Indian heathens’ misunderstanding of meaning(purpose) of life

1. The Sanskrit word (that I know) that comes closest to the Greek ‘telos’ is ‘Sankalpa’. It means ‘to mentally determine’, ‘formulation of an end’ ‘desirous of (an end)’, ‘anticipation (of an end)’ etc. It also means ‘Buddhi’ in some contexts.
2. One of the primary properties of religion is that it generates questions about “the meaning and purpose of life”, “meaning and purpose of existence” and such like, both at an individual level and at the level of a culture.

3. One of the western criticisms of, say, Buddhism has been that it is ‘nihilistic’ or ‘pessimistic’. That is because, according to these readings, Buddha claims that “the meaning and purpose of life is to cease existing” (nirvana) or because he says that “suffering” constitutes the “meaning of life”. These are our Buddhologists to whom we are supposed to go in order to understand Buddhism!
4. Your problem illustrates most beautifully how we, Indian heathens, understand the religious language of Christianity. We understand them from within the perspectives of our own experiences of the world. To us, let us say, attaining ‘Moksha’ or ‘Nirvana’ or ‘Atmagyaana’ or ‘Brahmagyaana’ (or whatever else) is a human goal. Some achieve it, many do not, but we are indeed taught to take some such thing as a goal in life. Achieving this goal is also ‘the meaning’ and ‘purpose’ of our individual lives. (For instance, consider the words you use as synonyms in this fragmentary sentence: “the purpose of human existence according to my understanding and interpretation of Indic traditions is to aspire and reach the supreme one”. To aspire, to reach and to achieve some goal is (identical) to the purpose of our individual lives. That is, you use ‘to aspire’, ‘to reach’ ‘to achieve’ as explications of the meaning of ‘purpose’.)

Suppose I raise the following point: surely striving for Artha (riches), Kama (love) and Dharma are also ‘purposes’ (i.e. goals) in human life. In all probability, you will say something like this: “yes, but the supreme purpose is to achieve ….’

Religion, as an EI account, talks about the meaning and purpose of existence (for what purpose has mankind come into being?), of the world (why is there something rather than nothing?) and such like. Our questions and the questions raised within the framework of religion are not even remotely similar.

  • Skanda

    Fourfold are goals, but experience is the purpose of existence. And experience is 3-fold (bhoga, swarga, apavarga). Bhoga is again 3-fold (sukha, dukha, moha) because phenomenal existence is based on 3 primal qualities. But the substratum of ALL experience is singular: Ananda or happiness. And achieving this is the ONE thing that all that is existent craves.