Religion and the meaning / purpose of life [Insights & Quotes]
What is the purpose of life according to religion? In other words: what does religion say about the meaning of life? In this article, we will discover this question…
What is the meaning of life? The answer of religion…
All religions (Hinduism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Islam and the Bahá’í Faith) believe in a purpose to life because they recognize a superior power, a God that has created a Plan for the individual and for humanity.
The oldest religions, the tribal religions, also conceive of a purpose to life. Their customs and tombs demonstrate that they anticipated a higher destiny for humanity.
In sum, it may be said that in both ancient and contemporary religions, among the best known scientists, and in all philosophical and ideological schools, with exception those committed to strict materialism, the idea exists that human life has a purpose, human existence is not an accident, and man has come into being by the will of an Intelligent Force, that has been variously designated as God, Allah, Yahve, Cosmic Energy, Vishnu, the Father, Brahman, the Creator.
What do the divine teachers say about the purpose of life?
We can liken man to a raw diamond – and the Messengers of God to master diamond cutters.
They alone can bring to light all the potentialities for brightness in the raw diamond.
The messengers of God tell us what we needed attain the high position destined for humanity, as well as those things that produce stagnation in our spiritual evolution.
The Messengers of God tell us that man was created in the image and likeness of God, while humanity’s errors stem from a lack of guidance, even as darkness is the absence of light, the ignorance the want of knowledge, falsehood is the absence of the truth, and deafness a deficiency in one’s capacity to hear.
Evil, error and ignorance are consequences of the lack of a specific quality. Darkness cannot enter and dispel the light, but light can enter and banish the darkness. Ignorance cannot cast out science, but it is science that can cast out ignorance.
“The root cause of wrongdoing is ignorance, and we must therefore hold fast to the tools of perception and knowledge.”
(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 136
Now we shall examine more closely some aspects of spiritual evolution.
We can find three motivations for any action:
- Desire for recompense
As God exists in Himself independently of all outside forces, it is solely by reason of His love and His own sovereign will that He could have created man.
Love is the cause of creation and is reflected in all created things. It is only thanks to this love that we can love our fellows on earth and all of creation.
What about prayer?
In all parts of the world people pray. Why’? Is it a useless tradition? A rite without meaning?
Or can prayer be considered as the expression of our love, our gratitude towards our Creator?
Does our spirit need spiritual energy? Would that be why we like to establish contact, to ignite the lamp of our heart?
“O SON OF BEING!
Make mention of Me on My earth,
that in My heaven I may remember thee,
thus shall Mine eyes and thine be solaced.”
What does religion tell us about the meaning of life / spiritual life / life after death?
“Having created the world and all that liveth and moveth therein, He, through the direct operation of His unconstrained and sovereign Will, chose to confer upon man the unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him — a capacity that must needs be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary purpose underlying the whole of creation… Upon the reality of man, however, He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self”
(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 65)
We read in sacred books, such as the Bible:
“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”
(King James Bible, Ecclesiastes, 2:7)
And Krishna informs us:
“I say to thee weapons reach not the Life;
Flame burns it not, waters cannot o’erwhelm,
Nor dry winds wither it. Impenetrable,
Unentered, unassailed, unharmed, untouched,
Immortal, all-arriving, stable, sure,
Invisible, ineffable, by word
And thought uncompassed, ever all itself,
Thus is the Soul declared! How wilt thou, then,-
Knowing it so,- grieve when thou shouldst not grieve?!
(Bhagavad Gita ch.2 (Edwin Arnold tr))
“Evil-doers go to hell, the good go to heaven, and those without inflowing thoughts achieve final liberation.”
(Dhammapada – Sayings of the Buddha 1 (tr. J. Richards), 9. Evil)
“The purpose of our life goes beyond the limitations of this earthly life. With longing we wish to reach the life eternal that shall come after this earthly life. Whoso has sought truth in this life, shall awaken in the kingdom of Thy light, O Lord.”
The Qur’an says:
“Ye desire the passing fruitions of this world, but God desireth the next life for you. And God is Mighty, Wise… What! prefer ye the life of this world to the next? But the fruition of this mundane life, in respect of that which is to come, is but little.”
(The Qur’an (Rodwell tr), Sura 9 – Immunity)
(The Qur’an (Rodwell tr), Sura 8:68, 9:38)
While Bahá’u’lláh proclaims:
“All things remind me of you.”
What about our ‘spiritual purpose’ if we are living an earthly life?
Let us now study our life on earth. What characterizes a healthy life?
“O SON OF MAN! Thou art My dominion and My dominion perisheth not; wherefore fearest thou thy perishing? Thou art My light and My light shall never be extinguished; why dost thou dread extinction? Thou art My glory and My glory fadeth not; thou art My robe and My robe shall never be outworn. Abide then in thy love for Me, that thou mayest find Me in the realm of glory”
(Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)
We can divide our earthly life into three dimensions:
- Our biological life
- Our social life
- Our spiritual life
The purpose of our biological life is survival and procreation. These essential laws of nature apply to all living beings.
The second phase, social life, has as its goal the development of society for the benefit of all. Social offense, not the final purpose. Social life is merely an instrument to facilitate spiritual evolution.
We may compare society to a healthy body. In a healthy body every cell, every organ and every member cooperate. In the same manner, in a healthy society, every individual, man and woman alike, groups at all levels, people of every race, cooperate in harmony and they feel responsible for the well being of the entire society.
Last stage: Spiritual life.The purpose of spiritual life is:
- The soul’s evolution.
- The cultivation of spiritual qualities such as love, sacrifice, honesty, rectitude, integrity, altruism and justice.
Spiritual, social and physical qualities influence one another. But humanity as a whole has yet to enter its spiritual phase.
A life without purpose… an unhealthy life?
Life turns unhealthy when the instrument replaces the goal, when we live only for feeding, for sex, for money and all material things. With these extreme passions and worldly desires, we damage our health. To content ourselves with living only in pursuit of the physical is not worthy of man.
Social life can also turn unwholesome, when social institutions become the final and, or when they are used for destructive goals. When the economy serves to exploit. When politics is used to advance personal interests. When science is badly utilized. When people are considered unequal making us of one another as mere instruments.
Today our society may be likened to a separate body, unable to control its merits, its faults and its limbs. It has lost sight of the meaning of life, and its life is in danger constantly.
Spiritual life can also turn unhealthy if it lacks spirituality. Faith can turn into superstitions, rituals, ceremonies and dogmas. Than face can become a lamp without light.
“O SON OF SPIRIT!
Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.”
(Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)
Is the meaning of life… submission to the will of God?
Man is exposed to difficulties during his life. These tests and pressures can have a constructive character, on condition that man accepts these pressures of the life with submission to the will of God and the certainty that he is going to surmount the difficulties.
In this case, man may be likened to a mass of clay submissive under the pressure of the Potter’s hands. The clay can take on a beautiful form as long as it is soft and lets itself be moulded by the Potter. We are free to choose between failing to achieve our fully developed form, and letting ourselves be moulded little by little.
“O Son of Man!
For everything there is a sign.
The sign of the love
is fortitude under my decree
and patience under my trials”
(Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)
What about rectitude and justice?
A man has rectitude when his external behaviour is the reflection of his inner life and when his inner life is mirrors his outer conduct.
Man is just when he rids himself of the fantasies and the vain imaginations and discerns with the eye of the unit.
The laws that all the messengers of the Creator give us (or are physical, social or spiritual laws) are in harmony with the general operation and the intention of the creation.
To act according to these fundamental laws will cause that our lives are more fruitful and than our spirit develops its latent capacities, until the inner happiness and the joy are pronounced totally.
Angels: people who have a meaning in life… and Demons: people who don’t…
Those whose intention it is to promote the material development, social and spiritual of the humanity, participates in the Great Plan of God for the humanity is considered like a “angel” in sacred books.
On the other hand, to scorn these spiritual laws of the creation will cause the stagnation of our spiritual progress and consequently we will feel inner darkness.
The man who conscientiously prevents the material, social and spiritual development of the humanity, is denominated “demon” in sacred books.
Heaven and Hell
The spiritual qualities are important for our earthly life, but also determine the condition of our soul in the life after death.
Heaven and hell can be considered rational consequences of our acts for the Soul. The logical result of the level of spiritual development of our soul.
The embryo that has not been developed sufficiently during its life in the matrix will not be able to take total advantage of the beauties the earthly life caused by lack of physical faculties.
In the same way “hell” is the condition in which the spiritual faculties are not developed totally.
And “paradise” is a spiritual condition in which many spiritual faculties have been developed, allowing us to feel the nearness of God.
Original text by Aladin & Lila Alaie