======================================= On Meaning and Purpose of Life
All rights reserved This article is a self-contained section to be found in my book titled Soul, God, and Morality copyrighted and published in United States. =======================================
As it has so very often been lamented, lot of being human is really nothing more than a bed of thorns adorned by a few occasional roses. Its tenure is rather harsh for some, bitter for many, and short for all. To be a human being, in other words, is not altogether that privileged an affair. For few comforts sometimes enjoyed, one must slave for one’s needs, live with anxieties, struggle against external threats and so on and so forth. What also seems regrettable is that as one become less sensitised to all these adversities, one is also programmed to slide toward Sunset Avenue, and eventually die. The apparent pointlessness of it all could only make one wonder: Why are we here? What is meaning and purpose of all it all? Is death really end of one’s existence? In history of human kind, it is questions such as these that have given rise to answers of religious kind.
As to wherewithal of human toil and suffering, religious deliberations have by and large come down to this. They all say that it is due to sinful (unlawful) tendencies of human kind. According to monotheistic religions, original source of trouble is traceable to disobedience of First Couple vis a vis command of God. With Christianity, this opinion was further crystallized into doctrine of original sin. For non-theistic religions such as Buddhism, however, suffering is deemed rather as consequence of natural retributive justice as dictated by iron law of cause and effect (that every effect must have its like cause, and conversely, every cause must have its like effect). In terms of this understanding, one is bound to reap what one has sown. That is to say, what one suffers now is but consequence of one’s evil deeds and intentions either committed or entertained in past; and how one performs now is also indicative of what is to come in this life as well as in next. It should thus be seen that despite doctrinal differences, message is actually one and same. No one should blame Heaven or Deity for what one has to endure as a human being. The culprit is actually oneself.
As to having to die so quickly and purpose of it all, it is also generally agreed that bodily death is really not end of one’s existence. It should be seen rather as gateway for one’s soul into next – to become another incarnated being in flesh (as in case of Buddhism) or to reside permanently in realm of spirits (as in case of Christianity and Islam). In either case, it was further surmised that all souls in hereafter will have to face up to consequences of some laws, either divine or natural. This has got to be so, or so it was also said, because governance of universe of which human kind is a part is fundamentally retributive in character, as witnessed by decreed of God in one case, and retributive justice as necessitated by iron law of cause and effect in other.
Now, regardless of whether not one is really consoled by any of these views, let me say that they have in fact been a kind of makeshift cushion for many. At very least, it has injected some trace of meaning or sense of purpose into what seems to be so pointless a state of affair. In has also helped to soothe and rationalize away much of pain and suffering that one must endure for just being here. Seen in one way, it gives many their needed courage to persist. Understood in another, it offers them also some distant ray of hope. As you can see, I would be last to write off completely self-hypnotising psychiatric function of religion. Only that having of placebo effects is not necessarily an indication that metaphysical capsules offered are really what is usually taken to be. It is possible to have same effect by taking a different kind of pills nowadays known as ‘power of positive thinking’. What distinguishes some of these secular dispensations from their religious counterparts is that they are mostly offered with view of encouraging active self-reliance rather than passive dependence on interventions from Beyond.