The Life Purpose

What is the purpose of my life?

Every time I face a difficult situation, this question makes its way to my head, making me believe for a while that I’m indeed an existentialist. But before long, I argue myself out of it in an agreeable fashion. This time the conclusion I’ve reached is so fascinating that I’ve decided to share it with my readers. Read on…what if I am able to help you fix this problem called life? Maybe I’ve found an answer which you would only be too glad to understand and analyze!

Well, this question first came to me when I was an adolescent. I even tried to share it with one of my literature professors, but he just smiled and shrugged, thinking that an ambivalent attitude would be the best way to get out of the dilemma. He was a poor man who had received a scholarship and a gold medal at the end of his university years. Once I watched him long enough from a train, when he was standing just on the opposite side, on a platform, looking at the ground near his feet, contemplating hard. What was he thinking about? I do not want to define the feelings that I experienced at this sight. It is enough to say that, that image of my professor has stayed in my mind forever. The reason I bring him here is because, what he conveyed to me was, in spite of all the odds he had decided to look at the brighter side of his life, and somehow he had turned that into a life purpose.

Yes, that is what I’ve been taught by everybody ever since I have faced any difficulties.

Now as an exercise, let’s erase all that we have been taught. Let’s unlearn what has been drilled into our heads since childhood. No, I’m not going to tell you how bad the world is. I don’t want to talk about the entity called soul. Neither will I dive into Karma theory. I won’t even bring in quantum mechanics.

What I’ve discovered when I unlearned all these theories and facts about life and living is that our life indeed has a purpose and it makes me smile because just a decade ago I was so full of doubts about it and wished I was never born. I looked for answers everywhere.

I looked at the people around me who told me earning a lot of money was the true purpose of life and I tried doing that. But I soon realized I was not ambitious for material things. Then there were others who said that work is worship, and I took a job to dedicate myself to some purpose. But, it got tiring after a while and still I do not have a clue why I was doing it. A quick resignation followed. Then I went to the temples to understand what religion has to offer. Other than faith it had nothing to offer and alas I could not pray. So I turned to books to seek answers and I found many interesting people and guides there who had interesting theories that stimulated the mind and for a while I wanted to trust them and adopt their ways. But then, again, the wisdom they shared was too difficult to imitate and adopt. So then I turned to spirituality which took me on a journey to seek my soul. But again it was an arduous journey. I soon learned that I couldn’t eliminate the petty desires of my senses.

So, did that mean at the end, I had not found any purpose? Any concrete evidence of what I was supposed to do with my life?

No.

The answer that I was seeking was beautifully hidden in the question itself. The word ‘LIFE’ which I considered as a noun was in fact a verb. The purpose of life was life itself. To live and experience life. To see it ripen and embrace the nature from which it had risen for a brief time. To see it falling down, getting charred, and then rising like a phoenix, innumerable times. To see it rolling a stone up the mountain like a Sisyphus forever and ever. To see it condemned to Hell like Satan. To experience the anguish of being banished from the Garden of Eden again and again. But to also enjoy the brief period of bliss before the Fall.

The only logical question that arises here is about death.

How could the fact, that we die, also retain the meaning and purpose of life? What is the life purpose of a body which has been mutilated, raped, abused? What about mental illness, what about cancer, hunger, famine, poverty, incarceration? How do these experiences give meaning to life? Why do we experience such intense and extreme realities, if we can call them so?

So, as we say, youll never know until it happens to you. The people who suffer such extreme realities, are here to experience life as it has been given to them. And when we learn to take an experience for its own sake, we actually learn something consequential from it. Some of us somehow need to experience that variation of our existence. It is an experience ‘meant’ for some of us to lead us on some other path. It is an experience not ordained, but perpetrated by the desires of an uncivilized, discontented race of human beings.

And there is nothing pessimistic about it. Just like there is nothing optimistic about gaining fame! We are not here to argue if experiences are good or bad, but just that these are the experiences that have to be experienced.

So each life has a unique purpose. And that is to experience the unique journey of life that has been charted for you. Your experiences are going to be unique and all your own. These are the real treasures of your existence. And no amount of experiences borrowed from others, ‘wise or otherwise’, is going to make the journey any easier or difficult for you.

What is my Karma?

I read the Bhagvad Gita once again…yes, because the profound messages that the short text contains, cannot be internalized by reading the book once, twice or even ten times. And as the deconstruction theorists say, one always brings his repertoire of experiences to the book and unfolds the unique message for himself.

However, what I’m intrigued about this time is a little doubt about the nature of ‘karma’ or duty that Lord Krishna instructs Arjuna about. When Lord Krishna says that one ought to do his karma without thinking about the fruits of his action, that was pretty simple for a warrior like Arjuna. Arjuna was a kshatriya, belonging to the class of warriors, in a time when the duties of the four different castes were explicitly differentiated and structured. The four classes, Brahmins, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras, had different roles to play and so in a way nobody demonstrated an ambition to usurp the functions or privileges of another class. So as a kshatriya, Arjuna’s role was to fight his opponent, even if it was his own relatives.

But as a modern day woman living in a society where caste and class restrictions do not obstruct my decisions and the way I conduct my business, how am I going to decide my ‘karma’? What defines the nature of my birth? What is my role as a woman in a 21st century educated on a borrowed system of education? How can I say whether my actions are well within the scope of my nature and what lies outside it? How should I validate my existence?

If my middle class society defines me, then what about people who have transgressed such limits? And if my country of birth defines me, then what about the immigrants? If my role as a wife defines me, then what about the women who divorce or mothers who sacrifice their motherhood for the greater good? Every decision that I make can well be according to my nature or may be not.

So, does it mean that when I’m faced with a crisis, I take into consideration my position and then do my duty that is right or proper? But even in that case, how will I know if I’m doing the karma that I’m assigned to do?

And if I’m going to do my karma in any case (as the Bhagvad Gita states), it just means that Lord Krishna was assigned as a charioteer to encourage Arjuna so that he does not deviate (if we can say so) from his Karma.