The Purpose of Life
I was a hidden treasure and I longed to be known. So I created the Creation so that I may be known
(Hadith Kudsi of the Prophet Mohammed)
The question which arises in the mind of every thoughtful person is, what was the reason, what was the purpose of the creation of this world? The answer is, to break the monotony. Call it God, call it the only Being, call it the source and goal of all; being alone, He wished that there should be something for Him to know. The Hindus say that the creation is the dream of Brahma. One may call it a dream, but it is the main purpose. The Sufis explain it thus: that God, the Lover, wanted to know his own nature; and that therefore through manifestation the Beloved was created, in order that love might manifest. And when we look at it in this light, then all that we see is the Beloved. As Rumi, the greatest writer of Persia says, 'The Beloved is all in all, the lover only veils Him; the Beloved is all that lives, the lover a dead thing.' Sufis have therefore called God the Beloved. And they have seen the Beloved in all beings. They did not think that God was in heaven, apart, away from all beings. In everything, in all forms, they have seen the beauty of God. And in this realization the main purpose and the ultimate purpose of life is fulfilled. As it is said in the ancient scriptures, when God asked Adam, 'Who is thy Lord?' he said, 'Thou art my Lord.' This means that the purpose of creation was that every soul might recognize his source and goal, and surrender to it and attribute to it all beauty and wisdom and power, so that by doing so he might perfect himself. As the Bible says, 'Be ye perfect even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.' (from Hazrat Inayat Khan: A Sufi Message Vol. VI)
The purpose of life, in short, is that the only Being makes His oneness intelligible to Himself. He goes through different planes of evolution, or planes through which he arrives at different changes, in order to make clear to Himself His oneness. And as long as this purpose is not accomplished, the one and only Being has not reached His ultimate satisfaction, in which lies His divine perfection. One may ask, 'Is man the only organ through which God realizes His oneness?'
God realizes His oneness through His own nature. Since God is one, He always realizes His oneness through all things; through man He realizes His oneness in its fullness. For instance in the tree there are many leaves; although each leaf is different from the other leaf, yet the difference is not great. Then, coming to worms and germs and birds and animals, they are different one from another, and yet the difference is not so distinct as in man. And when one thinks of the great variety of the numberless human forms, and it seems that there is not one form exactly like another, this by itself gives us a living proof of the oneness of God. In order to show this, Asaf Nizam made a very beautiful verse:'You look at me with contempt. Yes, granted; I am contemptible. But will you show me such another contemptible creature?' Which means: even the worst person is incomparable; there is none like him. It is a great phenomenon, the proof of oneness, the proof of unity, that in the creation of God there is no competition, no one competes with the Creator.
In other words, it would be unworthy if the only Being felt, 'There is another like Me, even in the world of variety.' He retains His pride even in the world of variety: 'No one is like Me.' Even in the worst guise He stands alone without comparison. One may ask, 'Before man appeared on earth, did God realize His oneness?' But who can say how many times man appeared on the earth and disappeared from the earth? What we know is only one history of the planet. But how many planets exist? In how many millions of years have how many creations been created and how many withdrawn? All one can say is this: one cannot speak of God's past, present, and future; one can only give an idea which is the central idea of all aspects of truth; that it is the only Being who existed, who exists and who will exist; and all that we see are His phenomena.
There is a story that can explain the mystery of life's purpose. A fairy had a great desire to amuse herself, and she descended on the earth. And there children had made a little doll's-house. She wanted to enter this doll's-house, but it was difficult for her to enter into the space where only a doll can go. 'Very well', she said, 'I am going to try a different way. I will send one finger by this way, and another finger by another way, and each part by different ways.' And she separated into different bits, and each bit of herself went through the different parts of the doll's-house. And when one part met the other part, at once they rubbed against one another and that was very unpleasant. And there was a fight among the different parts: 'Why are you coming my way? this was my way; why do you come my way?' Each part of the fairy's being interested itself in something, in some part of that doll's-house. When that moment of interest passed, a certain part of her being wanted to go out of the doll's-house. But then there were other parts of the being which were not willing to let it go. They were holding it: 'You stay here; you cannot go out.' Some parts of her being wanted to push out another part, but there was no way of putting it out. So it was a kind of chaos all through, one part not knowing that the other part belonged to the same fairy, and yet one part being attracted unconsciously to another part because they were parts of the same body. In the end the heart of the fairy moved about also. This heart soothed every other part, saying, 'You have come from me. I wish to console, I wish to serve you. If you are troubled, I wish to take away your trouble. If you are in need of a service, I wish to render it you. If you lack anything, I wish to bring it for you. I know how much you are troubled in this doll's-house.' But some said, 'We are not troubled at all;we are enjoying ourselves. If we are troubled, it is by the wish to remain here. Those who are troubled are others, not we.' The heart said, 'Well, I shall look at you, and I shall enjoy myself too. I shall sympathize with those who are troubled, I shall help those who are enjoying themselves.' This was the one part of the fairy's being which was conscious of its atoms scattered all around. But the atoms were hardly conscious of it, although since they belonged to the same body, they were attracted to the heart, knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or unconsciously. Such was the power of the heart. It was just like the power of the sun, that turns the responsive flower into a sun-flower. And so the power of the heart of the fairy turned every part of its being that responded, into a heart. And as the heart was light and life itself, the doll's-house could no longer hold the heart. The heart was experiencing the joy of the doll's house, but was at the same time able to fly away. The heart was delighted to find all its atoms belonging to its body, and it worked through all and through every part of its organs; so, in time, it turned every part of its organs into a heart also, by which this phenomenon was fulfilled.
God is love. If God is love, love is most sacred, and to utter this word without meaning is a vain repetition. The lips of a person to whom it means something, are closed; he can say little. For love is a revelation in itself; no study is necessary, no meditation is needed, no piety is required. If love is pure, if the spark of love has begun to glow, then there is no need to go somewhere to gain spirituality; then spirituality is within. One must keep blowing the spark till it turns into a perpetual fire. The fire worshippers of old did not worship a fire which went out; they worshipped a perpetual fire. Where is that perpetual fire to be found? In one's own heart. The spark that one finds glowing for a moment and that then becomes dim, does not belong to heaven, for in heaven all things are lasting; it must belong to some other place. Love has become a word from the dictionary, a word which is used a thousand times in the day, which means nothing. To the one who knows what it means, love means patience, love means endurance, love means tolerance, love means sacrifice, love means service. All things such as gentleness, humility, modesty, graciousness, kindness, all are the different manifestations of love. It is the same to say, 'God is all and all is God', as to say, 'Love is all and all is love.' And it is to find it, to feel it, to experience its warmth, and to see in the world the light of love, and to keep its glow, and to hold love's flame high as a sacred torch to guide one in one's life's journey; it is in this that the purpose of life is fulfilled. According to the common standard of life, a man with common sense is counted to be a right and a fit person. But, by a mystical standard, that person alone can begin to be right who is beginning to feel sympathy with his fellow-man. For by the study of philosophy and mysticism, by the practices of concentration and meditation, to what do we attain? To a capability that enables us to serve our fellow-men better. Truth is simple. But for the very reason that it is simple, people will not take it; because our life on earth is such that for everything we value, we have to pay a great price and one wonders, if truth is the most precious of all things, then how can truth be attained simply? It is this illusion that makes everyone deny simple truth and seek for complexity. Tell people about something that makes their heads whirl round and round and round. Even if they do not understand it, they are most pleased to think, It is something substantial; it is something solid; for it is an idea we cannot understand; it must be something lofty.' But something which every soul knows, proving what is divine in every soul, and which it cannot help but know, that appears to be too cheap, for the soul already knows it. There are two things: knowing and being. It is easy to know truth, but most difficult to be truth. It is not in knowing truth that life's purpose is accomplished; life's purpose is accomplished in being truth. (from Hazrat Inayat Khan: The Purpose of Life)