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A Purpose in Life

There is wisdom and wisdom

A main division is between wisdom of the inner (subtle), and wisdom of outer (world). In Sanatan Dharma, the Sanskrit terms gyana (also: jnana) and vijnana both mean wisdom. Gyana is subtle wisdom, akin to gnosis, and vijnana is wisdom on the material level.

There are words to to add - for example that gyana is awareness, higher knowledge, [subtle] knowing, or truth-consciousness. An old, Great Vedic Saying: "Atman (soul, Self) is Brahman (Godhead). That realisation is a mark of a wise man in a Vedic sense, a jnani.

Vijnana is a term that covers such as science, knowledge, distinguishing or discerning, understanding, proper judgement, skill, proficiency, worldly knowledge, methodology (Spoken Sanskrit Dictionary). Getting knowledge and getting learned are said to be of vijnana. Texts and methodology of yoga and meditation are in themselves of vijnana to handle, and represent lower grades of wisdom.

Sound meditation is a means to glide inwards from occupation with the world, into the beyond vijnana classifications, words and the like. Subtlety is the key to that. Wise men and women learn to meditate to rise beyond words - in other words, they make good and fit use of vijnana steps to get into gyana levels. One step at a time, or many, if that suits you also.

Life moves along without erected manifestos

First, there is many a purpose in life - and many good ones, even. Old Bible statements and the Hebrew wisdom tradition talk well of gathering wisdom in life - and even speak of wisdom as something personified, Sophia. Accordingly, it behoves a human to learn from much significant mistakes of others in life, from own mistakes too as long as one survives them, and gather as much understanding as may be.

However, some goings might get dangerous through relevant questioning that reveals shady deals and power tricks, underhand deals, forgeries, propaganda, endearing swindles and more.

Gyana is a form of wisdom to go for

If wisdom is said to be the top thing to go for, it would depend on what is meant by it. There are many forms and levels of wisdom. One speaks of being wise in worldly ways, behaving and so on - outer wisdom is vijnana in Sanskrit. And then there is being wise in internal matters, having gyana, also written jnana, or gnosis. In Tibetan Buddhism, gyana refers to pure awareness that is free of conceptual encumbrances, this awareness can blossom into full enlightenment [WP "Jnana"]

Making fit use of one's birth as a human

Apart from inner wisdom attainments there is the wisdom of living an upright, harmonious life too. It may not be an easy thing. To be inwardly attuned means a lot along the road of life.

A very bad life is spent in such ways as bringing one more aligned to brutish people, animals in clothes.

An "infirm" life does not make good use of its opportunities to get onward and upwards, as the Gentle Middle Way is designed for.

A good life on the other hand may be crowned with Atmajnana, that is, gnosis pertaining to Atman, as Adi Shankara divulges.

To meditate may feel good and do good too

It would be a clear mismanagement of one's time to gather even likable words of wisdom at the expense of going towards the Lord. Greater goods first, in other words. However, these two can be combined, unless you are able to meditate well and go beyond, transcend as in the stage of the famous ox-herding pictures where "all is forgotten (for a while or longer)". In Transcendental Meditation the basic approach is to meditate deeply and well for about twenty minutes at least two times a day, and then benefit from it otherwise during the day. Thus, words and concepts may help us along to a certain abstract level, but all right meditation takes you beyond concepts and then derive benefits.

Now, If you are able to keep to your sense of "I" you are above thinking thereby. The inward "I-awareness", ahamkara, may be both strengthened and developed. And there is nothing wrong with that, per se.

It is wisdom to get one's priorities right and not seek many all right words of wisdom first of all, but to meditate first, and then go about such things and one's daily life. Fifteen to twenty-five minutes of swift and deep meditation twice a day may help all and sundry, says Maharishi.

Before venturing onto unknown paths

Compare the pyramid of needs by the psychologist Abraham Maslow (below). As we fulfil our fixed needs we may get sensitive to higher ones - at first dimly. And when we venture on an unknown path, we had better ask in advance: "Where will this take me?" That could be wise. However, all do not get clear-cut answers.

All the same, if you explore and experience things and do not have words for what you experience, you can hopefully use analogies to hint at it.

Maslow's Pyramid of Needs

Abraham Maslow's Pyramid of Needs

Figure Abraham Maslow's postulated pyramid of layered (hierarchic) needs

"Fulfillment steps" that Maslow postulate, to be read from bottom and up:

  • ADDED: Subtle freedom may or may not adds to Self-actualization. For example, samyama (Yoga Sutras 3.1-6) etch out various siddhis that may be had by accomplished samyama if some of them do not "pop up" by themselves, so to speak. In other cases they are inborn, says the Yoga Sutras. (WP "Samyama": "Siddhi")
  • Self-actualization desires and yearnings
  • Esteem hankerings
  • Social yearnings
  • Safety adherence
  • Physiological, steady competence needs

The first four of these stages he called deficit needs, or D-needs. B-needs (Being-needs) above relates to Self-actualization desires and yearnings. (Maslow 1987) [More]

In the pyramid, one may place gathered verbal wisdom and other outer expressions of wisdom on level 4, as forms of achievements. It is like summing up life experiences from a somewhat higher level, is it not? But above is fairer wisdom still, gyana, aligned to Self-attainments.


Life, purposes, conditions, Literature  

Gombrich, Richard F. What the Buddha Thought London: Equinox, 2009.

Gupta, Mahendranath. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna Tr. Swami Nikhilananda. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1942.

Maslow, Abraham. Motivation and Personality 3rd ed. New York, HarperCollins, 1987.

Sirnes, Tollak. . . . at vi skal elske hverandre Oslo: Gyldendal, 1968 and later.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1982.


  1. Matthew Campbell, Paris, and Roger Dobson. "Not tonight, chérie: French passions cool." The Sunday Times, January 22, 2006.

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