The following is a question from a student posted on shakti’s blog www.shaktimhi.com; “The Purpose of Existence” Both the questions, and shakti’s responses are written below. The student’s words are italicized.
Here is the first of my many questions:
I want to know what the purpose of existence? Is there a purpose? Everyday is a new day with new experiences, there are ups and downs, etc. but really what is the purpose? I feel like I am just living day to day until my time is up. What are we all doing here?
Let’s say you will be guaranteed that there is no purpose to existence and it simply is what it is, in any moment.
Would you, as a result:
- Not care about anything any more?
- Not bother to breathe?
- Not bother to love?
- Stop being curious?
- Stop appreciating the beauty of a sunrise?
- Stop seeing the magic in rainbows?
- Kill yourself?
Let’s say you will be guaranteed that there is a purpose for your existence
Would you, as a result:
- Stop worrying?
- Stop being afraid?
- Free yourself from all attachments?
- Stop reaching out for recognition?
- Become the free self that you are?
The tree never says “my purpose is to create shade”. While we sit under the tree we perceive its purpose in that moment as giving us shade.
Because the answer depends on who asks the question (us or the tree) and on who gives the answer (us or the tree), it makes neither the question nor the answer relevant, as it makes the questioner disappear…
Now go and have cup of tea* and drink it as if it is the last one you’ll ever drink, and you may find out that being fully in the experience doesn’t leave space for questions.
*I very much recommend jasmine tea.
Thank you for your response. And I happen to love jasmine tea.
I don’t fully understand your reply (yet) and am trying to understand what you mean.
When I am fully in the present, I realize how empty and meaningless my life and life in general is. Yes, I appreciate the beauty of a sunrise and in fact, I appreciate so much.
Is the answer to just be and embrace this emptiness?
First I would like to ensure you that the matter we are discussing is beyond the mind gymnastics. This is the reason why in the beginning of our search for spirituality (meaning: discovering reality beyond “the making sense”) we are mostly in confusion.
The mind perceives reality in formulas.
For example: for the mind 1+1 is always equal to 2.
But when you experience reality beyond the mind, 1+1 may in one moment be equal to knowing and in other moment to a void or the infinite or nothingness.
So instead of trying to understand, figure out, or make sense of my words to you, simply let them resonate in you until your “sixth sense” will wake up and be activated to pick up on the endless possibilities that you may not be aware of in this moment. The most important is to be playful. Be sincere, but not too serious.
One of the greatest zen sayings is “form is emptiness and emptiness is form”.
“Form is emptiness” – Nothing has a meaning but the meaning that we pour into it in each moment.
“Emptiness is form” – like everything else, emptiness is just another form with a meaning of emptiness.
Most of the spiritual seekers are looking for a formula, recipe, structure, or path that will answer all of the dual questions that the mind raises. Most of the seekers are not willing to take the seat of power by giving a meaning to their moment; and in the same time not being attached to this meaning otherwise it turns to be a dogma instead of an experience.
The answer for the mind’s questions lies outside of the mind, in the experience. The experience takes place outside of the mind, while the interpretation and evaluation of the experience lies inside of the mind.
For example, taking a shower is an experience that takes place outside of the mind.
The shower was fun, too short, too long, too warm, unsatisfying etc, are all the mind’s evaluations and interpretations of the experience.
In other words we can say that the answer revealed itself when the question ceased.
You are asking if there is any absolute meaning to existence.
In the time between the two emails you sent me I managed to fall from a high balcony, break my spine and shatter my arm. In the moment of the fall when my body hit the rock I couldn’t breathe, it took me extreme effort to force air into my shocked lungs. In that split second the meaning I gave to my moment was all about breathing and keeping my body alive. When finally the air entered my suffocated lungs, I was fascinated by my ability to breathe as I wasn’t sure if it was ever going to happen again. Next was to check if I could feel my legs, as I knew my spine was injured badly. Feeling my toes was a very meaningful moment. I won’t keep inventory of all my moments from that point on, but I was making sure in each of them that I stay out of my mind that often raises meaningless questions as “Why me?”, “What will happen now?”, “Am I going to live?”, “Could it have been prevented?” etc.
Throughout all the moments I went through in the last two weeks: surgery, pain, discomfort and others, I was making sure that I am in the experience and not in the evaluation of it.
Even though all the above moments were absolutely meaningful in my direct experience, I cannot say they represent the absolute meaning of existence, as in the time of laying injured on the ground waiting for rescue, you may have had a cup of jasmine tea or a talk with a friend or had a moment of silence with your self.
If you would like to reveal the true nature of existence you have to move away from your familiar ways of perceiving reality, for example knowing that opposites such as meaning and no meaning dwell in the same moment, while for the mind it is always either this or that.
So to conclude all the above and future words:
If you need to have a confirmation that there is absolute meaning in order to have a meaning in your life, your life is meaningless.
If you do not have a space left in your moment to wonder about meaning because it is filled by your experience, your life is meaningful.