All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. – Albert Einstein
Why are we here? What is our purpose? This is probably the most important question that human beings have been trying to answer for centuries now.
Do we actually have a purpose or do we create our own purpose in life? The answer largely depends on our current vision of the world and our beliefs.
In this article, I would like to look at 3 distinct worldviews and their implications in term of the meaning they give to life. These worldviews are:
- Modern science (we are biological machines)
- Nondualism (we are pure consciousness)
- Reincarnation (we are souls that incarnate on earth to grow)
You might argue that modern science is not a view of the world but simply the reality and that nondualism and reincarnation is nonsense. After all modern science is strictly based on facts, isn’t it? It’s not exactly true; modern science is also operating under some assumptions and certain scientists are questioning these assumptions.
What Modern Science Tells Us
There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point… The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it. – Richard Dawkins
In modern science, the general assumption is that the universe is made primarily of matter. From that perspective, every object, people and living beings are perceived to be distinct entities. Over time, through an evolutionary process, human beings have separated themselves from other living beings through their ability to think. From that point of view, like any other living beings, we obviously don’t have any purpose at all, apart from our biological need to survive as a species. It is not very surprising then that we kill each other our destroy our environment. There is no purpose in life anyway. If I can just have 2 children to satisfy my ego and give me the illusion of immortality, f*** the rest. After all, it’s the survival of the fittest, isn’t it? Well, within a same species, to survive cooperation is generally a better idea than war!
From the point of view of scientific materialism – our modern science – consciousness is something that exists inside our brain. However, is it really the case? What about all these spiritual teachers that have been telling us for hundreds or thousands of years that everything is consciousness? What about people who have out of body experiences or near-death experiences? Are they all completely deluded? Not necessarily but for mainstream scientists they must be or their model of reality won’t work anymore.
The biologist, Rupert Sheldrake, in his controversial TED talk “The Science Delusion” argues that modern science is based on assumptions and dogmas that are presented as the absolute truth while they are not. Here are the 10 dogmas he identified:
- The universal is mechanical
- Matter is unconscious
- The laws and constants of nature are fixed
- The total amount of matters and energies is always the same
- Nature is purposeless
- Biological heredity is material
- Memories are stored inside your brain
- Your mind is inside your head
- Psychic phenomena like telepathy are impossible
- Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works
Many of these “dogmas” may seem like they are not dogmas but simply facts. But are they?
Sheldrake’s TED talk has been removed from TED official website and Youtube channel because it was considered to be pseudo-science, and is only available on ted’s blog (http://blog.ted.com/the-debate-about-rupert-sheldrakes-talk/). Fortunately, it was reposted on Youtube via other channels. I highly encourage you to watch his TED talk and form your own opinion. Is it pseudo-science?
He also gave a great talk at GoogleTech
Nondualism – What’s That?
The body and the mind are only symptoms of ignorance, of misapprehension. Behave as if you are pure awareness, bodiless and mindless, spaceless and timeless, beyond “where” and “when” and “how”. Dwell on it, think of it, learn to accept its reality. – Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
From a nondualistic perspective, everything is interconnected and there is no real separation. There is no subject or object, only reality. Non-dual teachers include people like Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ramana Maharshi, or more recently Eckhart Tolle. According to them and on behalf of their own experience – you are free to believe them or not, or better, to emulate them – they teach that separation is created by the mind, which falsely identify itself with the body from an early age on. However, what we really are is in fact pure awareness.
While modern scientific materialism is based on the belief that consciousness can only exists in our brain, nondualism sees consciousness as the only reality in which mind and matter manifest themselves. Consciousness was first.
From a nondualistic perspective, the purpose of life is to see through the illusion of the ego and to realize that we are neither our body nor our mind. Once we reach spiritual enlightenment, this question of purpose doesn’t come to mind anymore and simply becomes irrelevant. We know what we are and can enjoy life at least! No more sense of being not good enough or incomplete.
Soul’s Development And Reincarnation
Souls come to Earth to work on their own shortcomings. – Michael Newton
You might have heard of NDE (Near Death Experience), OBE (Out of Body Experience), life between lives hypnosis or past life regression. All these experiences tend to indicate that we are souls with a body and not a body with a soul (or with no soul). If it is true, the question we must ask ourselves is then “why are we incarnate in a body? What for?”
Indeed, the idea of (re)incarnation implies that we must have a purpose! It is generally thought that we are on earth to learn and to grow. It seems like we are doing personal development over multiple lives. (See Do You Believe in Reincarnation?)
If that is the case, what is that growth about?
That growth has nothing to do with our intellect. It seems that we are here to grow our level of consciousness by destroying our fears and becoming love. We don’t become more loving and caring by using our intellect. If it were the case, all smart people would be wise people; and we know that it is absolutely not the case! Love comes from more awareness not from a higher IQ. By going through many lives, we can progressively get rid of our fears and move toward a higher level of consciousness. As a logical conclusion, making money, becoming famous or gaining power is irrelevant unless it is the consequence of us getting rid of our fears and improving the quality of our consciousness.
Let’s assume that reincarnation does exist, how come we don’t remember our past lives then? The best answer I came across is “because it won’t help us grow”. Imagine, if you had to remember all your past lives (there could be hundreds or even thousands of them), how could you make any sense out of that flow of information? Look at how much time we already spend dwelling on the past. Look at how we become more and more dogmatic as we grow older. Many people in their 40s or even younger are already completely stuck with their vision of the world. They refuse to change their beliefs no matter what and stopped growing and learning. From that perspective, you understand now that it won’t be beneficial for us to keep past lives memories with us in our current life. However, obviously, the spiritual growth that we gained in our previous life remains.
As far-fetched as it may seem, reincarnation is not just pure fantasy. It has been the object of serious researches from Ian Stevenson, who was professor of psychiatry at University of Virginia School of Medicine. He studied cases where young children seemed to remember their previous life. In certain cases, children were able to remember details that only reincarnation could explain. Past life regression and life between lives hypnosis also seem to indicate that reincarnation could be real.
What To Conclude
Who are we? What is the meaning of life? Unfortunately we can’t tell for sure. We must find our own truth.
Are OBE and NDE just hallucinations? Are people who talk about their past lives while under hypnosis making things up? Are enlightened being deluded? You can either discard all these phenomena as nonsense while calling yourself a skeptic or you can start digging seriously.
When both supposedly smart people with PhDs firmly believe in totally opposite things, it might be very hard to find which one is telling the truth. And it’s happening all the time. So frustrating!
Eventually, the best way to know whether these things are real is through direct experience. Is OBE real? Practice until you manage to get out of your body and make your own mind. Do it hundred of times until you can prove to yourself whether it is real or not. Then you will know. Let’s assume you find out it is real. Awesome! Now, everybody is going to listen to you and be amazed by your discovery right? Very unlikely. Most people don’t change their beliefs like that.
Is spiritual enlightenment real? Do your meditation and your self-enquiry and find it out. Watch spiritual teachers’ videos online.
Does reincarnation exist? Try life between lives hypnosis and see it for yourself. Read Ian Stevenson or Michael Newton’s books with skepticism and draw your own conclusion.
I hope to experience all these things in the future and then hopefully I will know. It is so much work, why bother you might say? Maybe you’re right. Maybe it is just my ego that wants to know and feel good about it.
What I realized is that, whether we are biological machines, pure consciousness or souls incarnating on Earth, it doesn’t really matter. In the end, it doesn’t change anything; the guideline to follow in my life will still remain the same:
- Live in the present moment (the only thing that truly exist)
- Get rid of fear (get out of my comfort zone and grow)
- Become love (get rid of my ego)
What about you? What is your view of the world? What do you believe is your purpose in life?
Leave me a comment below to let me know 😉
To go further
My Youtube playlist on enlightenment (I recommend you to watch them in order)
Mooji TV (Many videos from Sri Mooji)
Books on enlightenment (I recommend you to read them in this order):
- Awareness, Anthony de Mello
- The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
- A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle
- I Am That, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Life between lives hypnosis
Destiny of Souls: New Case Studies of Life Between Live, Michael Newton
Life Between Lives: Hypnotherapy for Spiritual Regression, Michael Newton (more like a manual for hypnotherapists)
OBE (Out of body experience)
NDE (Near death experience)
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