What it all means?

Amal Chatterjee
11 min readJun 12, 2020

Source : Google photo

Synopsis : What is the purpose of our life and what it really means to us and to others are eternal questions that we always ask and most do not get a definite answer. The blog looks at the purpose of our existence and how we can do something for others that helps them in their predicament in a positive manner.

At some point in our lives we often start to think about what our life has meant to others and in what way positive or negative have we been able to make an impact on others but mostly on ourselves. Most people do not believe in reincarnation of souls but those who do like the Hindus think that our life has a purpose and we have come to this world to fulfill predestined roles whatever they may be.

We are all born on an equal footing or so it seems at first but soon it becomes apparent that we are not born equal so we do not get to enjoy the same rights as others because of the race we are born in , the skin color , our ethnicity or even religion so each of these factors play an important role in how we are treated by others or how we are perceived. Because after all we are the products of our culture that is strongly influenced by the set of beliefs that are imposed on us as soon we learn to walk and talk by our elders.

The belief system is imposed on us when we are children and do not have our own idea on what our life and our belief system should be so we depend on our elders who tell us that they know better so we must listen to them, go to church or mosque with them and must obey the tenets of their belief system that is based on some strict interpretations of their Bible or Quran or Geeta . They tell us that we are born into a set of belief that are unshakable so some people are known to go to extreme length to make sure that you obey those beliefs and act accordingly . The ISIS terrorists are an extreme example but the pressure comes from every religion to conform one way or the other so the child complies. Only the atheists and the humanist escape this pressure.

He depends on his elders so he has no choice but to comply up to a certain point when he becomes an adult when he start to think according to his own wishes that may be different from his family or the community where he lives. The rebel kids gave rise to their hippy culture who later joined the Hare Krishna Movement that has now become a worldwide phenomenon that the common people are also joining.

Leaving aside the set of beliefs that originate from religions, the common man also asks the purpose of his life and what role he should play in it and in what way. It is a very basic question that confronts all of us at a certain phase of our life to which some of us seek answers. We go to those who can tell us but many turn out as charlatans who are out to take advantage of gullible and exploit your wealth, time and energy so in the end you get disillusioned and come back to square one.

There are very few people who can give you the answers you seek so it is hard to find them. The so called spiritual gurus turn out to be fake and who run sex rackets to exploit the innocent while others are into massive scams using religion as a front. They are found every where wearing the cloak of respectability until they are exposed and punished. One can ask the questions to his teachers but rarely they will be able to answer you outside of their classroom teachings so what can a person do and where can he go to seek answers? ( read my blog The fake gurus here )

He may start with his parents . If they are educated and liberal, they may influence you to turn in a certain direction in your life that helps you realize your potential but if they are the fundamentalists, they may not be of much help other than pushing their beliefs on you whatever they may be.

A child needs direction in his or her life and that direction normally comes from parents in a normal situation but what if you do not live in a normal situation in a peaceful country ? What if you live in a country going through war and cataclysmic changes that make you suffer deprivations and a very stressful life like in war torn countries where you become orphans and carry the heavy load on your young shoulders to care for your siblings any way you can just to survive? In such cases the child grows up without the parental protection and guidance so he can end up to become a bad person without any empathy for anyone and where his own survival becomes paramount at a cost to others.

Children from broken families who grow up without love and emotional shelters find it easier to find the company of their own kind so they end up literally destroying their lives with drugs and crime involving others. Many serial killers are made this way or big time criminals who have no feelings for others so they act out in revenge for what has happened to them as children through no fault of their own.

Many people in our written history have taken upon themselves the task of changing their own destiny and that of their countrymen by taking command of their people and have guided them out of their predicaments through revolution. I call them the extraordinary people with extraordinary vision for the future of their people who have liberated their people through violent struggle when no other means were available to them. Others have tried and failed but are known for their struggle so they are honored.

They are the leaders who are not born everyday. Some people grow up with a strong sense of right and wrong and are willing to sacrifice themselves to do what is right but most people are not that way and will not go to make the sacrifice so they are called the followers. They will often blindly put their faith in some one who is a charismatic leader of great oratory skills and follow him or her to do their bidding. The Germans followed Hitler with blind devotion and we all know what happened to them. The Japanese people put their faith in Tojo and we also know what happened to them. Rarely such blind faith has rewarded them with a better life and prosperity.

The common people are like sheep in a huge herd that follows a leader because they find it easier if someone tells them which way to go because it absolves them of personal responsibility in such cases. I think it also applies to human beings because not everyone is a leader who has the qualities of a good leader. There are many bad leaders who have destroyed their nations and their people as the example given above but once in a while a good person comes along who can influence your life in a positive way.

Swami Vivekananda was a rebel when young who questioned everything until he met a great spiritual man called Shri Rama Krishna Dev who was a poor priest of a temple in Dakshineshwar but he guided the young Vivekananda in the direction that made him realize why he was born and what he must do to serve the poor. Rama Krishna Dev opened his eyes to what the young Vivekananda could achieve if he resolved to do so because he saw in him a strong moral person who just needed the right direction and gave him the push. The rest is history. He died at the young age of 37 but impacted the world in a great way that we all know about.

You too need a push in the right direction in your life to achieve what you are capable of so often this push comes from loving parents or your teacher who sees and values your potential and becomes your mentor or it can come from a person who appears suddenly in your life and shows the way. I do not want you to take it in a religious sense although there are plenty of cases or reformed whores who have suddenly found Jesus.

You often wonder what you mean to others starting with your own family, siblings and parents and later to the wider world. What are your duties toward them? Do you feel any obligation or duty toward them or are you a very selfish person who is only self centered from the start ? So the circumstances of your upbringing greatly affects who you become later on and whether or not you become a good or a bad person.

A child does not choose his family. It is the family that chooses to bring him to this world often because of their lust that is very different from love. A child born of love is very different from a child born of lust .The child of lust may later be resented by the parents and neglected. So the circumstances of birth of an individual varies a great deal from person to person. Now let us assume that most children are born out of love so the parents feel that they are morally responsible to raise him or her properly. What properly means also varies from family to family and from one culture to another.

So let us assume that you are born in a family that loves you and has given you all the opportunities in life to grow up as a healthy and educated person with liberal values and sense of right and wrong. Let us also assume that you were born in a large family where your siblings grow up with different personalities and different values from your own. So what should your feelings and duties toward them be if you do not like them for one reason or other? Will you feel responsible for them and help them in such cases?

I observe that a person who grows up a loner even in a large family, develops a stronger character and often leadership in life who takes matters into his own hands and charts his own course through the rough waters of life because he becomes self reliant. His awareness of his potential and his role in the family and the wider world may not come naturally but it can be learned.

The story of Terry Fox comes to my mind who suffered amputations due to the cancer that had spread in his body but he kept on running to raise funds for cancer research so that a cure may someday be found. He saw the wider purpose of his disease so he gave his life to help those who suffer like him. He is remembered as the national hero in Canada. To some people this awareness comes through hardship and sufferings while to others it comes through a thorough introspection like what happened to Swami Vivekananda while he was meditating on the rock in Kanyakumari. ( Read my blog on Terry Fox called Determination here )

Others have no clue and go though life like sheep with only the awareness of their self preservation. Most people fall into this second category because they are not aware of their role so they do nothing in their life other than just passing their days with inane activities until there are no days left to them.

To walk on the path of virtue takes tremendous self discipline and the moral conviction out of which comes the desire to help others . I often think of the Doctors without frontier ( Médecins sans frontière of MSF ) who risk their lives everyday to go out to their patients suffering from Ebola or Covid or other infectious diseases due to their conviction that they have the skill that should be used to help others in need without thinking of monetary gains so they are the real heroes of this world.

There are doctors who perform surgeries of all kinds on very poor patients in Africa and Latin America without any charge to give their patients a new lease on life so they too are heroes. There are Missions like the Rama Krishna Mission that was set up by Swami Vivekananda all over India to help the poor so they run orphanages, old age homes and modern hospitals where the poor get free treatment for their illness so the monks of the mission know their role in the world.

There are the Sikhs who feed thousands of poor and hungry people everyday because they see themselves as duty bound to do so. You will see this in all Gurudwaras but specially so in their most holy place called the Golden Temple in Amritsar that we had the chance of visiting last year. The Sikhs know their obligations and the role they must play in their life to help others. These are some of the sterling examples of people who are aware of the meaning of their life but sadly the vast majority of the humanity is unaware so they take no actions.

The poverty eradication, victims of slavery, child abuse, trafficking of women and children for monetary gains, prostitution, abuse of women and children by forcing them to work, the orphans, the physically handicapped people, the poor and the destitute, the victims of drug abuse and alcoholism, the jobless and homeless people, the destitute widows etc. all need our help. To help them one must be aware of their difficulties and then decide to do something about it.

It is not enough just to be born and die someday because that is what most people do. They leave no trace so soon people forget about them. When I went to see a great lady one day who was dying of cancer, I said that it is not how long you live that matters but how you have lived. She had done great work during her life time that people will always remember long after she is gone. She closed her eyes and smiled.

I told my Ma how great she was and how much she had sacrificed to raise us and give us all the love she could give as a mother, she shed a tear and said that at least someone recognized the role she played in our lives. We all have a role to play and we all come to this world for a purpose. What that purpose is varies from person to person and depends on his awareness and the ability to act on it so please think about it . That may make you aware and motivate you to do what is right so that you can be useful to others. That is the key word . You must try to be useful to others in whatever way possible so that one day you will be able to say that your life was not in vain.

I have just written a blog called A beautiful child so please read it because it relates to this topic.

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