Purpose of My Life

Each person has a great purpose in their life.

Not knowing that purpose – or dimly knowing it but not fully embracing it – leads to existential pain.

Existential pain is the deepest pain of human life. It magnifies thousand fold physical pain and the social pains which are the natural and inevitable part of life.

Existential pain is rooted in twin illusions: either that one’s life doesn’t have a purpose or that something (be it others, the world, one’s own nature) is thwarting the pursuit of one’s life purpose.

If you were convinced that your life has a purpose, that you matter, that the best self as you envision it is necessary for the world and can be a reality – how would you live? How would you then look at the obstacles you face? How would you then relate to your own doubts and anxieties?

You do matter. In the way you most want to matter. Not in the way prestige or power or your lack of confidence want you to matter. But the way that the best, freest and most confident part of you wants to matter.

The purpose of your life is to grow in consciousness. To gain an equanimity to everyday concerns that feel like the be all and end all of daily life. To be with God.

Politics is important. If I am unjustly jailed, I want the government to be just. But politics isn’t the end of life. It isn’t the main purpose of life. The main purpose is the intellectual, spiritual and psychic growth of the person. Politics is like food or shelter. Not an end in itself but a means to loving to pursue the greater purpose of life.

The purpose of life is to grow beyond existential pain.

Yes, that’s circular. Not knowing my purpose in life leads to my existential pain. Overcoming my existential pain is the purpose of my life. So: the purpose of my life is to know the purpose of my life. To know that there is a purpose and to throw myself into that purpose with all of my being.

The purpose of individual lives doesn’t require an teleology in biology or physics. Anymore than love in a marriage requires that such love must be found in other animals.

The purpose of individual lives is a social, cultural fact. It is something we bring into existence through our commitment to it.

You can’t wait passively to find your meaning in life anymore than you can find passively your commitment to your marriage or your health or to finishing a book.

The meaning of your life isn’t a spooky, metaphysical mystery. It is simply your commitment to being the best you that you can be. The sense of mystery is that normally we have a very limited sense of what our best self is – one defined more by others expectations and social norms and one’s own insecurities than by the free, happy, blissful unfolding of ourselves.

Move beyond the social expectations and your internalized sense of ego satisfaction. Open up to the deeper realms of consciousness, awareness and reflection within you.

Beyond the surface anxieties of identities, there is a vast realm of peace and stillness within us. In that stillness, the meaning of your life unfolds like a beautiful sunrise.

2 thoughts on “Purpose of My Life

  1. newfie931

    This is really great, Bharath. It’s something I try to work towards with my counselor (in that her therapeutic approach is Gestalt) and on myself, with spotty success.

    I was listening to Joseph Goldstein’s talk on emptiness, where he says that the Buddhist conception of emptiness (absolute truth) and compassion (relative truth) are both expressions of the same truth. Cultivating emptiness/equanimity of consciousness, and being motivated to act daily to the betterment of others (i.e., acting in ways that might move them towards their own spiritual awakening) are mirror projects in a sense.

    If only I didn’t spend significant parts of the day, mostly evenings, stoking my sense of resentment (I’m entitled to my resentment! It’s mine!), and could exist in the space described in the previous paragraph and in your post, I’d be at peace; unfortunately I’m not able to exist in that peaceful place for sustained periods of time. Work in progress, I guess.

    Thanks, Prabhu

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    1. Bharath Vallabha Post author

      Definitely all is a work in progress. In certain moments it feels like I have a clearer vision and then I find the writing comes. A lot of the rest of time the resentments, anxieties and doubts cloud the mind – giving the illusion that battling and overcoming the negative thoughts is what the spiritual life is about.

      But the clarity doesn’t come from a willful overcoming of the inner negativity – to try to overcome it is to grant the negative the reality that it seeks. I find the harder thing is to simply observe the resentments without triggering my own narratives of self overcoming and good intentions. It is not a matter of the battle of the good over the bad. It is a matter of surrender to the Divine as opposed to keeping alive my own sense of volition, even in the name of the good intentions of overcoming my own limits.

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