Heartspeak - The Purpose of Life
by Swami Nityananda
The more you run towards the goal, the more you miss life itself.
What is the purpose of life? The million-dollar question! The answer to this is:
The whole of Existence, the whole Universe, is purposeless.
Of course, it would be very shocking to hear this. From a very young age, we are taught and socially conditioned to believe that life has got some purpose. Always we are made to run towards some goal, towards some purpose.
“What is life without purpose?” you may ask. You may wonder, “How can it have any meaning?” Any activity, let alone one’s entire life, has to have a purpose, a definition, an end point, to make it meaningful. That purpose is what drives us, motivates us and provides spice to our day-to-day activities.
“You are making us confused,” you would say. “All our lives we have been brought up to believe that we are here for a purpose. As children we are expected to do well at school. Once grown up, we are supposed to get married happily and bring up children.
At each phase of our life, at each stage of our life, we have specific templates, specific guidelines that society and our families have set up for us. How can we let them down? How can we believe that all these expectations are wrong, and that there is no purpose to life?” You would say, “You are turning our life upside down. You are driving us crazy!”
The more you run towards a goal, the more you are considered a successful person. More the speed, more you are respected; more the speed, more the rewards. From your birth, again and again, society teaches you that life has got some purpose, life has some goal. Life without purpose seems meaningless to us. We cannot even comprehend such a possibility.
Understand that this is what you have been brought up to believe. This is not the truth of Existence. Nothing needs a defined goal to make living worthwhile, meaningful and happy. The absence of purpose makes our life meaningful. Absence of goals in life makes living worthwhile.
The universe, nature, has no purpose. It just is. It exists. A river runs downhill towards the ocean because it is its nature to run downhill. It is not because it has a purpose to meet the ocean. Our life, too, has no purpose. We were not born for a purpose. We were born to live, to enjoy life and to be happy. Instead, we set ourselves up for unhappiness; we set goals for ourselves, and almost always these goals are based on fantasies and not on realities. In the process, we stop enjoying life.
The more you run towards the goal, the more you miss life itself.
The man who is continuously bothered about the goal will never be able to enjoy his life. He lives in the future, and ignores the present. When we are in the present moment, the here and now, we do not need a goal to guide us.
Just the awareness of the present moment will help us decide what needs to be done at that point in time. When the present moment is taken care of with awareness, the future gets resolved by itself. As long as the path is right, whatever destination we reach will be right. We do not need to define the destination; the right path defines its own destination.
However, we constantly worry about the future. We constantly think of the past, relate it to our future, and define our expectations based on what we have missed in the past, or what we believe will provide us happiness in the future.
For example, when you are studying you always think, “When I have a job, my life will be happy.” When you have your job, you think, “After marriage, my life will be happy.” After marriage, you think, “When I have kids and my own house, my life will be happy.” After you have kids and your own house, you think, “When the kids grow up and all my responsibilities are over, I’ll be happy.” By the time your kids are settled, by the time your responsibilities are over, when you want to relax, your being is conditioned so much that you can’t relax!
A Small Story
A very successful investment banker from New York was getting burnt-out. He decided to go to a distant rural spot well-known for fishing.
Early next morning, he dressed up and with all his gear, went to the fishing spot. He sat under a shady tree, made himself comfortable and put his fishing line into the water and waited. He waited and waited. An hour passed; there was no sign of any fish being caught.
Just then, an old man, a local, dressed in crumpled shorts and a simple shirt, came by and sat a few meters downstream from him. The old man had a fishing rod, which was nothing but a long, sturdy twig, and a can of worms for attracting the fish. He settled down and put his fishing rod into the stream.
Within minutes, the old man was catching fish; not just one, but one after another. Without hesitation, the old man was throwing the fish back into the water and laughing. He was thoroughly enjoying himself.
Suddenly, the old man became aware of the young banker staring at him. He turned to him with a broad smile and greeted him, “Hi,” he said, “why don’t you shift over here? This is a better place to catch them.”
The young banker quickly moved next to the old man who guided him as to where to cast his rod. Soon, the young banker was also catching fish; he was very excited.
The banker was a typical businessman. As soon as he started catching fish, he got the idea about how this could be used to make money. He said to the old man, “You are so brilliant at what you do. You should come to New York. I can introduce you to rich people who you can teach and you can make a lot of money.”
The old man listened attentively to the banker. He then asked the banker, “Are you rich?” The banker said, “Yes, sir. I earn a lot of money.”
The old man asked, “What do you plan to do, now that you have a lot of money?” The banker replied, “I am married to a lovely lady and hope to have a couple of children.”
The old man continued, “Then?” The banker said, “Oh, we shall build a lovely house. We shall take vacations. When we need to take a vacation to get relief from my stressful work, I shall come here and fish.”
The old man simply said, “But that is exactly what I am doing now!”
Most of us need to get stressed out before we can relax. We do not understand what it is to relax. When I tell people to relax during meditation, they ask me, ‘Master, please give us detailed guidelines how to relax!’
The tension of running behind something has become part of our being. It has become part of our conditioning. After that, resting will not be rest anymore; it will not be relaxation anymore. Happiness is where we are; it is not where we think we should be.
Be very clear: life has meaning but no purpose. Enjoy the path and the goal is reached! Your very nature, bliss, is the path and the goal.
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