By Akila Jaikumar September 2009 What is the purpose of life is a common question. Are there any answers? Of late, my constant question has become rather simple. “Why am I here?” I have heard many others voice the same question: “What is the purpose of my life?” Is there something which would give a deeper satisfaction, something more profound, which would inspire and motivate, and give us joy every moment?I asked friends and family what they had to say. “Be a good soul and work towards self-realisation,” said my sister Shyamala, who has retired after 35 years of teaching. My colleague Raghavan answered, “To close all my karmas.” Padmini, who is pursuing her master’s degree in the US, said, “Work hard, and produce some outstanding research work.” My friend Uma went a step forward (or maybe a step back) and asked why do we need a purpose to life at all. “Have no questions and just be. Just trust and the Divine takes care of the purpose.”I, for one, considered different things that I thought would keep me motivated and satisfied, right from entrepreneurship to heading an MNC, to writing a book or just relaxing and enjoying life. None of the above satisfied me. Maybe a combination of all is the answer – some work, some relaxation, some insightful reading. The only issue is that this last option sounds rather ordinary– it is just like everyone else’s life. Isn’t there something more to life than this? Back to square one again! I decided to see what literature had to say about the purpose of life. Maybe the technique to discover and achieve one’s purpose in life would be readily available like a cookbook recipe. In the now, in the absence of time, all your problems disappear What the masters sayOsho, in his book Walking in Zen, Sitting in Zen advises us to practice zazen. Zazen means, “Just sitting, doing nothing, the spring comes and the grass grows by itself.” Doing something is our habit, so sitting quietly is actually very difficult. However, Osho avers that life is not a question of doing; it is simply a question of being. Activity of mind fuels our ambition and desires, the ego of being this or that, of having this or that, and is associated with our external form. As we relax, we gradually put our mind aside. As we move out of the mind, we move into our nature, our true being. This state is what Osho calls satori – our nature. We just have to be in our nature – a thoughtless silence, full of awareness, a continuous meditation. In this relaxed state, we allow the present moment to be, and totally accept it as it is. In this stillness, alertness, our mental blocks are removed and creativity flows. The universal energy can then work through us; we become a channel for the energy to manifest, for the divine purpose to unfold. So rather than wonder what our purpose in life is or acting on what we believe to be our life’s purpose, we just need to allow God’s plan for us to work through us.Eckhart Tolle adds that the whole essence of Zen is to be “so completely present that no problem, nothing that is not who you are in your essence, can survive in you. In the now, in the absence of time, all your problems disappear.” The Zen master Rinzai would ask, “What, at this moment, is lacking?” If we ask this question sincerely of ourselves, we will find there is no lack. The mind keeps us tied to the past or the future – memory or anticipation – and prevents us from enjoying the present moment. “If not now, then when,” is a Zen question. Live every moment, be in the present is Eckhart’s reminder to us.‘Be, do and have’ rather than ‘have, do and be’, exhorts Neale Donald Walsch, in his famous trilogy, Conversations with God. We are so caught up in doing something, and having the next object of our desire, that we forget just to be in the present. Dr Wayne W Dyer, in his book, Your Erroneous Zones, says that avoiding the present moment is almost a disease in our culture. “Present moment living, getting in touch with your now, is at the heart of effective living.” Be! That’s it! Be. Be who you truly are! Just be – here and now.How to be?“To be or not to be,” said Shakespeare. It sounds great if one is reciting this line on stage. But how to ‘be’ when there are so many things to be done in a day? How to practice zazen? Who will manage the house, the office, the kids, the bills, the help…?Here is a story about the Zen master Rinzai, quoted by Osho in Walking in Zen, Sitting in Zen. Rinzai was asked what he did before enlightenment. He answered, “I used to do the same as I am doing now. I used to carry water from the well for my master and I used to chop wood for my master and the commune. I continue to do the same. I carry water and I chop wood for my disciples.” So what is the difference between an enlightened man and an unenlightened one? Rinzai said, “The difference is that the unenlightened man thinks that this is an ordinary life – chopping wood, carrying water from the well – and the enlightened man knows that this is holy, this is sacred, and this is divine.”So it is not what we do, it is how we do what we do. Being true to our nature challenges us to operate from our Higher Self (call it the God within you if you like) – not the lower self (aka ego). In every moment, we have to be aware of how we are acting or reacting. For example, when we get irritated or angry, we normally give vent to our annoyance. But we instead need to be patient, because our Higher Self shows enormous patience, is tolerant of mistakes, and waits for each one of us to correct those ways which are neither beneficial to one’s self or to others around us. The Higher Self is humble. As humans, we may do a little bit, but immediately we expect appreciation and recognition. We have to learn humility and gain the perspective that it was because of the grace and guidance of God that we could succeed. Self-pity, feeling wronged, feeling hurt at any slight are aspects of our ego – the lower self. The ego creeps in through the back door and takes us unawares. For the Higher Self within us, everything is fine as it is, so no situation warrants self-pity or pride. Try these different perspectives as you train to operate from your Higher Self. When you are wronged, forgive. When you judge another, be tolerant. When you complain, be grateful instead. When you want to take, share. When you give, give your best and do not expect anything in return (when God gives, He gives in abundance and the best bounty to us). In short, operating from one’s Higher Self brings to the fore divine qualities like forgiveness, humility, kindness, patience, tolerance, compassion and love, which will make each one of us a humane being rather than just a human being.In summary, (I believe) the purpose of life is to be, here and now, three words – simple and profound at the same time. I must confess that constantly being alert to how you act, and not slipping into preprogrammed ways of reacting, is tough. I am trying these techniques, and the output is still an irregular sine wave pattern! The joy and changes in one’s self, I firmly believe, will be seen over time. Dr Akila Jaikumar is the Senior Vice President and Director Operations of Bodhtree Consulting Ltd.We welcome your comments and suggestions on this article. Mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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