed (alone or next to your spouse), and you think: “What’s next in this endless pursuit of happiness?”
Well, I can tell you what’s next: You, chasing something random that you believe makes you happy.
It’s all a façade. A hoax. A story that’s been made up.
Did Aristotle lie to us when he said:
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
I think we have to look at that quote from a different angle. Because when you read it, you think that happiness is the main goal. And that’s kind of what the quote says as well.
But here’s the thing: How do you achieve happiness?
Happiness can’t be a goal in itself. Therefore, it’s not something that’s achievable.
I believe that happiness is merely a byproduct of usefulness.
When I talk about this concept with friends, family, and colleagues, I always find it difficult to put this into words. But I’ll give it a try here.
Most things we do in life are just activities and experiences.
You go on holiday.
You go to work.
You go shopping.
You have drinks.
You have dinner.
You buy a car.
Those things should make you happy, right? But they are not useful. You’re not creating anything. You’re just consuming or doing something. And that’s great.
Don’t get me wrong. I love to go on holiday, or go shopping sometimes. But to be honest, it’s not what gives meaning to life.
What really makes me happy is when I’m useful. When I create something that others can use. Or even when I create something I can use.
For the longest time I found it difficult to explain the concept of usefulness and happiness. But when I recently ran into a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the dots finally connected.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
And I didn’t get that before I became more conscious of what I’m doing with my life. And that always sounds heavy and all. But it’s actually really simple.
It comes down to this: What are you DOING that’s making a difference?
Did you do useful things in your lifetime? You don’t have to change the world or anything. Just make it a little bit better than before you were born.
If you don’t know how, here are some ideas.
Help your boss with something that’s not your responsibility.
Take your mother to a spa.
Create a collage with pictures (not a digital one) for your spouse.
Write an article about the stuff you learned in life.
Help the pregnant lady who also has a 2-year old with her stroller.
Call your friend and ask if you can help with something.
Build a standing desk.
Start a business and hire an employee and treat them well.
That’s just some stuff I like to do. You can make up your own useful activities.
You see? It’s not anything big. But when you do little useful things every day, it adds up to a life that is well lived. A life that mattered.
The last thing I want is to be on my deathbed and realize there’s zero evidence that I ever existed.
Recently I read Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton. It’s about Peter Barton, the founder of Liberty Media, who shares his thoughts about dying from cancer.
It’s a very powerful book and it will definitely bring tears to your eyes. In the book, he writes about how he lived his life and how he found his calling. He also went to business school, and this is what he thought of his fellow MBA candidates:
“Bottom line: they were extremely bright people who would never really do anything, would never add much to society, would leave no legacy behind. I found this terribly sad, in the way that wasted potential is always sad.”
You can say that about all of us. And after he realized that in his thirties, he founded a company that turned him into a multi-millionaire.
Another person who always makes himself useful is Casey Neistat. I’ve been following him for a year and a half now, and every time I watch his YouTube show, he’s doing something.
He also talks about how he always wants to do and create something. He even has a tattoo on his forearm that says “Do More.”
Most people would say, “why would you work more?” And then they turn on Netflix and watch back to back episodes of Daredevil.
A different mindset.
Being useful is a mindset. And like with any mindset, it starts with a decision. One day I woke up and thought to myself: What am I doing for this world? The answer was nothing.
And that same day I started writing. For you it can be painting, creating a product, helping elderly, or anything you feel like doing.
Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t overthink it. Just DO something that’s useful. Anything.