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Purposeful Living – Part 3: The Religious Viewpoint

purpose and religion

Image Credits: Alternate.org

My work over the last 20 years around the notion of purpose has informed me of diverse viewpoints about purpose. These viewpoints are defined by the values and beliefs of different persons I was fortunate enough to interact with. Attempting to articulate at least a glimpse of one’s purpose may require an appreciation of such values and beliefs, so that such a purpose does not conflict with who the person is and his/her viewpoint of the nature of the world. Therefore, I would like to dedicate this blog post to various religious viewpoints regarding purpose of life. The next blog post will be dedicated to the scientific viewpoints regarding purpose of life.

The position I take, based on my years of experience of doing this work is, that those who live purposefully are more successful and happier than those who do not. Interviews I have conducted with people with various religious beliefs shows that Christians and Muslims with strong religious beliefs feel that success and happiness is to live a life that will qualify them to go to heaven. For the Buddhists, it was about living in a manner that accumulates karma (merits) to be re-born under better conditions. For the Atheist, purpose is living a good life during their one stay on earth, as there is no second chance.  I also learn that people without a clear purpose could also be successful and happy, so purpose alone may not be the answer for success and happiness, but it could have a positive impact. Notions such as success, happiness, better conditions, good life’ etc. as well as the notion of purpose and assumptions about purpose can differ from person to person even if they are from similar cultural backgrounds. Lets look at purpose from the view point of Abrahamic religions and Eastern philosophies.

Abrahamic Religions

Let us now examine purpose from Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity.  According to the divine wisdom of the Torah, the ultimate purpose is mitzvah performance, fulfilling the purpose of creation, the making of an abode for the Divine in this world. This is interpreted as reconstruction of the world to the perfect state of awe and the full presence of God, which was found in the Garden of Eden. The words of advice from King Solomon, “ultimately, all is known; fear God, and observe His commandments; for this is the whole purpose of man” (Ecc 12:13 English Translation of the Tanakh) also confirms this notion[1].  Islamic divine words; “did you then think that we created you in vain, and that you would not be returned to us?” (The Holy Quran 23:115) indicates that we will return to the creator, and the words, “and I created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship me (alone)” (The Holy Quran 51:56) indicates that our purpose is to worship Allah. According to the Bible verse; “in Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:11 English Standard Version), our purpose, the reason we are here, is for God’s glory. All three religions suggest that our purpose is to work for the glory of God, but what specific action to be taken to live purposefully by each person is not explicitly mentioned and perhaps it is left for each individual to figure out.

Eastern Philosophies

 

In this section let us examine purpose from eastern philosophies: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Zen. In Hinduism, the purpose of self is to become a Brahman, a state where all illusions of individual identity are obliterated; the ultimate goal of deliverance is reached (Ho, 1995, p.131). Buddhist philosophy suggests that purpose of life is to attain Nirvana, a higher state of being, a reality beyond all suffering and change, as unfading, still, un-decaying, taintless, as peace and blissful (Murti, 2013, p.271-275). Although the ultimate purpose of life in Confucianism is self-realisation (Tu, 1985, chap. 7, as quoted by Ho, 1995, p.117), the centrality of the family and ethics governing relationships in self-realisation is in the centre of ‘purpose’ as self-cultivation is regarded as a necessary condition for family relationships (Ho, 1995, p.117). In Taoism, a good life is a simple life and therefore from a Taoism paradigm; simple life could be a basis for purpose. The Zen philosophy of union through the dissolution of the ego (Suzuki, 1956 as cited by Battista, Almond, 1973, p.414-5) appears to be a contradictory purpose to the existentialist’s belief in mans need to develop his own unique ego and act in terms of it (Nietzsche, 1885 as cited by Battista, Almond, 1973, p.414-5) regardless, of the level of analysis.

We see above a variety of viewpoints of purpose from various religious beliefs.   Individuals coming from a particular religious belief may be predominantly guided by that religious belief and could be also influenced by other beliefs. For example, being a Roman Catholic, I am influenced by the Abrahamic beliefs, while I also see a lot of relevance in Eastern philosophies, particularly Buddhist philosophy as well as the scientific paradigm. I will explore scientific paradigms in the next blog post. Meanwhile I invite you to reflect on your beliefs and the other beliefs in this post and see if it helps you make sense of the purpose of your life.

 

References

Battista, J., & Almond, R. (1973). The Development of Meaning in Life. Psychiatry, 36(4), 409-427.

Ho, D. Y. (1995). Selfhood and Identity in Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism: Contrasts with the West. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 25(2), 115-139.

Murti, T. R. V. (2013). The Central Philosophy of Buddhism: A Study of the Madhyamika System. Routledge, 271-5.

 

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Universal Energy Sync – For Success and Happiness

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Image captured by me at the Ashridge Business School in January 2017

This image is the sunrise at the ‘Ashridge Business School’ captured earlier this month during my quarterly stay there. I consider this my spiritual home that nourishes my soul as I pursue my doctoral studies. This is a place that helps me grow towards my fullest potential, giving me real inner happiness during the process.

 Perhaps you are one of those people who is always tasting success and living happily. Perhaps you are one who observes others in this way of living. Perhaps you are one who is searching for the ‘how’ to achieve such a state of life. This blog is designed to discuss how such a state of life can be achieved.

While there could be millions of ways of making sense of success and happiness, my personal belief is that success comes from improving in areas that are purposeful to me. I am refereeing to action that is driven by a higher purpose as I keep on my quest to make sense of what that higher purpose is. Happiness is what I experience when I am in the process of improving in areas important to me.

What is important to me is my purpose that helps me to be of service to the world and thereby helping me to provide a comfortable and purposeful life for my family and me. This requires me to improve my spirituality that gives me peace of mind, and improves my brain, which helps me learn and teach, improve my body, which helps me act effectively and efficiently, improve my relationships, which provides the love to live purposefully, improve my emotions to be in joy, improve my finances to help fund my purpose and improve the use of my time choosing to do purposeful work.
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We can Achieve Peace through an Inter-Faith Approach!

Buddhist and Hindu Religious Leaders with Pope Francis at the inter-faith conference in Colombo Sri Lanka.

Pope Francis with the Sri Lankan muslims

Leader of Sri Lankan Hindu’s honoring Pope Francis at the inter-faith conference at Colombo Sri Lanka.

Religious leaders of various faiths at the inter-faith conference in Colombo Sri Lanka.

Pope Francis with Buddhist Monks at the inter-faith conference in Sri Lanka

Indian Prime Minister greeting the Pakistani Prime Minister at his inauguration citizen of a Buddhist country. The Mass by the pope was not only attended by the Buddhist but by members of other religions and many of them had mentioned to the media that this is one of the most significant days of their life. All this augurs well for inter-faith corporation and understanding that cam lead to peace, unity and reconciliation. The world has seen many efforts of unity by world leaders. citizen of a Buddhist country. The Mass by the pope was not only attended by the Buddhist but by members of other religions and many of them had mentioned to the media that this is one of the most significant days of their life. All this augurs well for inter-faith corporation and understanding that cam lead to peace, unity and reconciliation. The world has seen many efforts of unity by world leaders.

It was really heart warming to see the visions and hear the sound bites of the Inter-faith conference held in Colombo Sri Lanka as a part of the visit by His Holiness Pope Francis on the 1st day of his 3 day visit to Sri Lanka. The conference was led by some of the most senior leaders of Buddhism [followed by the majority of Sri Lankans], Hinduism, Islam and other Christian religions. It was attended by over 1000 members of the clergy of each of the religions. The ceremony included a welcome from a Catholic Bishop, a chant from a Buddhist Monk, blessings from Hindu and Muslim leaders, and an ecumenical Christian prayer led by the head of Sri Lanka’s Anglican church. Each speaker had a message that had peace, unity, reconciliation and respect for each other. Pope Francis said inter-faith work should not blur the lines between different religious convictions and he sought to reaffirm respect for each religion’s beliefs but to ground such respect in a full and forthright presentation of our respective convictions and that religion cannot be used for violent purposes. The Sri Lankan Muslim leader Ash-Sheikh M.F.M. Fazil said, “I will fail in my duties if I do not mention the attack, the killings, that took place in France, in Pakistan,” Fazil said; “Children were massacred and killed in the name of Islam. As we know very well, Islam has no relationship with regard to such practices and evil conduct and deeds,” he continued. “Islam promoted peace, love, and harmony.One of Sri Lanka’s senior Buddhist leaders Niyangoda Vijithasiri Thero who delivered a sermon mentioned all religions are important and used the metaphor of different treatment methods to cure the same disease.

Sri Lanka’s newly elected president, Maithripala Sirisena, was at the airport to welcome the pontiff and in his welcome speech mentioned that he is blessed to have the Holy father visit soon after his elections and requested for his prayers. This is significant coming from a Buddhist, the 1st citizen of a Buddhist country.

The Mass by the pope was not only attended by the Buddhist but by members of other religions and many of them had mentioned to the media that this is one of the most significant days of their life. All this augurs well for inter-faith corporation and understanding that can lead to peace, unity and reconciliation. The world has seen many efforts of unity by world leaders.

His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians worldwide, with his brother Pope Francis together with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

In December 2014 President Barack Obama went in to a peace deal with Cuba with a symbolic prisoner exchange and anticipated reforms by Cuba and lifting of embargos by the USA. In January 2015 all political parties in Sri Lanka united to appoint a President known for his virtues and to form a government that will reform the political culture in Sri Lanka. A few days ago most world leaders gathered in Paris to show solidarity after the attacks in Paris. It was significant that both the leaders of Israel and Palestine were a part of the world leaders who had locked hands together in solidarity. In the backdrop of the various conflicts, terrorism and armed conflicts going on around the world, these are efforts to find love, peace, truth, justice, reconciliation, unity, progress and happiness to make our  efforts to finding love, peace, truth, justice, reconciliation, unity, progress and happiness to make our world a better place.

saarc leaders at modi's inaugaration

Leaders of the SAARC countries at the inauguration of the Indian Prime Minister.

US and Cuban Presidents – Historic Hand Shake.

Pope Francis with leaders of various faiths.

Leaders of Sri Lanka’s political parties that has joint together to create a positive political culture and successful nation.


The Art of Well-being

In my ‘Self Mastery’ trainings I teach the importance of a balanced life for success of happiness. It is important to have a balance in caring for our being, body, brain, people, time and money and growing all these areas simultaneously. While I was sharing this good advice at my trainings and practicing them to a great extent, I always felt there was more room for improvement.

I always believe we get the required knowledge and inspiration when we are open to it. I was fortunate to meet up with a friend of mine Nalaka Hewamadduma who had migrated to Canada, when he made a visit to Sri Lanka many months ago. He gifted me a copy of his new book ‘Art of Well-being’ when we met.

Nalaka and I had many things in common and we were both interested in enhancing human performance. While Nalaka helped people to become successful using eastern philosophies such as yoga and other wellness methods, I used more western leadership and self-mastery philosophies, Neuro Linguistic programming and Transformational learning.

Nalaka’s book is well written. It is easy to read due to his story approach and the descriptions are practical and inspiring. While I was following exercise, rest and nutritional habits, the big take away for me was how to adjust our lives to be in sync with the universal energy system. This was not a new concept to me but Nalaka’s book helped me discover a simple method of putting it in to practice and reminded me of the importance of it.

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Living Purposefully – path to success and happiness

An interesting question that keeps getting asked by my followers and students is; why do we live? Some gone on to ask; how can we make our lives more successful and happy.

The answer lies in the ability of discovering as life changing gift we are all capable of. This blog will helps you to dive into the amazing arena and to come up with the life changing gift we all look for.

 The following story will help us unearthing this life changing gift;

 Martin and Sam lived in a tiny village at a foot of a mountain. Martin was ambitious and he had some mountain climbing skills. His level of health and fitness was above the level of an average person. Sam on the other hand was less ambitious and had not even learnt basic survival skills such as mountain climbing. They always wanted to know what was on the top of the mountain, but they rarely found the time or motivation to go up the mountain as they were so engrossed in their day to day work.

  One day they received a message from an angel that there was a million dollars on top of the mountain with each of their names on it. They had to climb the Assume Mountain within 24 hours [mid night to mid night] on a selected day within one year. They were told that in order to climb the mountain during the given time, they would have to have an above average level of health and they would need to have basic mountain climbing skills. 

Both Martin and Sam considered the million dollars an important thing to have so that they could start a business or an industry and start making a comfortable life for them selves and their families. Martin the more ambitious, skilful in mountain climbing and who was above average in health and fitness, decided to start the journey the very next ay, starting at midnight. 

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