The Purpose of Life, Part 3

The Purpose of Life, Part 3

Inquiry 3:  For What Purpose Would the Self Want to Play?

Question:  How can we believe in lila? What could be its purpose? There is no convincing answer – I am sure you will concur.

Our initial inquiry concerning the purpose of life is, of course, valid only from the perspective of the apparent individual entity questioning life’s purpose and making inquiry into the nature of reality.

But what about the self?

What possible reason could the self have for assuming the appearance of the universe and seemingly enacting its continuous and seemingly interminable cycle of pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, success and failure, triumph and tragedy, birth and death?

From the self’s point of view, there is no purpose.

In Vedanta, much time is spent on analyzing the precise meaning of Sanskrit words in order to most accurately and appropriately derive their implied meanings.  In this case, it behooves us to examine the English word “purpose” and consider what light its etymology might shed on the matter at hand.

The word “purpose” consists of a prefix pur and root pose.   It derives from the Anglo-Norman word porposer.  The prefix pur originates from the Latin word pro, which became por in Old French, and means “forth.”  The root pose derives from the Old French word poser and means “to put.”  Thus, “purpose” means “to put forth.”

Due to both its all-pervasiveness and, therefore, inherent actionlessness/non-doership, the self neither “puts” (i.e. projects or creates) anything nor has it any location other than itself where it could “put forth” or to which it could move anything.

Furthermore, the self is pure awareness and, thus, impersonal.  It has no will or volition.

And further furthermore, the self is whole and complete, full and perfect.  It, therefore, has no desire.

Despite the romantic lila theory to which many seekers ascribe, it is rather silly to suppose that impersonal consciousness projected the universe because it was bored and wanted to play.

Neither does consciousness, as some speculate, need objects in order to know itself.  A consideration of the three states of consciousness – waking, dream, and deep sleep – reveals that whether objects arise or do not arise, I always am.  Though I experience no objects in dreamless sleep, I know upon awakening that I slept soundly.  Such could only be the case if I were present to know that I was experiencing the absence of objects.

The self is eternally existent – self-luminous, self-aware, and self-dependent.  It is “beyond,” “untouched by,” and eternally free of objects.  It needs nothing in order to complete itself.  The self is not trying to gain anything.  Pure awareness is not trying to improve, heal, evolve, or experience oneness.  It is whole and the whole.

Due to power of ignorance (i.e. maya), the self, pure awareness, appears as the vast field of the apparent reality and the innumerable objects within it.  Unlike the way milk becomes cheese and thereafter cannot regain its liquidity, however, the self does not lose its essential nature as pure awareness when it appears as the universe.  Thus, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, the nature of reality is actionless, non-dual awareness.

From the self’s point of view, therefore, nothing is happening nor has anything actually ever happened – much less had a purpose.



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About Ted Schmidt

I was initiated into the yogic path when I received shaktipat from Gurumayi Chidvilasananda in 1989. For the next twenty years, Siddha Yoga served as my fundamental spiritual practice. During this time I avidly studied the non-dual teachings of both Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism as unfolded by the teachers in that tradition. Having grown up in a Christian culture and yet having felt little nourishment from its brand of spiritual belief and practice, I was also curious about what the true teachings underlying that tradition might be. After some investigation, I ran across Kabbalah (i.e. Jewish mysticism) and discovered that its teachings paralleled the non-dual teachings of the Eastern spiritual traditions. I also dabbled in Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, and the spiritual tradition of a West African tribe called the Dagara. During that time, I became a certified as both a yoga teacher and a QiGong instructor/healer and after a two-year study of Dagara shamanism was initiated as an Elder in that tradition. Though each of these paths offered valuable insights into the nature of reality, I was repeatedly drawn back to my practice of Siddha Yoga. The bottom line after all this searching and seeking and kundalini tweaking, however, was that none of it did the trick. It wasn’t until I met my teacher, James Swartz, and heard the teachings of traditional Vedanta that I finally understood who I am. Vedanta is the only tradition that I have encountered that offers the complete understanding that constitutes self-knowledge (i.e. Brahma satyam jagan-mithya jivo brahmaiva na’parah explained in all its aspects and ramifications). No other tradition that I have encountered offers prakriyas and practices that so effectively remove ignorance and so clearly reveal self-knowledge.