Spiritual Blossoms
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Dear Reader,

Moving ahead in our series on Getting Spiritually Better, we now present Part 16, which deals with the PURPOSE OF LIFE. This is a very important topic, especially since in these modern times, people have stopped thinking about why God put them on earth. Thanks to the Media, we are more or less conditioned into believing that life is meant only for seeking pleasure and the gratification of the senses. What we do not realise is that such laxity not only ruins individuals but also destroys the fabric of Society, causing widespread pain and misery. Everything from the ozone hole [that causes skin cancer] to AIDS, is the direct result of humans forgetting the Purpose of Life. What exactly is the Purpose of Life? Read on to find out!



Life is a gift of God, and human life in particular, is a very special and precious gift given to humans for a very specific purpose. What is that purpose? This is the question that ancient man often asked of himself. But in modern times, this and similar questions of a philosophical nature have receded to the background, man having become deeply engrossed in the material aspects of the world. Speaking to students one day many years ago, Swami casually asked, “What is the purpose of life?” Various answers were given but Swami kept on shaking His head as if to say, “Wrong, not correct.” After a while everyone stopped guessing and there was silence. Baba then slowly said, “The purpose of life is to go back where you came from. From God you have come, and to God you must return. Life must be so lived that you get back to God. That is the purpose of life.”

The Atlantic eel provides an interesting example in nature, of this business of ‘returning to source’. This type of eel is born in the deep waters of South Atlantic. It then swims all the way north till it reaches the mouth of one of the North American rivers flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. The eel then moves from salt water to fresh water and swims up the river a long way. It lives there and when the time comes, it starts on the return journey. First it swims and goes back to the mouth of the river and from there it swims south to go to that part of the Atlantic Ocean where it was born. Having reached its place of birth, the eel lays eggs and dies. Few know of this remarkable happening in Nature, and how God silently guides the eel all the way to a river far from its native place and then finally brings it back to the same spot for ‘eternal rest’.

Man must organise his life in a similar fashion. The world is where he lives but he must live here in such a fashion that his focus is always on the return journey. If he loses focus, he would catch a ‘wrong flight’ and end up elsewhere. This precisely is what is happening in the case of 99.999999% of the people. It is to prevent that that God has come amidst us in human form.

Water is the Swasthanam for the fishWhenever Swami discusses this topic, He uses one particular word, SWASTHAANAM. This word means natural habitat or home. Baba says: “Take a fish and place it in an empty, diamond-studded golden bowl. Can it live? It cannot; it will be struggling for breath and suffering pain. Now place the fish in an ordinary mud pot that contains fresh water. The fish will not only live but also be happy. Why? Because water is its natural habitat. In the same way, God is the natural home of man. He has been temporarily been placed in an empty diamond-studded bowl called the world. He thinks he is happy here but in reality, he is suffering! Man should be aware of the dangers lurking here in this world, and make every effort to get back to his Swasthaanam.”

One-pointed devotion, passionate adherence to Dharma, etc., all ensure that one catches the right “return flight.” As regards man’s mistaken notion about the world and the ‘pleasures’ it has to offer, Baba often recalls a phrase used by Krishna in the Gita. Krishna says, “Anityam, Asukham Lokam…” It means that the world is both temporary and full of misery. Krishna adds, “Under the circumstances, O Arjuna, seek refuge in Me, and I shall swiftly rescue you.” To drive home the point, Swami tells an amusing story about a young pious man who went on work to a neighbouring town. Having completed his work, he felt tired and hungry and walked into a restaurant. He did not see the board in front as he entered. It was a ‘Military Hotel’. In South India, most eating establishments serve vegetarian food only, and if one wants to eat meat one must go to what is called a Military Hotel. These restaurants are so called because the perception among the locals is that meat is eaten only in the army! This poor traveller was a pure vegetarian and had entered this hotel by mistake. When the waiter came, the hungry traveller ordered all his favourite vegetarian dishes [to make the students laugh, Swami enacts the dialogue between the customer and the waiter in a most humorous manner]. The waiter then gave the man a sarcastic smile and asked, “Hey mister, did you not see the board in front of this hotel before you entered here?” Swami says there is a big board in front of this world declaring it to be joyless and fleeting. Yet, after coming into the world, man desperately seeks happiness all the time [rather like the man who ordered vegetarian dishes in a non-vegetarian restaurant], which is a foolish thing to do. Permanent happiness can NEVER be found in this world. However, one’s stay in this world can and in fact must be utilised for getting ready to go to the abode of permanent happiness.Anything and everything that one does in life must be based on this one thought. This goal and objective must be the basis for all actions that one undertakes.

Before concluding, it is pertinent to call attention to two points that Swami often makes. The first is what Baba says in the Gitavahini. He says: “You are born so that you may not be born again.” The second of these is from the famous Bhaja Govindam [by Adi Shankara] to which Swami makes frequent references. Shankara says:

Birth again and death again,
In between, sojourns in countless wombs;
Having pity on me O Lord,
Rescue me from this turbulent and recurring cycle!

Life is not meant to be frittered away in making merry, in pursuit of power, wealth and other infructuous objectives. Instead, life must be so lived that we can return once and for all to our natural habitat, from which we have stayed away far too long. Birth as a human has been given for that specific purpose; thus, the opportunity given must not be wasted.


  • Swami often says that man has reduced life to a trivial level of existence, revolving around, eating,The gift of Human life is rare drinking, sleeping and then dying [He calls it: Khana, peena, sona, marna]! This is what animals do; should man live like this? Is it for this that God has gifted the rare human form? This is the question that Baba often asks.

  • Swami often says: Jantunaam narajanmam durlabham, meaning essentially that human birth is rare and precious. One might ask: “What is the big deal in being born a human? There are after all 6.5 billion humans. So, human birth is not all that rare”.

  • The amazing Human BodyThe above analysis is faulty. If it is going to be just the numbers game, then one must play it carefully. True there are today about 6.5 billions of humans. This is a large number. However, compare it with the total population of ALL living beings, yes all living beings, including bacteria, ants, insects of various kinds, animals, and plants. All of them are living beings. If that number is calculated – and remember that there are about 8.4 million living species, and man is just one of them! – then the number 6.5 billion that seemed very large would pale into insignificance.

  • OK, 6.5 billion is not such a big number; so what? Well, just think of the wonderful capabilities that God has endowed man with. We never do that and take them all for granted. Just take a minute off and do an audit.

  • All animals have a tongue but it is the human alone that can speak. Scientists say that the genes that determine the tongue are very similar in the chimpanzee and the human. Only that the human has a bit of extra flexibility, and that is what enables him to speak. Is it just flexibility that enables man to speak? Without intelligence, can there be languages? Is intelligence purely genetic in origin? Is it encoded in the DNA? There is no scientific evidence to suggest that.

  • There is really no need to labour the point but if one thinks carefully for a while, then one would realise that the human being IS special in that he has been blessed with intelligence, extra-ordinary creative abilities, the capacity to appreciate beauty, and enormous dexterity associated with the fingers. In fact, amazed by the capability of the human thumb, Newton once exclaimed, “The thumb alone is enough to prove the existence of God!” More than anything else, the human being can realise the existence of Divinity, if so inclined.

  • Man, as Swami sometimes reminds us is an M,B,A complex, meaning that he is a combination of the Body, the Mind and the Atma. The dexterity of the fingers, for example, is connected with the body. The creative ability is connected with the Mind. That still leaves the Atma, which is the seat of feelings that are unique to the human being like compassion, forbearance, and so on. Indeed, among the three, viz., the Body, the Mind and the Atma, it is the Atma that is most important. Thus life must be lived in conformity with the nature of the Atma. According to Swami, we must have Atma Bhavam, meaning that our feelings must really emanate from the Heart.

  • One might argue: “As it is, I know so little about the Atma. And now, I am asked to live life in accordance with Atmic feelings! What does it really mean?” The answer is: “If you find that difficult, just follow what Baba says. He says: ‘Start the day with God. Fill the day with God. Spend the day with God, and end the day with God!’ Do just that.” [May we here gently suggest that is easily done by tuning to Radio Sai!]

  • How does one do that, namely spend the day with God? Well, it is not all that difficult, but one must do some thinking! But the essential point simply is that one must always be charged with Love because Love is God and God is Love. So, in effect, it means that from the time one wakes up to the time one goes to sleep, one does whatever one does charged with selfless Love, compassion and a spirit of sacrifice. And that precisely is what Baba is doing ALL the time, giving us a message and also teaching us a lesson.

  • OK, one does all this; how does it help? Well, when one spends all of one’s time thinking of God, one is automatically filled with Bliss. This is what Baba means when He says, as He often does, HAPPINESS IS UNION WITH GOD!

  • But how exactly does one think of God all the time? It is so DIFFICULT! Not for one with Atma Bhavam. For example, all of us love the sight of a good sunrise or sunset. We see beauty in the sunrise and experience a special thrill and delight. Animals don’t, and that, incidentally, is one good example of how we are very different from animals at the intellectual and the emotional levels – no animal is ever moved by beauty in Nature; humans alone are. When we see beauty in Nature and feel Bliss, we are unconsciously experiencing union with God.

  • One does not have to stand before the ocean or the mountain to experience God. If we go through theLittle acts of Kindness can keep life on the right track day smiling, doing little acts of kindness here and there – helping a blind person across the road, helping someone to carry luggage, sharing an umbrella during wet weather – all these fill us with joy of a kind that has no opposite. That is what being with God or spending the day with God is all about. When a mother is doing something for her child, and is doing it most unselfishly, driven just by the sheer love she has for her child, she is with God. So, spending the day with God or filling the day with God with God is not all that difficult. We have simply not seriously tried it so far, that is all!

  • This spending the day with God is not a trivial point. Unfortunately, most of us do not give this teaching of Baba sufficient attention, and if we did, our lives would be very different. Indeed, if ten percent of humanity were to adopt this maxim, life on earth would change dramatically.

  • Going back to beauty in Nature for a moment, scientists often say: “Truth is beauty and beauty is truth.” This is an oft-quoted statement amongst physicists who are in quest of neat and elegant models that describe the Universe. But if one goes to philosophers, Plato for example, he spoke of three things – TRUTH, GOODNESS, and BEAUTY. Notice that Goodness comes between Truth and Beauty. This is very important. Interestingly, these very three words occur in ancient Indian philosophy also; there the words are: SATHYAM, SIVAM, SUNDARAM. These three words are supposed to describe God, and no wonder Kasturi who wrote the biography of Bhagavan Baba used precisely these three words for the title.

  • True Nature is beautiful, no matter what aspect we consider, be it the atom or a butterfly or a mountain or a galaxy. But behind this beauty lies the wondrous power, the majesty and the glory of God. Thus, God should not be missed out, as scientists tend to, when they skip Goodness and confine to just Truth and Beauty.

  • Swami often uses three words: CONSTANT INTEGRATED AWARENESS. What do they mean? In simple terms, they mean: SEE GOD EVERYWHERE, IN EVERYTHING, ALL THE TIME!

  • Is this not a bit artificial? One is walking and sees a snake. One then says: “The snake is a deadly creature. If it bites, I am finished! How can one love the snake?! How can one think of God while seeing this reptile?” True we cannot love the snake because of the way we have grown up – there is an in-built psychological revulsion and fear. Why? Because of body-consciousness. We all are attached to the body, and because of that feeling we automatically start perceiving the snake as a deadly enemy, even if it has not seen us or is coming near us.

  • The snake is really not our enemy – we think it is. In what other way can one think of the snake? Suppose we think of the snake as just one of God’s creations, with its own purpose to fulfil, though we might not be able to understand it. Suppose we do not think in terms of harming the snake the moment we spot it. Suppose, for the sake of argument we decide to love the snake. What happens then? Well, if the love is genuine, the snake will go away without harming us.

  • “No, that cannot be true!” That is the kind of doubt we normally have. But the real truth is that when we entertain positive feelings about the snake, the vibrations would calm any suspicious attitude in the snake and it would go away. Baba says that this remarkable power of love is no myth but is actually true. He points out how thousand of years ago when the whole of India was covered with dense forests, Rishis happily lived in small hermitages in the forests, amidst wild animals of all sorts, besides snakes and scorpions. They had no fear of these creatures. Instead, they had only love, as a part of their universal love for all beings. The net result was that these so-called wild animals and snakes left the Rishis alone and did not harm them in any way. Baba has mentioned this in many of His Discourses.

  • Swami Vivekananda talks of a Sage who lived in a cave on the banks of the Ganges, full of cobras! Nothing happened to him. Indeed, in India, there is a festival called Naga Panchami when the snake is worshipped and milk is poured into snake pits!

  • So everything is God in the sense that there is the spark of the Divine in every atom of Creation.

  • OK, everything is God but what has that got to do with the purpose of life? In the Guide Book it has been stated that the purpose of life is to go back where we came from. From God we all have come and to God we must return. What has Constant Integrated Awareness, seeing God in a snake, etc., got to do with the purpose of life? Well, the point is simply this: If we go through life seeing God everywhere and in everything all the time, then we would be in perfect harmony with Creation. And when we finally shed the body, we would return to God for sure, once and for all. No coming back to the earth after that! That is how the points made earlier that seemed disconnected, are actually linked to the purpose of life.

  • Granted all this. But if everything is God, then what are we supposed to do about the evil present in the world? What also is the meaning of “See no evil,” etc? This is an interesting point and the Ramayana gives a clue to the answer.

  • Rama was God come down as man. Everything around Him was an entity in His own Creation. Nevertheless, as an Avatar, Rama acted very much like a man. He protected the good and fought evil. What does that tell us? It tells us, that the world is a stage and that we all are actors. As far as the stage and the play are concerned, there is both good and bad. And we go through the motions of playing our respective roles, WITHOUT any value judgements but acting in strict accordance with Dharma.

  • This is an important point whose significance is often missed. Rama killed Ravana no doubt, but it was a purely clinical operation. It was like a surgeon removing cancerous growth. The surgeon does not have either like or dislike for the cancer growth. It is something to be removed and he does that removal – that is all.

  • In other words, one goes through life doing one’s duty, observing one’s Dharma and all that but without any trace of hatred. There is only love. One might ask: “How can one say Rama was filled love when he was killing Ravana?” Before we consider this question, let us imagine a father disciplining his son. In doing so, the father does not hate his son. He is doing something that is for the good of his son. When a doctor gives an injection there is some pain. But what are the intentions of the doctor? Are they to cause pain or to cure? That is what one must take into account.

  • Ravana had done wrong, and he had to be punished. Rama was doing just that. In fact, one day during the long battle [it lasted many days], Ravana was very tired. He was almost defenceless. That was the “the moment to go for the kill”, as one says in boxing. Rama did not do anything like that. Instead, He told Ravana to go home, rest, and come back fresh for battle on the following morning.

  • In short, if goes through life with what was referred to earlier as Atma Bhavam, then all apparent contradictions would vanish.

  • All this is fine for evolved souls but what about some simple rules for the “ordinary Joe”? No problem!

    Just do normal things in life but with a positive outlook.
    When you go out, smile.
    Try to help when possible.
    Speak kindly and gently, and be humble.
    If there is a so-called bad man, you may be strict with him if required, you may avoid him if it is prudent, etc., but do not make value judgements. Just say, that he is God in disguise. Say, “God has come in that form to test whether I would see through that disguise!”
    If someone says hello, respond with a hello, but silently tell yourself, “God, thank you for greeting me!”
    If it is raining and someone comes with an umbrella to help, thank that person in the usual way but silently say, “God, it is so nice of You to have personally come to my help!”
    If you give a talk and someone comes along and congratulates, silently say, “God thank you. I am so glad I pleased You, But then God without your help could I have done it? Thank you for that also dear God!”

  • These are not difficult rules to follow. One might say this is all make believe, artificial and all that. Well, if one wants to think that way, then artificial it is. But if one sees God everywhere in disguise, then most certainly it is not artificial. If it were so, then most saints were artificial! In that case, how did they become dear to God? No, it is NOT artificial!

  • So, once again, the purpose of life is to live it such that we get back to God. All that was said so far, like seeing God everywhere etc., relate to strategies for living life in a manner that is consistent with the stated purpose of life.

  • If life is to be lived properly and in a manner that would be pleasing to God, then selfless service must occupy an important place in one’s life.

  • These days, service is treated casually and regarded as just a peripheral activity. Many devotees think it is far more important to concentrate on meditation, rituals, etc. Swami’s views on such things are very clear and categorical. He says that rituals, meditation etc., are OK in terms of giving some satisfaction to the person engaged in such activities. People think that all that would lead to Liberation – they will NOT! Speaking on the subject, Baba once went to the extent of saying, “What is all this business about seeking Liberation? It is most selfish! You want Liberation for yourself but what about the millions who are suffering? Forget Liberation and go out and serve. God will then come looking for you and thrust Liberation on you even if you do not want it!” How wonderfully put!

  • In simple terms, the purpose of life is to attain immortality. [See what Swami says about this in the Gitavahini.] We often pray, “FROM DEATH LEAD US TO IMMORTALITY.” It is interesting that humans seek immortality in three different ways, according to their nature. Those at the lowest level, the level of Tamo Guna, try to “preserve” themselves through the propagation of the species. In fact, animals do this too, and this is a built in feature of Creation – the species, humans included, do not make any special and deliberate effort to continue and propagate the species. The people of a Rajasic disposition seek immortality via fame. They try to become great achievers and wish to leave behind long lasting achievements in art, music, literature, and even in Science. The highest level is of course merger with God, which is TRUE IMMORTALITY. The other two are just shadows, at best.

  • Talking of achievement, these days there is the crazy desire to get into the book of records. Recently, a woman in Thailand entered a glass cage filled with 3000 scorpions. Her goal: To spend 30 days in the cage, to beat a previous “record” held by a woman from Malaysia who spent a similar period in the company of only 2700 scorpions! How foolish people can become! Is this the way to become immortal? As Swami often tells us: Removal of immorality is the way to Immortality!


  • Swami is very clear about the purpose of life and has commented on it many times. Yet people are not prepared to take it seriously. Why?

  • How would you see God in everyone?

  • What suggestions would you personally like to make for spending the day with God?

  • The purpose of life as described here is not easy for people to accept, given that we all are used to worldly values, pleasure seeking and all that. Do you think that this acceptance would be easier if we had been conditioned early in life to nobler objectives?

  • In that case, how do you think one should gently put across such concepts to young people in a manner acceptable to them?


Volume - 2 Issue - 15 Radiosai Journal - PSN 2004