If we ask different people of what the purpose of their life is, they will reply different things. If we analyze the answers, they can be generalized as “Be happy and help others”. This is what Swami Vivekananda elaborated as the motto of Ramakrishna Mission as “aatmano mokshaartam jagat hitaaya ca” – “for the freedom of the self and welfare of the world”.
Moksha (liberation, nirvana, freedom) is to be understood as jivanmukti – freedom when living. Freedom from what? Krishna defines it as freedom from sorrow. “na anusocanti panditaaha” – “Wise men don’t grieve”. The jivanmukta is defined as the person who is free from sorrow. Problems will come in life. But having problems does not mean being unhappy. His happiness is unconditional. That is what we all mean when we say “I want to be happy.” Finally, the unconditional happiness comes from a deeper understanding of ourselves. But to get there, it is necessary to have a reasonably peaceful and happy life. There is a popular saying – “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. This is very true. Without being good, it is not possible to be free from sorrow.
What is meant by “be good”? Patanjali lists ten points to start with.
1. satya – Don’t tell a lie. It is not necessary to speak all the truth that we know. When we speak and act, there should be perfect alignment between our knowledge, intention, words and action.
2. ahimsa – Don’t take advantage of the weakness of others. It is not possible to live without hurting smaller life forms. We should try to be as harmless as possible.
3. aasteya – Don’t have any unfair possession.
4. aparigraha – Don’t have possessions beyond what is reasonably necessary.
5. brahmacharya – Have decent and appropriate attitude towards the other gender.
6. soucha – Maintain everything neat and tidy.
7. santosha – Always be cheerful and contented. Don’t keep complaining about everything. Have positive attitude.
8. tapas – Maintain discipline in life. Wake up, eat, go to sleep, etc at the right times. Have control on what you eat, read, see, hear, speak, etc.
9. swadhyaaya – Entertain healthy thoughts. Have a habit of reading good books and thinking deeply about them.
10. ishwara pranidhaana – Believe in the fairness of the world. “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Do everything as an offering to God and face everything as a gift from God. Face success with humility and failure with dignity.
Following these ten points is to “be good”. This will give peace and happiness.
What is meant by “do good”? Being honest, sincere and hard working in our respective professions is the most fundamental part of “doing good”. Apart from that, the scriptures point out five areas where we should contribute:
1. Deva yagna – Take care of nature. Don’t pollute. Plant trees. Conserve resources.
2. Bhuta yagna – Take care of animals. Treat them with dignity. Preserve them. Avoid harming them.
3. Manushya yagna – Take care of people. Treat everyone with dignity. Donate to and involve in social service activities. Help people. Pay for services availed from people.
4. Pitru yagna – Take care of parents, grand parents, children, grand children, etc. Respect old people. Help them. Be kind to young children. Take care of children. Donate to and involve in orphanages and old-age homes.
5. Rishi yagna – Take care of teachers. Acquire, develop and disseminate knowledge. Help education of children and adults. Donate and involve in schooling of underprivileged children. Support the study of science, maths, literature, arts, music, dance, philosophy, religion, etc.
And overall, contribute more than you consume. Give more than you take. Don’t live as a burden on the earth.
Swami Vivekananda says, “Be good, do good. This is the whole of religion.” Being good is the way to be happy. Doing good is the way to help others. Thus the purpose of life would be served.