Question: Should life be purposeless?
Acharya Prashant: It is purposeless. You tell me where purposes come from. It is not as if it should be purposeless. All shoulds are purposes in themselves. So, when you say, “Life should be purposeless, you have already ascribed a purpose to life.”
Life is already purposeless. Even if you give it a purpose, that purpose stands nowhere. A purpose is just like trying to write your name on the surface of the mountain stream.
Listener 1: Like there should be no destinations to decide where we can go?
AP: Again the ‘should’ is there.
L1: The thing that I want to live my life in totality…
AP: It is not dependent on your want.
L1: Exactly, the thing you said, that any inch, any second, whatever I am living, I am living out of totality. I should understand this thing that…
AP: You already understand!
L1: Yeah, so that’s what my point is if I want to go ahead in my life, wherever I want to go…
AP: You don’t need to go ahead, there is no ahead to go to.
L1: Oh, what you think should be the objective of human life…
AP: There is no should and no objective!
L1: Okay, so there shouldn’t be any plan? That’s what my question is…
AP: For whom must the plan be there?
L1: This is I…I….I… really…
AP: This I, I, I, is all coming from? This, That There…
L1: No. I mean…How can I live aimless? That is my question…
AP: How are you living right now?
L1: I am living, Yes, thinking that I have some purpose to achieve…
AP: Were you thinking of any of those purposes for the past one and half hours?
AP: Were you dead then? In just listening is there any purpose? All purposes are in the mind. When you were just listening, was there any purposes in the mind? Was the mind containing anything?
L1: It was not containing anything, but…
AP: So, then full stop! Just as you can listen without purpose, you can live without purpose. Just as over the last one and a half hour you could listen without purpose, with a clean mind, similarly,
You can live without purpose with a clean mind, it is possible.
It is not only possible, it is the only possibility if you do not want to die insane.
Life knows, in which direction to take you. The pulsations in the heart of the ocean decide the rise and fall of waves, waves have no business setting their personal agenda. The ocean is there, it very well knows when the wave will be born, how far it would rise, whether it would merge with another wave, how it would fall, how it will dissolve and then how will it reappear.
The ocean knows of all these, what business does the wave have troubling itself over questions about future security, move, ent and life, action and purpose.
L1: Then I would assume that they do not have mind, and I had the…
AP: You do not need to do anything, even assumption is a doing. Why do you need to do anything? Why do you have to assume? What is the compulsion, the inner compulsion to think, do, assume, be embroiled in something?
L1: As you said the nature of the waves is nothing, it’s complete…
AP: So, the wave doesn’t need to decide anything!
L1: So, that is what I am saying is, if I should be getting inspired from the ocean waves…
AP: You don’t need to get inspired from the ocean, the wave doesn’t need any inspiration from the ocean, the wave is the ocean in movement. The ocean knows everything, the wave can just relax.
That troubles, right? Because it leaves you jobless, ” Now, what do I do?”
Do you see how restless do we feel without doing?
Do you see how that tells of our internal fears?
You know what a fear is? “If I do not do anything, I will be no more”. You have associated your being with doing. You feel that without doing there will be no being.
L2: I find myself isolated in things the way you were asking…
AP: You find yourself isolated, you find yourself this, you find yourself that, but you do not stop finding, because you have hyphenated your existence with finding this or that. Your finding is not realization, your finding is just desperate attempt at remaining alive, at doing something.
Why can’t you just stay still?
What is this compulsive obligation to achieve, move, do, conclude, know?
What is this?
You are alive, you are still alive, it’s possible, hence it’s possible!
See, the sky has not fallen on the roof, not doing anything you are still alright. Yes? And when the moment of doing comes then the doing happens. Doing is already happening even without your confirmation, support, validation, or participation, it is happening.
Stillness is not threatening.
Stillness is not terrible.
Stillness is not your enemy.
Feel secure and relax.
One can live even without feeling afraid. It is possible.
L3: What is the difference between pleasure and joy?
AP: Classically it has been put like this – To have an itch, and scratch it, is?
AP: And to not to have an itch at all is?
AP: I think it was Nagarjuna who put it this way. But I love the way he put it.
L: So, that means we should not have any purpose in our lives?
There is no purpose. It is not a question of you having the authority have or have not have a purpose. We don’t even have the authority to have a purpose. We are not even qualified, authorized to have a purpose.
L: But, what could the life be without a purpose?
AP: Wonderful! And you know that right?
Listener: Our every action is driven by purpose…
AP: And that is why all our actions are just breeding grounds for suffering.
L: But, suffering has to come. The suffering has to come, as the pleasure is coming, then the suffering has to come?
AP: And do you like that?
L: Nobody likes pain.
AP: Do you like that?
Listener: I am taking the life as it comes if I don’t have to be a…
AP: I am again asking, do you like that?
AP: If you don’t like suffering, surely you know that it is possible to not to suffer. Had suffering been your nature, would you have disliked it. Does anybody dislike his nature? But suffering by definition is something which you dislike, which means that all these actions, all these doer-ship that leads to the sufferings has to be artificial, unnecessary.
Life without purpose does not mean that you are left stranded in a strange jungle, with no compass, no sense of direction. That is the scary feeling you get when somebody say that life cannot have a purpose. You feel you have been left unattended, helpless, directionless in the middle of a thick and terrible jungle.
Now, you need to have a purpose, the purpose is to get out. Right? And you feel what kind of man is this? He is saying, “You need not have a purpose.” Then I’ll keep roaming, and be circulating, and stranded, and lost in this jungle forever.
First of all, you are not in a jungle.
Secondly, it is not a terrible place where you are.
Thirdly, even if you do not have a purpose of your own, your entire system, your intelligence knows how, and where to go.
Movement is possible even without having a prior purpose. It is possible to reach without planning, it is possible to understand without a motive. In fact, you cannot understand with a motive. Do you understand what I say?
Did you have the motive to understand?
Don’t you see that you are reaching only when you are not moving?
Don’t you see that you are understanding only when you are not thinking?
Don’t you see that the more you move the more you remain deprived of the real motion?
Even as I speak to you, if your mind remains in movement, could there be any understanding?
Don’t you see the real action is happening when you are not intending to act?
I am again asking, “Is there really an intention to understand, right now?” An intention also is a movement.Even if there is an intention to understand, it is the same as an intention to not to understand.
Look at those who are learning to drive a vehicle. Sometimes I am beside someone who is learning to drive a vehicle. Now, there are two things that go wrong – One, carelessness, second, carefulness. Both are enemies of driving, both lead to accidents. Because in both, there is an intention.
When you are careless then your intention is pivoted on something else. You are careless about driving because you are thinking about the mobile phone. When you are careful about driving, then you are thinking about how much pressure you should put on the pedals. In both the cases, the driving gets rough. Driving is the smoothest when you are not even knowing that you are driving.
If some of you are drivers then you know what I am saying. When you are really driving the smoothest, then you don’t even know that you are driving. Beginners mess up because they are careful about driving, they have an intention to drive. When you have an intention to drive, all you drive is accidents.
An intention to understand would restrict your understanding, an intention to not to understand too would inhibit your understanding. ‘Intention’ in any form would be the enemy of the real thing. And, intention is purpose.
You know what I am saying.
You decide that you do not want to listen to me. Obviously, you would not listen. But if you come here and decide that today I will listen with the greatest concentration, again you will miss me. Those who are able to get me are the ones who are just here. No purpose, no meaning, they are just here, simply relaxing and sitting. They’ll get everything, everything without effort.
You decide that you have to remain stuck in the jungle, you will obviously not be able to get out. You decide that you must quickly get out of the jungle, you will again find that you are getting deeper into the jungle. You are not being pulled out of it. The more you try to escalate yourself, the more you put yourself deeper in it.
Listener: Not having a purpose, does this holds good in day to day life also?
AP: Yes, of course.
L: If I am not having a purpose, probably I won’t go to the office tomorrow.
AP: See, it cannot become a purpose to deny the simple happenings when they approach you. We think in terms of duality. When I say, “Do not have a purpose.” That itself becomes a purpose. So, you see the first thought that comes to you is – if I do not have a purpose then I must not go the office tomorrow. Why?
When the time for the action has arrived, go there, purposelessly. Act, purposelessly. And if you find that purposelessness is unsuitable to that place, then you and the place would anyway get separated. Good for you, good for that place.
Why must you be in a place that doesn’t love you enough to bear your purposelessness.?
Why must you be with a person only with a purpose?
Why must you be working only for a purpose?
Remember that working can never be a purpose. When you say that you go to a workplace for a purpose, the purpose is never the work. Is it?
When you say that you go your workplace for a purpose, is the purpose ever the work? What is the purpose? The purpose is the salary check. You don’t go to work for a purpose. In fact, if work could be bypassed and you could straight away reach the salary check, who would want to work? Is work the purpose, really? No, it is not.
Now, why work in such a place then why subject to month-long torture so you get a check, in the month end. When you work purposelessly, then you really work. Now you are going to work, you are not going to get the salary check.
Now, the purpose is the doing itself, otherwise, the purposes are outside of the doing. The purposes are always in the future, somewhere ahead. It is the 5th of the month, and the purpose lies on the 30th of the month. When you don’t have the purpose you can really work on the 5th. Otherwise, even on the 5th, the mind is hovering around the 30th. Today is the 5th, but the mind is saying when the 30th would arrive.
Working without purpose means really working, “Now, I am not bothered about what would happen tomorrow, today I am really working. No purpose.”
Have you ever played with a kid? What is the purpose of playing? Pleasure, that is not dependent upon the result of the action is called joy. When you play with a kid, do you play with the intention that the kid will pay you back one day? Do you record it, so that later on you may show it to the kid and prove that you have invested on him?
So, the working, the doing, the playing itself is the purpose, there is no purpose beyond the playing, beyond the working, beyond the doing. Nothing outside of the action is now determining the action. The action is its own purpose and that is called purposelessness.
Work itself is so beautiful and meaningful that I don’t have to look forward to the 30th. Now, nobody can threaten you. They may say we will not pay you, you say, “Do I receive a salary? Oh, I forgot that. I thought working was sufficient.” Those who work for salaries can be arm-twisted even manhandled. You tell them, “You won’t be paid,” and they won’t even want to work. “What we are working for, then? Life must have a purpose, work must have a purpose, and purpose of work is salary. If someone is blocking my salary, I have nothing left to work for.”
Go to work as you play with your kid, just for the sake of it. Just for the inherent joy, not for anything outside of the playing.
L: Then it comes as a by-product…
AP: Of course, it may or may not come. You see by-products aren’t so important that we talk of them right? One is never assured of by-products. Salary might be a by-product, or it is possible that on 30th somebody may demand that you pay for being allowed to work. “You see, I saw you deriving a lot of joy in this work, don’t you think it is proper for you to pay me to let you work?”
For, an hour of company with the beloved would it be too much to pay for the dinner? I am prepared to pay, I am prepared to pay for this work. I am prepared to pay, I am paying. The dinner is on me. I am paying because since the company is so beautiful, I am prepared to pay.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: What would life be without a purpose?
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