Here is an article I wrote more than 10 years back for a college magazine. This is one of my first philosophical writings. I have slightly changed the last paragraph.
Aim of Life
Several people have asked me if there is any aim in life. This aim has to be irrespective of the concept of rebirth and God. Any aim in life must be achievable here and now.
Let me question myself: “What is that I want in life? Even if I say that I do not have any aim in life, the very fact that I am moving around doing so many things show that I AM looking for something. What do I want in life? I go to work everyday. Why? What do I want from it? I go to movies. I go to my friend’s house. I go to places of worship. Why? What do I expect from all these things? Nature shows me a beautiful scenery and says, Look and I stand awestruck. Why? Nature shows me a starving child. I feel a pang. I drop a coin into her bowl. Why? What do I expect from the act?” The answer to all the questions I ask myself is the same : “If I do not do it, I will feel unsatisfied.” This makes me look as if I am very selfish. Even my act of dropping a coin into the beggar’s bowl is for self-gratification; but this is the fact.
That leaves me with this : “Everything I do is to make me feel more satisfied, complete and perfect.” This I find is the driving force behind all my actions. This, consciously or unconsciously, is the driving force behind the actions of everyone. A thief steals to be more complete. A labourer works to feel more complete. A person gives money in charity to feel more complete. The whole world is driven by a craze for perfection and completeness.
Man is a multi-faceted being. We see him as a physical, intellectual and emotional being. Let us see what perfection means in these different facets. What do I mean by perfection at the physical level? The first thing that comes to our mind is a healthy body. The body must be free from diseases. The sense organs must be sensitive for the body to maintain itself and to enjoy the sense objects. The organs of action must be strong and dexterous. Then, body must be pleasing to look at. At the intellectual level, the memory must be good. The power of discrimination must be sharp.
Before we step into the emotional plane, let us see if perfection is possible at these planes. How perfect can the physical body be? How much can a person take care to keep away from diseases? Even if that is possible, the body will be subjected to infirmity, old-age and death. Who can escape them? So, perfection at the physical level is a myth. How perfect can man be in the intellectual plane? How much can one remember? How sharp can the discriminating capacity be? To what level can logical thinking reach? The inherent limitations of logic and rational thinking have been realized and expressed by both Western and Eastern thinkers.
Now let us look into the emotional side of man. Let me portray my idea of a man who is emotionally strong. He has tremendous faith in what he is doing. This results in perseverance. He faces the obstacles that stand in his path with courage and confidence. He is able to take decisions quickly. He is fearless. He has mastery over his feelings. He is not carried away by sentiments. He can face any situation in life with a cool head. Elbowing down others is irrelevant to him. His strength does not depend on anything external. He is totally self-contained. He is emotionally stable.
Now, can a person be absolutely stable? What can move a man who does not depend on anything external to himself? What can touch him? Nothing. He is absolutely stable. This is perfection. This is completeness. So, perfection in the emotional level is possible. Now let us see what perfection at the emotional level means at the other two levels. How does a man who is emotionally perfect look at his physical and intellectual planes. Based on our previous arguments, even the body of the perfect man cannot be perfect. How will that affect him? If he is bothered about it, he is not emotionally perfect because he is not satisfied. So, the imperfection of the body makes no difference to him. Similarly with the intellect. Satisfaction is a concept in the emotional plane. So perfection there reflects at all the planes. Thus we find that the emotional plane holds the key to all the other planes.
So, the only thing worth striving for is emotional stability. Man’s pursuit of happiness can be fulfilled only by his emotional development. This perfection can be achieved here, in this body itself. One need not think of any heaven or future birth. This is what is described in the Gita as the characteristics of a “Stitha Prajna” in the second chapter and as the characteristics of a “Bhakta” in the twelfth chapter. The emotionally perfect person is called Jivanmukta – one who is free while living – in the Indian scriptures.