Volume I - The Way of Illumination
Section IV - The Purpose of Life
Man has not been born on the earth only to eat and drink and sleep as all the lower creatures do, rather he has been born on earth to learn how to use this fertile earth to its best advantage, how to appreciate the treasures this earth holds, and how to use them rightly. And it is thus that man becomes connected with the earth.
The soul comes from heaven and its connection with the earth has in it a secret which leads towards the purpose of life. It is easy for a person to say, 'We come from heaven and we are bound for heaven, and while dwelling for some days on this earth, what is there that belongs to us? Besides, is it not all sinful, all that belongs to the earth? It is better to escape from it and leave all this which in the end is worthless.' This is true, but it is not natural. The natural thing is to be able to appreciate all that is created on the earth. We appreciate it by valuing it. The beauty of the mineral kingdom, which one sees in the jewels and gems, each one better than the other, is not something to be overlooked. To see that through a stone the divine light shines, making that stone incomparably greater than the pebbles on the road, to see what a wonderful phenomenon it is that even in a stone, God shows His beauty.
The perfection of flowers, the sweetness of fruits, the delicate flavors of different objects of the earth do not seem to have been created for no purpose. In gold, in silver, in metal, in all objects we see in the world, there seems to be a certain purpose to be accomplished here. And the one who is afraid of it, afraid that it will take hold of him, runs away. And what does he do? He loses both, heaven and earth. He has left heaven already; he is leaving the earth. The one who holds it is buried under it. It grows on him and swallows him. That is another aspect of the earth and its law. But the one who understands the purpose of the earth and of its treasures uses them to the best advantage not only for himself but for his fellow men. That is the person who lives in this world fulfilling the purpose of his life.
Do we only see spiritual persons among those who are sitting in the caves of the Himalayas? Do we not see wonderful personalities in the midst of the world? Very often people say that a person who has struggled along all through his life with business and industry and worldly things has become hardened. But I think that the one who has really gained victory over the earth, who has really made a success which can be called a success, has learned something from it. It is not everyone who becomes successful in earthly affairs. It is one among many. And the one who comes to the top has had his difficulties, has had his problems. His endurance, his patience have been tested. He has gone through a sacrifice. He has understood human nature, standing in the midst of the crowd. If he has not read one book of philosophy, if he has not meditated one day, still he has arrived at a plane, at an understanding, where he knows something worth knowing. I considered myself most privileged at times when I had conversations with businessmen, with people who were always busy with the things of the earth and who had really reached the top. I have simply marveled to think that instead of hardening them it has softened their nature to some extent. It has given them a sense which can only come by spiritual understanding, which is a religious sense. It has developed a fairness in them. By having gone through this world of injustice and having seen what one sees in the business world, they have come to a point of honesty where one begins to see life from a different point of view. And besides that, if anyone ever comes forward and says, 'For a philanthropic purpose, for the good of humanity, I give so many millions for education, for the hospitals', it is they who do it. And I would very much wonder if a recluse who has always kept himself away from money, if he had the charge of many millions, would like to part with any. The point is, whether a purpose is earthly or heavenly, to be true to the purpose of life is the first moral we have to learn. For even an earthly purpose, however material it may seem, will prove in the end to be a stepping stone even if one had nothing but that ideal before one.
No doubt all things pertaining to the earth have their influence upon a person. It hardens one, it makes one's heart cold and takes away that tender sentiment that one has towards one's dear ones, towards those whom one loves and on whom one depends, towards one's fellow men. It makes one more and more greedy, and greed makes one unjust. Man becomes covetous, and his cup of desire is never filled; he is never satisfied. The more that comes, the less there seems to be there. Nevertheless, if one does not go through this experience, which is man's test, and one travels by another way, then one has given up a great experience, an experience which really makes the soul noble. A person whom you would otherwise not have understood for ten years, you can understand in one day as soon as there is a question of money. It at once brings out what is hidden in that person.
This shows that it is a great test, a test through which one should go, and one should experience a path which is a part of one's destiny. Therefore the religious or spiritual man, even if he looks with contempt at a person engaged in the things of the earth, should know that it is his path, and a path which is his religion. If he proves to be honest in his business dealings, if he keeps his heart open to those dear and near to him, those to whom he has his obligations, if he keeps the flame of his love of mankind lit in his heart through it all, in the end he will arrive at a stage where he is greater than a saint, because he has kept alive the flame of saintliness through a continually blowing wind.
We must not always try to get away from difficulties, for in the end we shall not manage to get away from them. Life on earth is difficult, and with the evolution of the earth, it will be even more difficult. Every day it will become more difficult. We can picture the world as a human being, a human being making his life from infancy to age. In infancy, however dependent the infant is, yet he is a sovereign, quite happy in the arms of the mother, in the care of the father; nothing to worry him, nothing to trouble him. There is no attachment, no enmity. He is as happy as the angels in heaven. And so was the beginning of the world, the beginning of the human race especially. The Hindus have called it the Golden Age. And then comes youth. Youth with its spring and delicacy and with its responsibility. Youth has its own trials, its own experiences, and its own fears. This unsettled condition of the earth was called by the Hindus, the Silver Age, which means the age with all the treasures, the springtime of youth. But then as life goes forward, the world comes to the stage of what may be called middle age. The age of cares, of worries, of anxieties, of responsibilities. The Hindus have named it the Copper Age. As life advances, so it has much to bear. A fruitful tree, with the weight of fruits, becomes bent, and so it is with progress. With every step forward, there are obligations and responsibilities.
Nevertheless, we must not look forward to difficulties.
There is one thing that saves us, and that is hopefulness.
All this about which I have spoken is the metaphysical part.
What I am speaking about now is the psychological attitude
we ought to have. Always hope for the best, and we certainly
shall have the best. What we can do is to make ourselves
strong enough to go through life on earth. It is only by
this strength of conviction that by whatever path we journey,
we shall arrive at the spiritual goal. Whatever be our life,
professional, industrial, commercial, it does not matter,
we shall live religion, Nature's religion, turning our life
into a religion, making of our life a religion. And so even
with every earthly success, we shall be taking steps towards