Purpose of Life

Finding your purpose of life

What is the purpose of life?

To many people, the purpose of life is very clear. It has been laid out clearly either by their parents, teachers or religious leaders. For others, it is much harder to work out. In fact, many philosophers have argued for centuries about what the true purpose of life is. There is a distinction between what the purpose of any life is and what it means to an individual, of course. Some people believe they have found a purpose in their life if, for example, they do a job that they find fulfilling. To others, the purpose of all human life is to work towards a higher purpose that is bigger than any individual. Broadly speaking, the latter is a spiritual interpretation of a life's purpose.

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 How important is purpose of life?

 People who do not have a purpose in their life – whether they are spiritually religious or otherwise - can struggle. Although some people are perfectly happy with the idea that there is no purpose in life, this leaves many individuals with a sense of loss or emptiness that needs to be fulfilled. Of course, the way that it is fulfilled can represent an entire lifetime's challenge. Some discover their purpose reasonably quickly while others explore many avenues without coming up with an answer that they feel truly satisfied with. Suffice to say that large numbers of people feel that purpose in life is fundamental to their sense of themselves.

What is the purpose of life according to religion?

In the Abrahamic religions, the purpose of life is often interpreted in similar ways. Generally speaking, it is to live a good life which will mean that you will be able to ascend to heaven at the end of your life. Conversely, bad lives are punished by eternal damnation. Of course, how religions interpret what is good and bad differs from sect to sect. In Hinduism, good lives lead to a superior form of reincarnation – in most cases – whereas the soul passes to an inferior form of life if a bad life has been led. In Confucianism, the purpose of life is usually bound up with education and being virtuous.

What is the purpose of life according to the Buddha?

Some of the early Buddhist scriptures point out that there is no meaning or purpose in life as such. Rather, they teach that there is the potential within all people to end suffering, usually by turning away from materialism in some way. By attaining spiritual perfection, it would be possible to gain the state of Nirvana, which essentially means being free of reincarnation and worldly suffering.

Can there be a purpose of life without God?

Many people take an entirely secular view of the purpose of their life. Vast numbers of interpretations exist, but they include a lifetime of development, both biological and intellectual. Other interpretations relate to being honest with oneself or pursuing one's dreams and aspirations.

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In the past, any definition of spirituality would have been very tightly correlated with certain religious beliefs that focus on the godliness or spirit within people. In other words, spiritual people would have been seen as devout, pious and concentrated more on sacred or metaphysical matters than earthly ones. These days, however, a more extensive definition of spirituality is accepted, which includes broader traditions that lead to personal growth. Examples of this could be, the sort of inner journey that many people take from meditative practices and non-religious activities like transcendentalism and perennial philosophy.
To put it simply, religion is a social practice which uses multiple methods to explain humanity, the spiritual side of people, the universe and – in most cases – divinity. That said, there is no consensus as to what religion truly is. Some people take it to mean only organised religion where worship is conducted through ritual. Others see it as something that is bound up with their personal identity and which could not be shared even if they wanted it to. In the main, religions state moral positions that followers ought to stick to. Many religions also promote certain practices that are encouraged. These are often referred to as observances. Many types of religion have world views that cover all aspects of humanity, including the afterlife. Critics of organised religion usually point out how it has been used throughout history as a form of social control.
For some Western philosophers, notably Kant, enlightenment is a greater understanding of humanity derived from observations rather than superstitions. The Age of Enlightenment is often referred to as a flowering of scientific understanding in 17th and 18th-century Europe. That said, spiritual enlightenment has its roots in Buddhism and the teachings of established religions, especially, Hinduism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism. Although related concepts – because they both really mean a deeper knowledge – the Western and Eastern versions should not be conflated with one another. Spiritual enlightenment is known as bodhi by Buddhists and moksha in Hinduism. These words roughly translate as either awakening or liberation. As such, spiritually enlightened thought should be considered to be as something akin to a revelation - what Christians might call an epiphany by way of comparison.
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