It is a question that has baffled many, and has given rise to some extremely dejected views such as those cherished by the existentialists, whose philosophy of life is characterized by three major beliefs: Purposelessness of life, disbelief in God and religion, and disbelief in the life hereafter. This pessimistic view darkens the vision of a thinker, who, then, joins hands with Shakespeare, interpreting life as “a walking shadow” – a shadow (i.e. a delusion) that man, despite their life-long endeavors, is not destined to access. This is what Joseph Conrad beautifully puts as follows: “Droll thing life is – that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose.” But is this view right? Is man’s life really without meaning? No, by all means no. Man is created by God, the Creator, with some special purpose, the recognition of which is essential for us, the creation. Belief and study of religion is that beacon of light which reveals to a person the secrets of life, the purpose/s behind our creation. I would argue that a religion, in its purest form, implicitly teaches three purposes which make the basis for human’s life: (1) Recognizing the Creator and His attributes; (2) Living in harmony with the other creations; and (3) Self-exploration.
Recognizing the Creator:
It includes recognizing God, as the Creator, and His attributes – such as His being omnipotent and omnipresent – and worshiping Him as a token of love, respect, and submissiveness, and, above all, as a gratitude for His countless blessings and acknowledgment of His being our Creator, our Lord.
The primary step in recognizing God is to believe in His existence. One dark effect of the industrial and scientific advancement is that more and more people are going away from religion, and are becoming agnostics and atheists. They consistently refute the presence of a Lord who has created the whole universe. They find no logic and signs around them about the existence of God. I, however, would argue that there is a plentiful of signs of His presence spread around us, and that the viewpoint cherished by the agnostics and the atheists is illogical. Simply put, it is quite illogical that a whole complex system of the universe, and the marvelous symmetry that we find in it, has come into being on its own. The scientific precision with which each celestial bodymoves on its own fixed path, without colliding with other celestial bodies, is impossible to exist without a Superior Force working behind. The whole universe, with all its uniqueness and symmetry, is a big showcase, in which ‘a seeing eye’ can view the symbols and signs of the presence of a Great Power who has fashioned every natural process – be it the movement of celestial bodies, the formation and birth of a child, or any other process – with hundred percent accuracy. It is a plain fact that, without God, the universe would not have been created and placed in such an unbelievable harmony. Let me illustrate my standpoint with an interesting example.
Once there was a saint living in a village of non-believers. The saint had firm faith in God – a faith that he also preached to the people of the locality. And there was this atheist – who was full of knowledge and had the power of argument – living in a nearby place. When he heard of the saint and his teachings, he challenged him for a debate on the existence of God. The day, time, and venue were set. On the day of debate, a good number of spectators had turned out to enjoy the interesting debate, but the saint did not show up on time. The atheist started boasting that the saint had fled from facing him, and that it was a proof of the saint having no solid ground for his belief. After a while, however, people saw the saint entering the arena. The atheist rudely inquired why he was late. The saint’s reply is worth remembering for all. He said, “On my way to this village, I had to cross a river. When I reached there, I was shocked to see that there was no boat available. For a while, I stood there worried, not knowing what to do. Then suddenly the branches of a tree automatically cut from a tree, and turned into finely-shaped wooden planks, which then joined themselves together to form a boat. I went aboard, and the boat started sailing on its own, finally bringing me to this end of the river.” The incredible narration infuriated the atheist, who declared that he did not believe in its veracity, giving the argument that it was unlikely both for the branches to turn themselves into a boat and then for the boat to take the saint from that corner of the river to this. There must be someone to do this. The brilliant reply by the saint was: “If you do not believe that the boat came into existence on its own, then how do you believe that the creation of this big universe has taken place without a Mighty Force working behind.”
God is a reality, the signs of whose presence are scattered all around. He is the Lord, the Creator. He wanted to be recognized, so he created human beings – the Homo sapiens – to use their faculty of intellect to explore His signs and identify him as their Creator, having absolute power and authority over the universe. If we do not accept this reality, we will surely find no solid purpose for our creation.
Living in Harmony with the Other Creations:
God, the Creator, loves all his creations, no matter animate or inanimate. He wants the same from us, which is partly why he has made our nature gregarious. It is both the physical and the psychological need of a human to live in synchronization with others. We must recognize that others, like us, are created by God, who loves them the way He loves us. And this recognition by us should be followed by our love for others for the sake of God. Let me emphasize here that, if we love and help others for God’s sake, then we will never get frustrated by the betrayals of those who we helped. And we will know that all our good deeds for others were for God’s sake, and it is God, not those who we loved and helped, who can, and surely will, give us reward for our pious actions.
No one can live a normal, happy life while living in seclusion. And you know why? Because it is against nature, against the very purpose of our life, to stay isolated from others for long. And in it is our test. If we love others, and are always there to extend a helping hand, we fulfill this purpose of life with flying colours. But if we do the otherwise, and set ourselves to tease others, commit sins, and remain indifferent, we are the losers, and the life we are spending is meaningless.
God has bestowed every person with some special talent/s. The purpose of our life is also to dive into our inner selves, and explore that specific ability with which God has blessed us. As the next step, we should make full and effective use of this ability. This quality of being blessed with a particular ability is what we now know as compartmentalization of intellect. Someone may not be good at studies, but he/she may have a knack for painting, or is blessed with the gift of gab, and has the ability to convince and influence others. To cut the long story short, what we observe is that everyone is bestowed with special intellect, which is not shared by a great number of other human beings. It is the purpose of our life to discern the particular gift with which God has bestowed us with, and utilize it in a positive and productive way.
Finally, I would like to point out that these three purposes form a descending hierarchy, whereby the purpose mentioned first is of utmost importance. If it remains unfulfilled, the other two lose their salience and meaning as well.