By Hazrat Inayat Khan
Every living being has a purpose in life and it is the knowing of that purpose which enables every soul to fulfill it. As it is said […] 'Blessed is he who knoweth his life's purpose.'
Be not surprised if you find many groping in darkness all through life, doing one thing or another, going from one thing to the other, always dissatisfied, always discontented. And everything they undertake remains without result. The reason is the absence of that knowledge, the knowledge of the purpose of life.
Individuals apart, every object has its purpose. The mission of science is to discover the purpose in objects, and it is for this that science has come into being. Be it medical science or philosophy, all the various aspects of science are the result of the desire to discover the purpose of things. But the aim of mysticism is to find the purpose in the lives of human beings – the purpose in one's own life and the purpose in the lives of others. So long as a man has not found this purpose, […] though he may seem to be happy or unhappy, in reality he does not live. For life begins from the moment a person finds the purpose of his life.
One finds people of great wealth, people who have position and every comfort and convenience, and yet who are missing something, missing the main thing which alone can make them happy: knowledge of the purpose of their life. This is the very thing they miss. And yet at the same time mankind is ignorant of this. A man will be interested in a thousand things, he will be interested first in one thing and then pass on to another, and so on, but he seems never to come to that point where he finds the purpose of his life. Why? Because he does not look for it.
Coming to children's education, to the education of youth, very often the parents do not think about this problem. Whatever seems to them beneficial for the child to do, that it must do. They do not pay attention to the fact that it is in one's childhood that one has to find the purpose of one's life. How many lives have been ruined for this reason! A child may have been brought up with every facility and yet kept away from the purpose of his life.
However unhappy a man may be, the moment he knows the purpose of his life a switch is turned and the light is on. He may not be able to accomplish anything at once, but the very fact of knowing the purpose gives him all the hope and vigor and inspiration and strength to wait for that day. If he has to strive after that purpose all his life, he does not mind so long as he knows what the purpose is. Ten such persons have much greater power than a thousand people working from morning till evening not knowing the purpose of their life.
Besides, what we call wrong or right, good or bad differs according to the purpose of life. The more one studies life, the more one realizes that it is not the action but the purpose that makes things right or wrong, good or bad. And as we progress we become more wide-awake, and the greater becomes the purpose before us.
Beyond this is the purpose of all, the ultimate purpose. We begin our lives with an individual purpose, but we come to a stage where the purpose of every soul is one and the same. And that can be studied by studying the inclinations of men. Every man has five inclinations hidden in the depths of his heart. Being absorbed in the life of the world he may forget that ultimate purpose, but at the same time there is a continual inclination towards it. That shows that the ultimate purpose of the life of all is one and the same.
The first of these five inclinations is the love of knowledge. It is not only intellectual and intelligent beings who seek after knowledge. Even an infant wishes to know what every little noise is. Every child seeing a beautiful color or line in a picture inquires about it. And therefore in greater or less degree every individual is striving after knowledge. No doubt in life as it is today many are placed in a situation where they never have a moment in which to gain that knowledge which they seek after. From morning till evening they have their duty to perform; they are so absorbed in it that after some time that hunger for knowledge is lost and their mind becomes blunted. There are many thousands of people whom life has placed in a situation where they cannot help but concentrate on some particular work and never have time to think about things that they would like to think about, that they would like to know. We have made this life. We call it progress, freedom, but it is not freedom of mind. The mind is imprisoned in a limited horizon and we call it a sphere.
If all thought, all life, consists in studying something only in order to earn one's bread and butter, then when can one give one's thought and mind to what one's soul is seeking after? Among those who have a little freedom in life, who have time to think about gaining some knowledge, there are many who seek only after novelty. They think that to learn means only to get to know something they did not know before.
The difficulty that so-called truth-seeking people experience is that when they have a little time to look for truth they are restless. One thing does not satisfy them and so they go from one thing to another. Thus instead of coming to the real notion of truth, they only get into confusion.
The next inclination is the love of life, and not only in human beings for even little insects escape if one tries to touch them. Their life is dear to them. What does this show? It shows that every being wishes to live, however unhappy he may be, however difficult life may seem. Perhaps in the sadness of the moment a person might wish to commit suicide, but if he were in his normal condition he would never think of leaving this world. Not because the world is so dear to him, but because the soul's inclination is to live.
It is said, 'Life lives, death dies.' Since life lives, life longs to live, and nobody wishes for one moment that death should ever take him. The great prophets, masters, saints, sages, philosophers, mystics, what was their striving? Their striving was to find some remedy to cure man of mortality. But is his mortality his conception or his condition? It is a condition when seen outwardly. In reality it is a conception. The soul keeps the physical body as its garb only until its purpose is fulfilled and it wishes to leave this garb. For no one wishes always to carry his heavy coat. Even the king feels more comfortable when the crown is put in the cupboard.
The soul's happiness comes when it is freed from its physical burden. It can only be happy when it can be itself. As long as man thinks he is his body, so long is he mortal, being only conscious of his mortal existence. But this, intellectually understood, will not help. The soul must see itself, the soul must realize itself. How does the soul do this? In the scriptures it is said, 'Die before death.' What is this dying? This dying is playing at death. The mystics have all through their life on earth practiced playing at death. By playing at it they were able to see what death is. Then it was not only intellectual knowledge. They actually saw that the soul stands independently of this physical garb. Buddha has called it Jnana, which means realization. The absence of it is called Ajnana, the lack of realization.
Every thoughtful person, when he thinks of the day when he will have to depart from this earth where he has his friends whom he loves and his treasure, feels very sad. Not only that, but it makes him sadder still to feel that once he is gone he will be gone forever, for life does not wish to become death. Life wants to live.
But this shows ignorance and a false conception of life, a conception gained by the senses, by experience through the senses. The one who has realized life and things through the senses does not know life. Life can be very different from this.
The third inclination man shows is to gain power in any way whatever. Every person strives throughout life to gain power. But the mistake lies in the fact that however much power a man may have, it is limited. With the increase of power there comes a time when the man sees that another power can be greater than the one he possesses. This limitation makes man suffer. He becomes disappointed. Besides when one looks at the power that man possesses, the power of the world, what is it? Powerful nations, which were built thousands of years ago, can be crushed in a very short time. Then what is their power? If there is any power it is the hidden power, the almighty power. And by getting in touch with that power one begins to draw from it all the power that is needed.
The secret of all the miracles and phenomena of the sages and masters is to be seen in the power that they are able to draw from within. There are faqirs and dervishes who practice jumping into the fire or cutting their body and healing it instantly. But there exists a power even greater than that. Those who can really do such things do not do them openly. But at the same time there is this power which gives proof that spirit has power over matter, though spirit may be buried under matter for some time – which makes one powerless.
The fourth inclination man shows is to be happy. Man seeks happiness in pleasure, in joy, but these are only shadows of happiness. The real happiness is in the heart of man. But man does not look for it. In order to find happiness, he seeks pleasure. Anything that is passing and anything that results in unhappiness is not happiness. Happiness is the very being of man. Vedantists have called the human soul Ananda, happiness, because the soul itself is happiness. That is why it seeks happiness. And because the soul cannot find itself, it is always looking for something that will make it happy. But what it finds can never make it really happy, perfectly happy.
Sin and virtue, good and bad, right and wrong, can be distinguished and determined on this principle. Virtue is what brings real happiness. What is called right is that which leads to happiness. What is good is good because it gives happiness. And if it does not do so it cannot be good, it cannot be virtue, it cannot be right. Whenever man has found virtue in unhappiness he has been mistaken. Whenever he was wrong he has been unhappy. Happiness is the being of man. That is why he craves for it.
The fifth inclination man shows is for peace. It is not rest or comfort or solitude which can give peace. It is an art which must be learnt, the art of the mystics by which one comes to experience peace. One may ask why, if it is natural for the soul to experience peace, one must strive for peace by practice, by meditation, by contemplation. The answer is that it is natural to experience peace, but life in the world is not natural. Animals and birds all experience peace, but not mankind, for man is the robber of his own peace. He has made his life so artificial that he can never imagine how far he is removed from what may be called a normal, natural life for him to live. It is for this reason that we need the art of discovering peace within us; we shall not experience peace by improving outside conditions. Man has always longed for peace and he has always brought about wars. At the same time every individual says he is seeking for peace. Then where does war come from? It comes because the meaning of peace has not been fully understood. Man lives in a continual turmoil, in a restless condition, and in order to seek for peace he seeks war; if this goes on we shall not have peace till every individual begins to seek peace within himself first.
What is peace? Peace is the natural condition of the soul. The soul which has lost its natural condition becomes restless. The normal condition of mind is tranquility, yet at the same time the mind is anything but tranquil. The soul experiences anything but peace.
The question which arises in the mind of every thoughtful person is, what was the reason, what was the purpose of the creation of this world? The answer is, to break the monotony. Call it God, call it the only Being, call it the source and goal of all. Being alone, He wished that there should be something for Him to know. The Hindus says that the creation is the dream of Brahma. One may call it a dream, but it is the main purpose. The Sufis explain it thus: that God, the Lover, wanted to know His own nature. And that therefore through manifestation the Beloved was created, in order that love might manifest. And when we look at it in this light, then all that we see is the Beloved. As Rumi, the greatest writer of Persia says,
The Beloved is all in all, the lover only veils Him.
The Beloved is all that lives, the lover a dead thing.
(Mathnawi I, 30)
Sufis have therefore called God the Beloved. And they have seen the Beloved in all beings. They did not think that God was in heaven, apart, away from all beings. In everything, in all forms, they have seen the beauty of God. And in this realization the main purpose and the ultimate purpose of life is fulfilled. As it is said in the ancient scriptures, when God asked Adam, 'Who is thy Lord?' he said, 'Thou art my Lord.' This means that the purpose of creation was that every soul might recognize his source and goal, and surrender to it and attribute to it all beauty and wisdom and power, so that by doing so he might perfect himself. As the Bible says, 'Be ye perfect even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.'
(Excerpted from Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Alchemy of Happiness [“The Sufi Message”, vol. VI])
URL of Part 66: http://www.newageislam.com/books-and-documents/hazrat-inayat-khan/the-sufi-message--excerpts-from-hazrat-inayat-khan’s-discourses-on-the-unity-of-religious-ideals--66---the-aim-of-life/d/98630