Why Are We Here?
Updated: Dec 16, 2021
Finding true enduring purpose in life is one of the most difficult challenges we face here on the earthly plane. It is so challenging, in fact, that we tend to downplay its significance and place it low on our list of priorities. We write it off as something that we need not tend to ourselves and believe that if we are meant to live a purpose-driven life at some point, it will just happen without us having to do anything. But this attitude, while seemingly innocuous, can actually be a little self-deceptive. It can reveal a few important truths about our present spiritual condition. For one thing, it shows that not only have we not found our true purpose in life; we don’t know how or where to look for it. We don’t even know how to begin such a quest, and so we have bought into the belief that it is one of those aspects of human life that we must learn to live without.
These reasonable admissions aptly describe where most people in today’s society stand in relation to purpose. But for us on the spiritual journey they need not be set in stone. Rather as we progress on the path, it often happens that we change the way we relate to purpose. We may not yet have discovered what our unique purpose in life is, but we begin to learn some truths about purpose generally. And this opens our hearts to the possibility of someday finding and clicking into our own unique calling.
Among these general truths about purpose, we learn how and where to look for it and that it would behoove us to reconsider the notion that it is not all that crucial to our well-being. As we do this we find that not only do we have the potential to live a purposeful life; we come to expect such a development as nothing less than our birthright. But first we must strip away the misconceptions about purpose we have been believing, and this may not prove to be as easy as it sounds.
Like all our misconceptions, those pertaining to purpose have their source in our early mental conditioning. Ours is a culture in which very few people have found their true purpose in life. It is also a culture that works overtime to justify our present station in life, regardless of whether that station is full or lacking. Thus it often promotes mistruths in order to encourage each of us to live with some degree of happiness and fulfillment. But despite their seemingly innocent intent, these mistruths do us more harm than good. And since we all begin our lives with the inescapable inundation of cultural conditioning, these mistruths about purpose are automatically integrated and accepted as part of our personal belief system.
As it turns out, the mistruths about purpose comprise some of the main tonal justifications at work in our culture. Though they are subtly inculcated through indirect inference they nonetheless teach us that human life is not inherently purposeful at all—that it never was meant to be. Rather it is random, accidental, and ours for the making and shaping. Of course, if one wants to believe that they have found a true purpose to live by, that is their choice. But the overall quality of human life is quite purposeless. Even our popular science supports this claim by making the case that the origin of the universe and everything in it, including man, was random and accidental. Nothing about it was purposeful. Therefore how can there be anything inherently purposeful about individual human life? All such notions must then be nothing more than our wishful thinking.
This tonal justification of our general purposelessness was passed on to all of us
in childhood through the vehicle of cultural conditioning, and because it was primarily tonal and inferred it slipped into our subconscious mind undetected and became a part of our adult individual belief system. Had it been more direct and not so subtle, we might have had reason to question it. But as it was, we were powerless to form our own opinion.
Though the adopting of this cultural viewpoint about purpose might strike us as being a minor sidestepping of the truth, it actually has had a tremendous impact upon modern human life. It has made us philosophically lazy and fatalistic. For, if life is purposeless, there can be no philosophical raison d’etre other than to seek to enjoy life to the max, because tomorrow we die. Trying to inject life with any greater purpose than this is futile and vain.
This is one of the main reasons that our culture here in the western world has become predominantly hedonistic and shallow. Interestingly, however, this has not been the case in the East. There the great spiritual sages have taken an altogether different approach to these matters. Since time immemorial they have taught that life is not only purposeful but also how we live this life carries profound eternal reverberations. In the East life is neither random nor accidental, but rather is the outworking of our karma. Therefore one purpose that everyone shares for being here on the earthly plane is the obligation to do the spiritual work or sadhana that satisfies our karmic debt and ultimately does away with it altogether. This one common purpose is upheld in addition to any individual purpose one might feel called to based on their life experience.
But in the western world karma is not a well-known or accepted doctrine, and therefore misconceptions about purpose continue to proliferate. Another one of these
involves the idea that any sense of purpose arrived at by an individual must be completely unique. In other words, since there is no general purpose for mankind, such as that put forth by the doctrine of karma, any attempt to live one’s life purposefully must necessarily be a strictly individual endeavor. But this too is a mistruth. The fact is that we westerners also have a doctrine pertaining to why we are here on this plane. Some of our own spiritual sages have discovered this doctrine, and these have gone on to not only apply it to their own life experience but also to do their best to share their discovery with others. Thus they sought to dispel the cultural myth that human life is accidental and purported a more meaningful philosophy pertaining to man’s existence.
Though most of these western sages have not taught specifically in terms of karma, their message has had a striking resemblance to that taught in the East. They too have taught that what we do in this life has definite eternal repercussions. Therefore even if an individual has not laid hold of a unique purpose for his or her life, all of us can at least live according to this one shared purpose and thereby infuse our lives with rich meaning. We can make it our individual existential purpose to live as consciously and responsibly as we can, always keeping in mind the truth that how we live this life will have a definite bearing upon our eternal destiny.
Some of our western sages have even gone so far as to delineate a detailed prescription for this attempt at responsible purposeful living. They have done this not only because of the future ramifications of our actions but also on account of our natural desire to attain happiness and fulfillment in this present lifetime. Thus they have made the association that man’s happiness and fulfillment are bound up with his ability to find purpose after all.
Jesus’ teaching went even further than this. For, he not only upheld the idea that we all have at least this one shared obligation and purpose to live consciously and responsibly; he expanded upon this shared purpose in such a way that it included the higher purpose of denial of self and dedication to God. Therefore of all the western sages Jesus’ teaching most closely mirrored that of the doctrine of karma upheld in the East. It might even be said that Jesus established a valid western version of this same teaching—one that would prove to be more palatable for western minds.
The teaching of self-denial goes against everything our cultural conditioning has led us to believe. It not only shoots down the idea that life is void of any inherent purpose and irrefutably disowns the philosophy of hedonistic fatalism; it also connects the repercussions of serving our human self or ego with inescapable consequences. Compassionately, it inculcates that it is the indulgent serving of the human self or ego that is at the source of all human misery and suffering. Conversely, it is the decision for ego renunciation and divine dedication that not only gives us a sense of purpose; it also brings us true happiness and fulfillment.
To Jesus, every human problem and insufficiency, whether health related, supply related or relational had its source in the Adamic state of consciousness that leads men to serve their egos and embrace a philosophy of hedonistic fatalism. He saw that when human beings adopt this error-prone orientation they suffer terribly in both this life and the life to come, no matter how much they might try to convince themselves otherwise. A life fixated on ego is nothing but a wasted opportunity to pay off our karmic debt and liberate our souls from the karmic wheel.
Though this teaching was misconstrued as being “too hard” by most of those who
heard him, Jesus held to it tenaciously. In order for men to find purpose, meaning, and fulfillment in this life, they must renounce their ego—no exceptions. Did this teaching differ from the doctrine of karma from the East? Not at all. In that teaching the karma all of us are bound to here on the earthly plane is a direct product of wrongful identification with the small human self or ego. It is the sole reason that we are repeatedly incarnated onto this challenging plane of existence. And since our attachment to our human self or ego constantly creates new karma, the only way for us to finally be released from this karmic debt is to die to that part of ourselves.
This then is the one thematic teaching of all the spiritual masters that have ever lived among us, both from the East and the West. It also is the one shared purpose for all mankind. Thus to accept this teaching will also bring us the ultimate happiness and fulfillment. For, it will answer the question “Why are we here?” once and for all, and it will do this so satisfactorily that we will never again feel the emptiness of a life orientation void of purpose and meaning.
In addition to this one shared purpose put forth by the spiritual masters, can there also be a unique individual purpose that we feel called to? Of course. To sincerely embrace a cause or purpose through which we feel led to help others and serve the universal evolvement of created life will only enhance our sense of fulfillment and liberation. This is what all the masters did. Their teaching showed the way for all of us to be able to minimally share in the one purpose of paying off our karmic debt. But their lives testified to an even higher calling, wherein they used their gifts and talents to elevate the collective consciousness of mankind. And as we saw so clearly in the life of Jesus, for most of them their dedication to this higher calling was so undeviating that they were willing to die for it.
But if we never feel a higher individual calling such as those exhibited by the masters, that will be okay too. For, we will find that it is enough for us to fulfill the shared purpose of living consciously and responsibly and dying to our ego. If we accomplish nothing else in this lifetime, we will have done what we came here to do. We will have worked out our karma to the utmost extent. We will be satisfied.