(Continued from Part 2.)
Purpose of Life – 1
We’ve said that the underlying purpose of life is to know ourselves as God. This aim provides the reason for our illusory separation from God, our journey away from Source and our return voyage Home.
The vast majority of terrestrial and galactic sages attest to the universal task facing us. Here is Rumi hinting at it:
“There is one thing in this world which must never be forgotten. If you were to forget everything else, but did not forget that, then there would be no cause for worry; whereas if you performed and remembered and did not forget every single thing, but forgot that one thing, then you would have done nothing whatsoever.
“It is just as if a king had sent you to the country to carry out a specified task. You go and perform a hundred other tasks; but if you have not performed that particular task on account of which you had gone to the country, it is as if you have performed nothing at all. So man has come into this world for a particular task [Realization of his or her identity as God], and that is his purpose; if he does not perform it, then he will have done nothing.” (1)
The angel who wrote the Koran (Gabriel or Gabrielle) tells us: “It was not in sport that We created the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them. We created them to reveal the truth. But of this most men have no knowledge.” (2) The truth that Gabrielle is referring to and that life in the world of matter, mater, Mother reveals is that all of us are God.
Sri Ramakrishna constantly reminded us of life’s purpose: “The only purpose of life is to realize God,” he said (3) and “the vision of God is the only goal of human life.” (4) “Without the realization of God everything is futile. This is the great secret.” (5)
His disciples left Dakshineswar after his death and went out into the world, teaching, as Swami Brahmananda did, that “the one purpose of life is to know God. Plunge deep into the sea of bliss and become immortals” (6) or, as Swami Premananda did, to “never forget that the goal of human life is to realize God, to have His vision.” (7) Or Swami Vivekananda: “Find God. Nothing else matters.” (8)
Modern Hindu sages agree with them:
“There is no I nor thou, but only one divine Self equal in all embodiments, equal in the individual and the group, and to realize that, to express that, to serve that, to fulfill that is all that matters.” (9)
“The Upanishads repeatedly say that [the] realisation [of God] is the supreme purpose of life.” (10)
“God-Realization is our life’s aim.” (11)
The Sufi sage, Ibn Arabi, put words in God’s mouth to state the same thing: “I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known, and I created the creation so that I be known.” (12) Another Sufi sage, Hazrat Inayat Khan, also explains:
“The purpose of life … is that the only Being makes his oneness intelligible to Himself. He goes through different planes of evolution … to make clear to Himself His oneness.
“And as long as this purpose is not accomplished, the one and only Being has not reached His ultimate satisfaction, in which lies His divine perfection. “(13)
Medieval Christian saints proclaimed the purpose of life to their generation. Jan Ruusbroec for instance: “[For] the rational creature to attain the sublime beauty of God and to possess it in [a] supernatural way … is [the] reason that God created heaven and earth and all that is in them.” (14)
And Twentieth-Century spirit guide White Eagle proclaimed it: “The whole purpose of incarnation is this slow evolution of the spirit, its awakening in matter, to self-consciousness and God consciousness.” (15) It isn’t that this needs to be a well-kept secret. All sages knew it and have taught us the purpose of life.
Twentieth-Century Theosophical Society President Annie Besant reminds us that realizing is necessary, not just thinking or believing, to accomplish life’s purpose.
“The ‘end of knowledge’ is to know God — not only to believe; to become one with God — not just to worship afar off. Man must know the reality of the Divine Existence, and then know — not only vaguely believe and hope — that his own innermost Self is one with God, and that the aim of life is to realize that unity. Unless religion can guide a man to that realization, it is but ‘as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.'” (16)
I have never seen a better energetic description of that realization than this exclamation from the Sufi sage, Bayzid of Bistun: “I went from God to God, until they cried from me in me, ‘O thou I!’” (17)
After telling us that “it is the Godhead that has become these two [God and devotee] in order to enjoy Its bliss,” (18) Paramahansa Ramakrishna playfully describes the moment when Shiva or God (as the devotee) realizes its oneness with Shiva (as God): “When Siva realizes his own Self, He dances about in joy exclaiming, ‘What am I! What am I!’” (19)
In the next part, we’ll look at the circularity of the journey out from and back to God.
(Continued in Part 4.)
(1) Rumi in A. J. Arberry, trans., Discourses of Rumi. New York; Samuel Weiser, 1977; c1961, 26.
(2) Koran, 145.
(3) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 273. [Hereafter GSR.] Now Paramahansa Ramakrishna has reincarnated again, as he prophesied he would.
(4) Ibid., 331.
(5) Ibid., 95.
(6) Swami Brahmananda in Swami Prabhavananda, The Eternal Companion. Brahmananda. Hollywood: Vedanta Press, 1970; c1944, 54. We are actually always already immortals. Swami Brahmananda really means that we will not need to be reborn into a human body; i.e., enter the Fifth Dimension.
(7) Swami Premananda in Swami Chetanananda, God Lived with Them. St. Louis: Vedanta Society of St. Louis, 1997, 201.
(8) Swami Vivekananda in ibid., 48.
(9) Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1983, 316.
(10) Swami Nikhilananda, Hinduism. lts Meaning for the Liberation of the Spirit. Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1968, 31.
(11) Mata Amritanandamayi, Mata Amritanandamayi, Awaken, Children! Vallicakavu, India: Mata Amritanandamayi Mission Trust, I, 2. [A new volume is published each year.]
(12) Muhyidden Ibn Arabi, Kernel of the Kernel. trans. Ismail Hakki Bursevi. Sherborne: Beshara, n.d., 3.
(13) Hazrat Inayat Khan, Khan, Way of Illumination. Delhi, etc.: Motilal Banarsidass, 1988, 237.
(14) John Ruusbroec in James A. Wiseman, John Ruusbroec. The Spiritual Espousals and Other Works. New York, etc.: Paulist Press, 1985, 72.
(15) White Eagle, Wisdom from White Eagle. Liss: White Eagle Publishing Trust, 1983, 49.
(16) Annie Besant, Esoteric Christianity. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1953; c1901, 21-2.
(17) Bayzid of Bistun in Huxley, Aldous, The Perennial Philosophy. New York, etc.: Harper and Row, 1970; c1944, 12.
(18) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 305.
(19) Ibid., 393.