I presume the question in your mind is, “Does my life have any meaning”? When one asks, “What is the purpose of my life?” As in “Does human life have meaning?” and existentially, it is a question that involves the whole of humanity.
If we look at social media content, it feels like self-admiration, good looks, fame, and wealth are the only meaningful things, the very purpose of life. Yet the reality for over ninety-five percent of the population is that they live uninspiringly ordinary lives. Does this mean their lives are aimless and devoid of meaning?
The reality is that the meaning of life is in little things. All you have to do to feel a purpose in life is to: act with care, go beyond yourself, and let go of your ego and your social conditioning to experience absolute freedom to get out of your way to experience life, to live. Billions of people across generations over thousands of years lived humbly, lovingly, forgivingly, and selflessly for their families and passed away anonymously for the masses. But they made a difference for their loved ones and were cherished by them.
So, why does anyone assume that life has ‘meaning’ outside of itself? Does it have “meaning” beyond that? Does a dinosaur’s life have to mean something for itself or the entire existence before it became extinct? Does a ‘nanobe,’ the smallest of microorganisms, or the Blue Whale, the largest animal ever, must mean something other than being alive? Does a mosquito’s life have meaning for itself, or do you see some sense from your perspective when it annoys you, spreads disease, or becomes food for the birds? The 17th-century mystic Angelus Silesius so aptly put it when he says, “the rose flowers without ‘why.’” A human being on Earth is here for the same reason as other life forms. “Meaning” in this context is quite disappointing for the ego of human beings. Still, if you think it through, it is pretty liberating.
You are free to make your purpose other than being alive as part of the meaning of existence. This free will that life bestows on you to have a goal is purely subjective and, therefore, uncertain. And free will is not entirely free. When you ask someone ‘what is the purpose of my life,’ you are, in a way giving away your freedom to choose by allowing someone to influence your thinking.
As intelligence goes for humans, we have been confused as a society and need clarification. Many have discussed before us the meaning of life. And all that smart talk muddles it further for you when that social conditioning comes from your loved ones. The teachers, religious scriptures, philosophies, the political system, the education system, and so forth. You increasingly trade away the freedom that nature has bestowed upon you in bits and pieces into the systems of humankind. It binds you away into things, roles, and mindsets.
The Evolution and You
According to science, Earth was molded over 4.6 billion years ago. All Life on Earth started 3.8 billion years ago as single-celled organisms and multicellular life evolved over a billion years later. All life forms were simultaneously connected; we all share specific common characteristics passed on through eons in our DNA strands. Think how incredible it is that we share a common ancestor with mice, cats, chimpanzees, or grapefruit. Reflect and get astonished by the latest scientific evidence that for 3,00,000 years, human beings, unlike you and me, walked the Earth with other human-like species.
Civilizations and religions, as we know, originated only about 10,000 to 6,000 years ago in the history of our species. Why have religions cropped up only in the recent past of human history? We don’t know the facts. The beliefs probably cropped up from prehistoric bonding and elaborate formalities supporting group unity, leading to personal attachments.
Anthropology’s four-field scientific approach to research with a diverse perspective on cultural, archaeological, linguistic, and biological anthropology worldwide has some startling conclusions. The primordial fear and imagination of people of those times created the mumbo-jumbo of religions to explain away the natural phenomenon. Religious views significantly affect many aspects of our lives, including the individual, community, political, economic, artistic, and even culinary areas of our times. Even in a knowledge society, changing a belief system is difficult, as ignorance is a choice.
From the point of our entire existence, with empirical evidence, we can safely conclude that we also exist because of a slight coincidence and a few billion years of evolution. Scientific insights and Spirituality complement each other to an extent. Still, many aspects of belief systems contradict in many areas the nature of reality. No one needs to defend something real in existence, as believers do of their beliefs. But for now, let us stick to the maxim “no evidence, no belief.”
Culture, Science, and Humanity
I remember reading somewhere. If we scale down the entire 4.6 billion years of the existence of this blue planet to 46 years, surprisingly, we humans have been here for just about 4 hours. The languages, civilizations, and religions existed for 6 minutes, and our industrial revolution began just 1 minute ago. In that minute, we have destroyed more than 50 percent of the world’s forests. People have become unprecedented “global super predators,
have become parasitic devouring everything on every landmass and oceans.” While other species are becoming extinct, characterized by the human impact on the environment, the human lifespan has more than doubled and is now averaging 70 years. Scientific advances led to an explosion in population, which as of 2021, stands at 7.9 billion. Compared to the old count of the human population in 1900, it was a mere 1.6 billion. What prayers or belief systems could not do, science achieved.
Scientific temperament points to the possibilities, to the brilliance of the mind. The willpower of people who were visionaries, who had a dream, a single focused goal, a purpose to explore the frontiers of the mysteries of existence. They did not fear failure. Even if they failed, they lived exploring life and various possibilities.
The problem is that people need to be more educated. The trouble is, knowingly or unknowingly, we get to learn without asking questions or exploring life. Our skewed education system churns out people with skills to work with enough knowledge to believe in the order. The education system must teach the life skills essential to living a fulfilling life.
Dying to Live
For religion, purpose in life is linked to death, to live with the fear of retribution after death or rebirth to face the after-effects of earlier life. In the case of Yoga, Buddhism, and other Eastern philosophies, life has a higher purpose — of attaining liberation to be never born again by living a selfless life.
From the perspective of all life forms on this planet, for homo sapiens also, death is a great leveler. It is enough to state that belief systems contradict each other on the universal truth called “death.” Although all faith-based orders insist that theirs is the only truth, it is not reasoned out with correct facts, as no one returned after death in our times to claim the truth. According to science, the brain stops after death, and our consciousness, memories, and everything that makes us “us” cease. If something exists beyond that, it will have to be shown with evidence to exist. Until then, it is common sense to abstain from believing in it. No evidence, no belief. Simple as that. And so, many such unanswerable questions remained undeclared by the Buddha, but he believed in karma and rebirth.
As per science, after the dead body decomposes into various elements, every atom that was a part of you is put back into nature. As the body is decomposed or cremated, it becomes billions of pieces that will eventually be blown up, dissolved, digested, or mixed with zillions by the atmosphere. Those molecules will once again become parts of millions of living forms. By that law of nature and the mathematical precision of physics of the environment, we can safely hypothesize the following. If a spirit or individual consciousness exists beyond death, it has to work according to the laws of existence. The spirit, soul, energy, life- consciousness or by whatever name you call it- is also stirred up like the atoms in the universe’s ocean of universal spirit -super consciousness. Then billions of minuscule energy fields of a person’s departed spirit may become part of millions of new life forms or become inert like other elements to merge with the seemingly dormant Super consciousness of the universe.
This hypothesis stands scientifically and is as good as our imagination can support our belief systems. So even if we say the soul is reborn again or hanging in there inertly, it could be hypothetically and religiously true. Still, the reality of nature is such that the recycled matter and spirit are never the same again; the newborn is a new mixture of billions of atoms, energy, and a life-consciousness ladled from the superconscious soup of the universe. And so, the hypothetical reality of existence is that we have only one life to live, and there is not a beyond, no hell and heaven, reincarnation or rebirth, after death, until proven otherwise. Until then, No evidence, No belief in any system. Life becomes simple.
When we genuinely confront reality, our minds shudder between exhilaration and dread. As we realize the enormity of being born. It is more critical than to ponder our mortality. Since death alone is inevitable, and we are unaware of the time of death, what should one do?
Ideally, pondering over this will “jolt us awake to the sensuality of existence.” As is and as revealed by science, the world is much more fantastical, mystical, counter-intuitive, and wondrous than the world portrayed by religions or New Age pseudo-gurus. Yoga means to live as per Ṛta (Sanskrit — ṛtaṃ) — living as per the principle of the natural order, which orders and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it for a fulfilling life.
One day we will all die, but we are breathing and alive on all other days. Once you accept that crucial factor, you feel liberated to decide and choose what you want to do, which is the key to happiness. The freedom to use the fleeting time you have to exist is a freedom that no one can deny. When you overcome the fear of dying and suffering and accept pain like any other feeling, you get back your life to live.
The Individuals Life Purpose
If you were with me till now, that means you want to find your life’s purpose — Purpose is not a thing that needs to be achieved by the end of life or about accumulating things. The purpose is to experience life. The purpose is not an object we can have; the purpose is to bring meaning to life.
From the evolutionary and existential aspects, the secret of life is quite simple. Life has meaning. Even by merely existing, you fulfill that purpose of existence. According to Yoga and Science, you are a part of the universe and not separate from it; you are forged from it. You are a paradox of uniqueness and ordinary, like everyone else. And that is the beauty of it all. Our innate qualities are for self-preservation, and our base instincts serve that purpose — to live. Life is good when balanced with nature’s interdependence to fulfill life’s necessities. Taking more than that is greed and misuse of intelligence creates an imbalance. If you understand this and are always aware of it, you are in “Yog,” as in Yoga — meaning in your natural state in sync with the universe.
If you had precisely one day to live, what would you do? What would you do if this was the only life there for you to live? Think, re-evaluate. Clue: It is not about accumulating wealth, things, position, power, or self-realization.
You have the freedom to define what is relevant and meaningful in your life, giving you the focus to put your time and energy into it. Life is not a problem to be solved, life is not about possessing more things, and death is not a destination; Life is a way to be lived on your terms that align with your values.
As we live the way we live, every life is precious. It is clear from the point of your very existence with the unity of all life. You are free to choose your purpose from other than living reality to imagine and to believe. It would be best if you clarified the confusion within yourself. Have a healthy discussion in the comments section and come to your conclusions.
All of us will not climb Everest or take up a challenge for a Guinness record, nothing wrong with that. The majority of us work to make ends meet. But what’s wrong with making a few small changes in life to make it livable? You could be someone who appreciates every day solely for what it is. Merely caring for one another and other creatures and nature can create meaning in life. So, pause here and there to appreciate and charge your batteries. The world has no obligation to make us feel comfortable, so can we make it a point to co-exist? Can we make it convenient for ourselves and others, make those small changes, and leave the world better? That could be the starting point for choosing your life goal.
Some have an ambition, a vision, a goal, or a challenge they take up; Then Life turns out to be more exciting. You have the freedom to choose. When we look back at the end of life, the questions we must ask ourselves are simple: Did I live fully? Did I love OK? Remember, we have only one life. Being authentic is more important than being perfect. There is nothing to take along when we die; every atom, everything is returned to existence, and all my identities of who I was ceases to exist. In nature, being part of human history is vanity and doesn’t serve a purpose. Humanity has divided itself between greed and survival, destroying its only place — the Earth. Remember, your life is vital like everyone else’s, so your intent can still be individualistic, but it should also be about your relationship with fellow beings and nature. I believe the purpose should be born out of love.