The Higher Purpose of Your Life

Faith and Spirituality

by Jayaram V

Sacrifice is the way of life. Sacrifice is the means to overcome Nature and realize God. Sacrifice in essence means to be like God and live like God in a mortal body, renouncing your own identity and individuality. It is the culmination of all the progress we ever achieve in this world. Jayaram V


Nature is a self-supporting mechanism in which its different components are programmed to further themselves and in the process help each other in their survival. Even in the midst of struggle for survival, the impulse to preserve and sustain life upon earth through collective effort is inbuilt in the living embodiments of Nature.

The altruism of Nature

If there is any hidden purpose to a tree or a stone, it is to be part of a holistic system and perform certain functions for the preservation of life upon earth. While each living being has a certain role and importance in Nature, they also contribute to the survival of others. We may not consciously pay attention to this unique aspect of Nature, but life upon earth cannot be sustained for long unless Nature acts as an integral and unified system in which living beings help each other in their survival.

Much of it happens spontaneously. A flower does not make a conscious choice to spread its fragrance. It automatically happens when certain conditions are present. Without being consciously forced, a honeybee proactively collects honey for the community of bees and in the process helps others such as plants, animals and humans in their survival. They are not the only examples where individual actions contribute to the collective Wellbeing of others. There are countless others, which actively participate in the process of life to survive and help others in their survival.

However, Nature’s altruism is not without a purpose. It is primarily meant to further its evolution and fulfill the aims of creation. As life evolves, intelligence manifests in the gross bodies, followed by selfishness, egoism and the desire for self-preservation and self-promotion. At this stage, each being lives for itself and furthers its own survival and Wellbeing. If any collective good arises from it, it is secondary or an unintended consequence. However, ultimately intelligence leads to wisdom and wisdom to transcendence.

Intelligence and its implications

Initially, all intelligent life forms are motivated by selfish desires and natural urges to live for themselves or for their groups. These tendencies reach their culmination in humans, who are inherently selfish and naturally inclined to live for themselves even at the expense of others. As a human being, if you want to be altruistic, benevolent or selfless, you have to make a conscious and intentional effort to rise above your basic instinct to be selfish or egoistic. The effort is not easy, nor always successful.

Fortunately, Nature has given us a choice to use our intelligence and exercise our will according to our discretion, knowledge and wisdom. Depending upon the circumstances, we can exercise our will and resolve to be different and selfless, other than what Nature intends us to be at the most primitive level. We may come to that choice through an awakening, learning or knowing, or through the enfoldment of our intelligence and discernment. As wisdom grows, selfishness yields place to selflessness and egoism to universality and non-dualistic oneness.

The importance of human life

Nature has endowed us with such abilities that we can take responsibility for our own, spiritual evolution and further our higher aims. Perhaps, it is the highest and ultimate aim of Nature also, which remains hidden until the light of God projects far into the field of Nature and penetrates the deepest core of our bodies. Until intelligent life forms manifest upon earth, Nature remains in control and directs its evolution. When more evolved beings emerge on the scene, it gradually recedes into the background to let the light of soul shine upon the intelligence (Buddha). When intelligence becomes pure with the predominance of sattva, Nature weakens its hold and leaves the further course of evolution largely to the beings themselves.

Of all the species upon earth, we are the highest, most intelligent and most evolved. As the gifted creations of Nature and voices of the universe, we have a choice. We can follow the ways of Nature, maintain the status quo and remain subservient to its aims, which is what many do, or we may rise above our natural urges and primitive instincts to be different and better as spiritually advanced and self-aware human beings. The latter is possible only when we subject our minds and bodies to intense purification and transformation through self-discipline and austerities.

Nature manifests its full potential, intelligence and consciousness in us more than in any other life form upon earth, so that we can consciously and actively represent Nature and fulfill its ultimate purpose. According to Hinduism if you have a purpose, if that purpose is greater than you, if it stretches across your life and beyond it and if it includes others, then that purpose is going to create a more eventful and fulfilling life for you than any purpose that is limited to your own enjoyment and your personal goals. It is why we are endowed with intelligence and why we have to live responsibly upon earth, serving the aims of God’s creation rather than our own. It also why we consider liberation (moksha) as the highest and ultimate goal and purpose of human life.

Our higher purpose

Human life is a precious opportunity to experience consciousness and will. It is through humans the universe experiences duality and speaks to itself. Although we are created to be selfish for the purpose of preserving life upon earth and ensuring the continuation of the world, we are meant to become selfless through self-effort to fulfill the aims of God. Although we are subject to the cycle of births and deaths in our physical bodies, at some point in our journey upon earth we are meant to become aware of our spirituality and realize our true nature. This is believed to be the essential purpose of human beings and the evolution of life and intelligence upon earth.

From ignorance to awareness, materiality to spirituality, darkness to light and mortality to immortality, this is the order of our expected progress in the corporeal world. To progress from selfishness to selflessness to universal oneness, this is the aim of our spiritual practice and self-transformation. Nature is self-regulated. At the lower levels, it is guided by the force of Nature. At the higher levels, it is guided by the force of will and intelligence. A tree has no apparent purpose, other than serving the aims of Nature. A flower has no purpose other than being part of a larger system or process. It is not so with human beings. They can have a higher purpose, if they choose to have one, without the compulsion to follow Nature blindly or remain bound to it.

The  Hindu Law Books stipulate that the primary purpose (artha) of human life is to perform obligatory duties and uphold Dharma according to the scriptural injunctions. The higher purpose (paramartha) is to live for God and work for our salvation. However, that purpose does not easily manifest in us. We live in a world of duality, delusion and deception where we cannot clearly discern truths or identify our true purpose. Therefore, our basic instinct is always to live for ourselves and further our interests, if necessary at the expense of others and by whatever means. Individually, a few people may manage to transcend their lower nature, but most remain within its control, bound to their natural instincts. In their search for security, comfort and happiness, they sacrifice their ideals and higher thinking and serve either their own interests or those of others to whom they willfully submit.

The consequences of selfishness

Egoism and selfishness go together. Both are aspects of Nature only and responsible for our selfish desires, actions and karma. Because of them in the name of progress, humanity has laid waste vast resources and driven many life forms into extinction. In their quest for survival, security and worldly freedom, people sacrifice their values and higher wisdom, without considering their moral and karmic implications. Through mindless actions, they leave so many scars upon the earth and their own souls that they descend into increasingly difficult choices and circumstances.

We have proved beyond doubt that although we are intelligent and rational and live on a unique planet in a very inhospitable universe we have been taking the world on a self-destructive path. It is the result of our selfishness and lack of discretion, which arise when we act under the influence of lower Nature. As intelligent beings, we have the twin responsibility of preserving and protecting nature and promoting our spiritual evolution. So far, we have lagged behind in both.

Selfishness has a certain role and purpose in our lives. However, like many other things it needs to be subjected to moderation and the principles of Dharma or the laws of God. In worldly life, selfishness is unavoidable. However, at some stage it has to be tempered by higher Nature and spiritual wisdom. When people solely live for themselves they become vulnerable to many problems, which culminate in suffering and karma.

When you are preoccupied with your selfish interests, you become a small person, with limited intent and vision. By indulging in selfish actions, you harm yourself and others. As the Bhagavad-Gita states, when you are selfish, you become an enemy of yourself and delay your liberation. However, when you are selfless and serve God or others, you become your true friend and quickly progress. Animals are driven by instincts, but as human beings we can rise above our natural instincts and show our humanity. With our knowledge and wisdom, we can strive to not only advance on the path of liberation but also avoid hurting and harming others for our selfish ends.

Life as a sacrifice

The purpose of human life is to be a friend of the Self not its enemy. It is to go beyond our narrow interests and selfishness and serve the aims of God or his law (Dharma). In Hinduism, we consider it an obligatory duty. A householder (grihasta) is considered superior to a renunciant (sanyasi) because he contributes to the order and regularity of the world by his actions and obligatory duties towards others and the world. Only he can achieve the four aims of human life and lead a complete life. However, householders also run the risk of falling into the trap of selfish desires and bondage. Hence, they are advised to avoid selfish or desire-ridden actions by performing their duties as a service to God and see him in all as their very selves.

Your life's main purpose is to be like God upon earth and radiate his benevolence and divine qualities. It is to go beyond your narrow interests and serve your higher purpose, leading your life as a sacrifice or an offering so that you serve the aims of God rather than Nature. Having become part of a larger purpose for which you are meant and living your life as a sacrificial offering, you manifest God in your being and experience oneness amidst duality and diversity.

Our scriptures affirm that you are a divine being. Your beingness is part of the vast pool of life upon earth. As an aspect of God, you are here to serve him and express him as the creator, preserver and destroyer and fulfill the aims of Dharma. You are meant to live with self-awareness, fulfill the aims of God in the mortal world and ensure its order and regularity. To live like God, to be like God and express him through your thoughts and actions, this is what we consider practicing the Dharma and manifesting the will of God, or following the Divine Way of Life.

Interdependence and selfless service

Life is all about interdependence. Without support from others, things cannot exist on their own. This is true even in case of gods, who have to depend upon humans for their nourishment, just as humans have to depend upon plants and animals for theirs. Whoever you are, or whatever your circumstances may be, you cannot survive on your own, without the help of others. Your individuality and independence are illusions. You are a dependent reality with limited abilities. Whatever you enjoy here is made possible by the actions of countless others. All things that exist around you are but the numerous manifestation of the same reality, which is the ultimate support of all. In essence, they are one. Selfishness yields to oneness when you realize this truth by transcending your individuality and experiencing oneness with your Self or the Supreme Self. In this regard, sacrifice is the means to transcend your selflessness and realize your oneness with the universe.

If you can consciously make that choice and extend your vision beyond your selfish and narrow interests, you become a force of God upon earth. Transcending your selfishness, narrow mindedness, egoism and petty thinking, you become part of the divine purpose for which you are born. If you acknowledge that you are part of a universal reality and have a duty and an obligation to participate in it as a divine entity, representing and personifying the highest of the values which the humanity collectively cherish, then you have largely succeeded in being and becoming more than a selfish human.

Suggestions for Further Reading

Introduction to Hinduism
Know the richness, diversity, history and traditions of Hinduism, the oldest living religion of the world

Brahman
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Selected Upanishads
Translation of 14 Upanishads. Length: 32 pages

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
Translation of one of the largest Upanishads Length: 206 pages.

The Chandogya Upanishad
Translation of the Chandogya Upanishad. Length:218 Pages

The Bhagavadgita Complete Translation
With Word to word translation and commentary. Comprehensive and unique.
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