These two questions have resonated throughout the collective consciousness of humanity since time immemorial. They represent the most profound urge for us to know who we are and what we’re doing here.
No culture or civilization has failed to ponder these great questions, and while we might consciously or unconsciously choose to ignore their relentless cry to be answered, the pull for self-realization is a part of each of us, like a dormant computer program, just waiting to be activated. And once we bring them into our conscious awareness, we take the first step on a path from which there is no turning back – the path of awakening our true self.
These questions are at the heart of The Law of Dharma or Purpose in Life. This principle reminds us that we are each meant to fulfil a unique purpose. We haven’t come into this life by accident. There’ a reason you’re here and discovering that purpose is your life’s most important work.
The Law of Dharma teaches us that there are no spare parts in the universe. Like a puzzle that’s incomplete without each piece, the universe is incomplete without you living your purpose. What’s more, you fulfill a very important function. The Sanskrit root word for dharma is dhri, meaning “to uphold”, “to maintain”, or “to preserve”, so implied in the Law of Dharma is the idea that in living your purpose, you are helping to support the universe itself.
Two Kinds of Purpose
Our purpose can be explored from two different perspectives, outer and inner, or relative and absolute. These two types of purpose can be thought of as two divergent yet similar aspects of human development: growing up and waking up. As described by clinical psychologist John Welwood:
“Growing up” encompasses the stages of development we all pass through – from childhood to adolescence and adulthood.
“Waking up” refers to an upward path through the states of consciousness.
Relative purpose is our localized, individual purpose defined by our personal soul and its unique karmic software. It is dharma with a small “d”. In your life there may be one, perhaps two things that you feel specifically drawn to – something that you can do better than anyone else. This skill or talent is your unique dharma or purpose. Your relative purpose isn’t necessarily your job, but a job might be an expression of relative purpose.
In Buddhist teachings a job aligned with relative purpose is called Right Livelihood, a career that is a perfect blend of your special gifts, service to others, and the highest spiritual and moral ideals. Ultimately though, relative purpose isn’t just what you do with your life, it’s how and why you live it.
Absolute purpose on the other hand, is the non-local, universal nature of spirit expressing itself through your mind and body. It is Dharma with a capital “D”. Absolute purpose isn’t limited by time and space or your personal karmic makeup; it is the calling within all beings to wake up to their unbounded nature of pure awareness. The divine in each of us has just one desire – to be born; fully awake as an expression of the infinite possibility of all that was, is, and will be.
From this universal perspective, there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go. Embodying our absolute purpose, we can simply be. In that being-ness we use our own awareness to help support and uplift the entire universe, or as Ramana Maharshi reminds us: Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.
Activating Your Purpose
With this understanding of relative and absolute purpose, how do we activate our purpose, both at the local and universal levels? Two of the most powerful tools for awakening our purpose are archetypes and meditation.
Archetypes: The Face of Your Relative Purpose
Archetypes are the gods and goddesses, heroes, mentors, and inspirational figures we’ve felt drawn to in our lives. They represent the motifs and energies of the collective domain of awareness that resonate throughout all of humanity. We’re not attracted to certain archetypes by chance; we resonate with a character or energy because it triggers an aspect of ourselves that wishes to express itself through us.
For example, if you feel drawn to the archetype of the teacher, it is because teaching is an aspect of your being that wishes to be born and make itself manifest in your life. Therefore, it’s vitally important to take note of your archetypes and tap into their powers. They provide clues to what you came here for.
Once you’ve established a core group of 3-5 archetypes you may begin to recognize certain themes that have always been present in your life, but with the added context of the more subtle archetypal energies, you can become aware of a guiding track for your life. Like a subtle GPS system, tapping into your archetypes helps you set a course for the ultimate destination of your personal dharma.
*If you’re new to archetypes, Deepak Chopra’s book, The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire explores them in great detail and provides exercises for activating their power in your life.
Meditation: The Key to Finding Your True Self
For many of us, meditation has become such a ubiquitous practice for health and well-being we can often lose sight of its original purpose as the ultimate tool for self-discovery. The popular image of meditation is one of stress management, relaxation, mental focus, improved sleep, lowered blood pressure, released muscle tension, reduced anxiety, improved adaptability and resilience, strengthened emotional intelligence, greater equanimity, and peace of mind.
All of these are no doubt incredible benefits attributable to this amazing and timeless practice. However, the truth is, these benefits are all fortunate and welcome side-effects of an exercise that is essentially meant for just one thing: to help you remember and re-discover who you really are. The generations of sages, rishis, and seekers throughout history didn’t seek out meditation because they had a stressful day at the office, but rather because they wanted to know who they were, why they were here, and what it all means.
When we practice meditation, we open the door to glimpsing our soul (Atma Darshan). This repeated experience brings about a shift in our awareness and a ‘coming home’ to our true nature as spirit having a human experience rather than a human having occasional spiritual experiences. The more regularly we return to the stillness at the core of our being, the more the memory of our absolute purpose – our soul vision becomes our ground state of being, a state of oneness with the entire universe.
Meditating on Your Dharma
To tap into both your relative and absolute purpose, try this simple meditation practice.
- Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for 10-15 minutes. Sit comfortably, relax your mind and body. Softly close your eyes.
- Take 3 slow, full, deep breaths. Let go of anything that isn’t serving you right now.
- Now bring your awareness into the area of your heart. Feel your heart-space. Notice the rhythmic beating, the warmth, and the vibration in the center of your chest.
- Now call to mind a few of the archetypal figures that you feel drawn to. Become aware of the traits and powers they embody. Call those powers forth into your being. Imagine what it feels like to have those unique abilities and skills.
- Releasing your archetypes, silently begin repeating the mantra for the Law of Dharma, Om Varunam Namah, which means, “my life is in harmony with cosmic law”. Continue repeating the mantra for the next several minutes.
- When you feel ready, let go of the mantra and rest in stillness for a few moments. Sink into the qualia, or “felt sense” of being aligned with your absolute purpose.
- In the stillness of your soul release the following questions, one at a time.
- What makes me feel most alive?
- Who do I feel called to serve?
- What impact would I like to make on the world?
- How will I express my archetypes in this life?
- Let go of the need to have an answer to these questions. Simply let them echo through your awareness.
- When it’s comfortable for you, slowly open your eyes.
Feel free to repeat this meditation whenever you want to reconnect or deepen the experience of tapping into your purpose. Remember to be easy with yourself. Try not to make discovering your purpose a chore. It should be an exhilarating process of discovery. The greatest mystery story you have ever known is the story of your own awakening. Like a great detective, follow the clues left by your archetypes and the experiences of meditation to uncover the magical path back to your true self.