Purpose of life

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According to the Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhi, the purpose of life or the goal of this human life is to become an "enlightened being" and to "enlighten others". In the beginning of Japji, Guru Nanak refers to God as "sach" meaning "True" - True at the beginning of time, ....:

ਆਦਿ ਸਚ੝ ਜ੝ਗਾਦਿ ਸਚ੝ ॥ ਹੈ ਭੀ ਸਚ੝ ਨਾਨਕ ਹੋਸੀ ਭੀ ਸਚ੝ ॥੧॥
Āḝ sacẖ jugĝḝ sacẖ. Hai bẖī sacẖ Nĝnak hosī bẖī sacẖ. ((1))
True In The Primal Beginning. True Throughout The Ages.

True Here And Now. O Nanak, Forever And Ever True. ((1))

Then in the first stanza of Japji the Guru talks about the purpose of human life in question and answer format:

ਕਿਵ ਸਚਿਆਰਾ ਹੋਈਝ ਕਿਵ ਕੂੜੈ ਤ੝ਟੈ ਪਾਲਿ ॥
Kiv sacẖi▫ĝrĝ ho▫ī▫ai kiv kūrhai ṯutai pĝl.
“How can one become a sachiara - Godlike (gurmukh) and how does one get rid of the falsehood?”

ਹ੝ਕਮਿ ਰਜਾਈ ਚਲਣਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੧॥
Hukam rajĝ▫ī cẖalṇĝ Nĝnak likẖi▫ĝ nĝl. ((1))
“By living in harmony with the Hukam or Cosmic Law,” says Nanak. ((1))

Harmony with Hukam means concern for the ecosystem; treating all beings with kindness and respect for the environment. It is knowledge of Truth that destroys ignorance, falsehood, superstition and doubt. When the yogis asked Guru Nanak:

ਤੇਰਾ ਕਵਣ੝ ਗ੝ਰੂ ਜਿਸ ਕਾ ਤੂ ਚੇਲਾ॥ …
ਸਬਦ੝ ਗ੝ਰੂ ਸ੝ਰਤਿ ਧ੝ਨਿ ਚੇਲਾ ॥
“Who is your Guru or whose disciple are you?” “Shabad is the Guru and my mind, which is focused on the Shabad and comprehends it, is the disciple,” replied Guru Nanak. AGGS, M 1, pp. 942-943.

Shabad in the Guru Granth Sahib means God's Bani or teachings and Knowledge. So it is the understanding of God or knowledge of Truth that is needed for the understanding of Hukam (Cosmic Law). The one, who understands the Hukam and conducts himself/herself, accordingly, is a sachiara (gurmukh, sadh, sadhu, sant, bhagat, and braham gyani). All these words are used interchangeably in the holy Granth.

According to Guru Nanak there are two types of people, Gurmukhs (God-centred beings) and Manmukhs (self-centred beings). A Gurmukh dwells on God's attributes constantly and does every thing according to Hukam whereas a Manmukh is a degenerate person who does every thing according to his/her own will. A Gurmukh sees God everywhere and in each living being whereas a Manmukh is blind to God. Gurmukh follows Hukam whereas Manmukh follows the dictates of Haumai.

The Guru Granth Sahib asserts again and again that one should not become slave to Haumai and the five passions/drives - lust, anger, greed, attachment and egotistical pride; rather one should subdue Haumai and make the five passions subservient by exercising restraint, so that one's energy and talent are directed to positive thinking and creative activities. One who achieves this objective conquers the corrupting influence of Maya (worldly temptations).

Haumai is a deep malady but hope is not lost for a Manmukh since God is gracious, loving and forgiving. The door to Truth is always open. Naam Simrana/Naam Japna (constant focus on God's excellences) inculcates humility, love and compassion that lead to truthful living. This process gives one the inner strength to control one’s passions and Haumai. Slowly and steadily one makes progress to subdue/restrain Haumai and the five passions, thus becoming a Gurmukh:

ਗ੝ਰਮ੝ਖਿ ਵੈਰ ਵਿਰੋਧ ਗਵਾਵੈ ॥
ਗ੝ਰਮ੝ਖਿ ਸਗਲੀ ਗਣਤ ਮਿਟਾਵੈ ॥
Gurmukh is free from enmity and hostility. Gurmukh
gets rid of ill will completely. (SGGS, M 1, p. 942.)

More quotes from Gurbani

ਗ੝ਰਮ੝ਖਿ ਨਾਮ੝ ਦਾਨ੝ ਇਸਨਾਨ੝ ॥
ਗ੝ਰਮ੝ਖਿ ਲਾਗੈ ਸਹਿਜ ਧਿਆਨ੝ ॥
ਗ੝ਰਮ੝ਖਿ ਪਾਵੈ ਦਰਗਹ ਮਾਨ੝ ॥
ਗ੝ਰਮ੝ਖਿ ਭਉ ਭੰਜਨ੝ ਪਰਧਾਨ੝ ॥
ਗ੝ਰਮ੝ਖਿ ਕਰਣੀ ਕਾਰ ਕਰਾਝ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਗ੝ਰਮ੝ਖਿ ਮੇਲਿ ਮਿਲਾਝ ॥
Gurmukh reflects on God’s attributes, practices charity and keeps clean physically and mentally. Gurmukh’s mind is focused on God/Truth constantly.

Gurmukh is honored in the realm of Truth. Gurmukh is exalted and fearless. Gurmukh does good deeds and inspires others to do so. Gurmukh units others with God, says Nanak. (SGGS, M 1, p. 942.)

ਸਾਚ ਵਖਰ ਕੇ ਹਮ ਵਣਜਾਰੇ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਗ੝ਰਮ੝ਖਿ ਉਤਰਸਿ ਪਾਰੇ ॥
We the Gurmukhs (God-centered beings, moral enlightened-beings) are the merchants of Truth.
O Nanak, this way the Gurmukh crosses the ocean of corrupting influences of worldly temptations. (SGGS, M 1, p. 939.)

ਮਨਮ੝ਖਿ ਭੂਲੈ ਜਮ ਕੀ ਕਾਣਿ ॥
ਪਰ ਘਰ੝ ਜੋਹੈ ਹਾਣੇ ਹਾਣ੝ ॥
ਮਨਮ੝ਖਿ ਭਰਮਿ ਭਵੈ ਬੇਬਾਣਿ ॥
ਵੇਮਾਰਗਿ ਮੂਸੈ ਮੰਤ੝ਰਿ ਮਸਾਣਿ ॥
ਸਬਦ੝ ਨ ਚੀਨੈ ਲਵੈ ਕ੝ਬਾਣਿ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਸਾਚਿ ਰਤੇ ਸ੝ਖ੝ ਜਾਣਿ ॥
Manmukh (self-centered being) is deluded under the corrupting influence of worldly temptations. He/she peeps into other’s home with a covetous eye and degrades himself/herself more and more. Manmukh is lost in the jungle of doubts/superstitions. The wrong path deceives him/her as he chants the mantras of spiritual death. Instead of reflecting on the Sabad/Truth, he/she shouts obscenities. O Nanak, it is the love of God/Truth that brings peace and happiness. (SGGS, M 1, p. 941.)

ਮਮਮ੝ਖ੝ ਅੰਧਾ ਅੰਧ੝ ਕਮਾਝ॥
ਬਹ੝ ਸੰਕਟ ਜੋਨੀ ਭਰਮਾਝ ॥
ਜਮ ਕਾ ਜੇਵੜਾ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਕਾਟੈ ਅੰਤੇ ਬਹ੝ ਦ੝ਖ੝ ਪਾਇਆ ॥
The Manmukh blinded by Haumai commits evil deeds and suffers moral death wandering in delusion. Manmukh is wasted away in the end because it cannot liberate itself from delusion/ignorance and falsehood. (SGGS, M 3, p. 1068.)

ਪੰਚ ਦੂਤ ਮ੝ਹਹਿ ਸੰਸਾਰਾ॥
ਮਨਮ੝ਖ ਅੰਧੇ ਸ੝ਧਿ ਨ ਸਾਰਾ ॥
The whole world is deceived/swindled by the “five drives/passions -- Kaam (lust, sexual drive), Kroadh (anger), Loabh (covetousness, economic drive), Moh (attachment) and Ahankar (egotistical pride),” but the ignorant self-centered person [Manmukh] does not understand this fact. (SGGS, M 3, p. 113.)

ਕਾਮ੝ ਕ੝ਰੋਧ੝ ਦ੝ਇ ਕਰਹ੝ ਬਸੋਲੇ ਗੋਡਹ੝ ਧਰਤੀ ਭਾਈ॥
ਜਿਉ ਗੋਡਹ੝ ਤਿਉ ਤ੝ਮ੝ ਸ੝ਖ ਪਾਵਹ੝ ਕਿਰਤ੝ ਨ ਮੇਟਿਆ ਜਾਈ॥
O brother restrain your sexual drive and anger and use them as creative instruments like a farmer uses a hoe to remove the weeds from the field. You would be happy by following this course otherwise you would suffer the consequences of your bad actions. (SGGS, M 1, p. 1171.)

ਆਈ ਪੰਥੀ ਸਗਲ ਜਮਾਤੀ ਮਨਿ ਜੀਤੈ ਜਗ੝ ਜੀਤ੝॥
O yogi! Make universal brotherhood your Aee Panth (highest order of yogis) and subdue your mind (Haumai) to conquer the worldly temptations. (SGGS, Jap, p. 6.)

ਪੰਚ ਚੋਰ ਆਗੈ ਭਗੇ ਜਬ ਸਾਧ ਸੰਗੇਤ॥
The five thieves: Kaam (lust, sexual drive), Kroadh (anger), Loabh (covetousness, economic drive), Moh (attachment) and Ahankar (egotistical pride) are subdued in the company of saints (moral enlightened beings). (SGGS, M 5, p. 810.)

ਨਾਨਕ ਹ੝ਕਮੈ ਜੇ ਬ੝ਝੈ ਤ ਹਉਮੈ ਕਹੈ ਨ ਕੋਇ॥
O Nanak, if one comprehends the Hukam then one does not speak with egotistical pride (does not act under the influence of Haumai (self-centeredness). (SGGS, Jap 1, p. 1.)

Finally, “physical death” is the fate of all living beings as it is subject to Hukam (Cosmic Law) whereas “moral death” (moral degaradtion) is avoidable and that is the point that is emphasized in the AGGS again and again. Gurmukh remains unaffected by moral death whereas a Manmukh experiences it all his/her life. We should be afraid of moral death and not of physical death, and we must strive to overcome moral death.

ਜੰਮਣ੝ ਮਰਣਾ ਹ੝ਕਮ੝ ਹੈ ਭਾਣੈ ਆਵੈ ਜਾਇ ॥
Hukam causes birth and death (creation and destruction) or birth and death occur according to Hukam. (SGGS, M 1, p. 472.)

ਚਿੰਤਾ ਤਾ ਕੀ ਕੀਜੀਝ ਜੋ ਅਨਹੋਨੀ ਹੋਇ ॥
ਇਹ੝ ਮਾਰਗ੝ ਸੰਸਾਰ ਕੋ ਨਾਨਕ ਥਿਰ੝ ਨਹੀ ਕੋਇ ॥
ਜੋ ਉਪਜਿਓ ਸੋ ਬਿਨਸਿ ਹੈ ਪਰੋ ਆਜ੝ ਕੈ ਕਾਲਿ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਹਰਿ ਗ੝ਨ ਗਾਇ ਲੇ ਛਾਡਿ ਸਗਲ ਜੰਜਾਲ ॥
Worry about something that is unnatural. O Nanak this is the rule in the world that nothing is everlasting. Whatever takes birth dies today or tomorrow? O Nanak, shun all worldly temptations with corrupting influences and contemplate on God. (SGGS, M 9, p. 1429.)

Thus the purpose of life is to become a gurmukh (God centered being, moral enlightened-being) and to enlighten others.

The Path of Enlightenment]

See also