Volume I - The Way of Illumination
Section IV - The Purpose of Life
The first thing that a seeker after truth must realize, is the purpose of life. No sooner does a soul begin to feel sober from the intoxication of life, than the first thing it asks itself is, 'What is the purpose of life?' Each soul has its own purpose, but in the end all purposes resolve into one purpose, and it is that purpose which is sought by the mystic. For all souls, by the right and the wrong path, either sooner or later, will arrive at that purpose, a purpose which must be accomplished, a purpose for which the whole creation has been intended; but the difference between the seeking soul and the soul who blindly works toward that purpose is like that between the material and the maker of it. The clay works toward the purpose of forming a vessel, and so does the potter. But it is the potter's joy and privilege to feel the happiness of the accomplishment of the purpose, not the clay's. And so it is with the beings who are unconsciously striving towards that purpose and the souls who are consciously striving towards it, both in the end coming towards the same accomplishment; the difference is in the consciousness.
The first step on the spiritual path is when a soul realizes its outer purpose in life. For it is not every soul in the world which even realizes its outer mission in life. And the soul who does not realize it, may go on, perhaps, for its whole life and may not realize it even to the end of its life, but the one who cares to realize it, must sooner or later realize it. For the answer to his question is continually being heard in his own heart. As Sadi says, 'Every soul is created for a certain purpose and the light of that purpose has been kindled in that soul.' If there is already a flame lit even before the person was born on Earth, it remains for the person to find out for himself the purpose of his life, although everything outside himself points to that purpose.
One may ask, 'What is the best way for a person to understand his life's purpose?' If one follows the bent of one's own mind, if one follows the track to which one is attracted, if one follows one's own inclination, which is not satisfied with anything else, one feels, 'There is something waiting for me (which one does not know at the time), which will bring me satisfaction.' Besides, if one is intuitive and mystical, it is easier still, because then one is continually told what is the purpose of one's life. For nature has such a perfection of wisdom. One sees that the insects are given the sense to make their little houses and to protect themselves and make a store of their food. The bees, who have the gift of making honey, are taught how to make honey. So nature has taught every soul to seek its purpose. It has made every soul for that purpose, and it is continually calling that soul to see that purpose. If the soul does not hear the call and sleeps, it is not the fault of nature, which is continually calling. Therefore, if I were to say in a few words, how to find one's purpose, I would say: by waking from sleep.
One might ask, 'Would the outer purpose lead to the inner purpose of life?' Certainly it would. Everything a person does, spiritual or material, is only a stepping-stone for him to arrive at the inner purpose, if he can only take it to be so. If he is mistaken, the mistake is in himself; he is working toward the inner purpose just the same. For all is created to work as one scheme, and therefore each individual is acting toward the accomplishment of the divine purpose. If there is a difference, the difference is of that particular individual.
There are five aspects which give one the tendency toward
the accomplishment of the inner purpose: desire to live,
desire to know, desire for power, desire for happiness and
desire for peace. These five things work consciously or
unconsciously in the profound depth of every soul. Working
within one, they prompt one either to do right or to do
wrong, and yet these five aspects belong to the one purpose
in the accomplishment of which the purpose of the whole
creation is fulfilled. When the desire to live brings one
in touch with one's real life, a life which is not subject
to death, then the purpose of that desire is accomplished.
When one has been able to perceive fully the knowledge of
one's own being, in which is to be found divine knowledge
and the mystery of the whole manifestation, then the purpose
of knowledge is attained. When one is able to get in touch
with the Almighty Power, then the desire for power is achieved.
When one has been able to find one's happiness in one's
own heart, independent of all things outside, the purpose
of the desire for happiness is fulfilled; when one is able
to rise above all conditions and influences which disturb
the peace of the soul and has found one's peace in the midst
of the crowd and away from the world, in him the desire
for peace is satisfied. It is not in one or the other of
these five desires that there is the accomplishment of the
purpose. It is in the fulfillment of these five desires
that one purpose is accomplished, the purpose for which
every soul was born on earth.