What is the Purpose of Your Life…? — Learning Philosophy from Literature

If you ask me which is my favourite novel — I will unhesitatingly say that my favourite novel is: WAR AND PEACE by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace is a most astonishing work of fiction which seamlessly incorporates history and philosophy in the story.

Here is a piece of philosophy from War and Peace…

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF LIFE…?

LEARNING PHILOSOPHY FROM LITERATURE

Reflections by Vikram Karve on a Snippet from War and Peace (From First Epilogue: Chapter IV)

Link to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2017/01/new-year-musing-what-is-purpose-of-life.html

If you ask me which is my favourite novel — I will unhesitatingly say that my favourite novel is “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy

“War and Peace” is a most astonishing work of fiction which seamlessly incorporates history and philosophy in the story.

I am sure you have read this classic work of literature by Leo Tolstoy.

But if you haven’t yet read this masterpiece — I urge you to read “War and Peace” at the earliest opportunity.

Here is a small snippet from this book — a piece from First Epilogue Chapter IV — suitably paraphrased — for you to reflect and ruminate on.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF LIFE

A Bee settling on a Flower has stung a Child.

The child is afraid of bees — so the child says that:

“the purpose of the bee is to sting people…”

A Poet admires the Bee sipping honey from the cup of the Flower.

So — the poet says that:

“the purpose of the bee is to sip the nectar of the flower…”

A Beekeeper observes that the Bee collects Pollen from Flowers and brings it to the Beehive.

So — the beekeeper says that:

“the purpose of the bee is to gather honey…”

An expert Bee-Researcher who has studied the life of the bee more closely — says — that the bee gathers pollen dust to feed the young bees and rear a queen — so he says that:

“the purpose of the bee is the perpetuation of its species…”

A Botanist notices that the bee flying with the pollen of a male flower to a pistil fertilizes the latter.

So — the botanist says that:

“the purpose of the bee is to facilitate proliferation of flora…”

Another Expert Botanist observing the cross-fertilization of plants — notices that the bee helps in this work.

So — he says that:

“the purpose of the bee is the hybridization of plants…”

But — the “ultimate purpose of the bee” is not exhausted by the first — the second — or any of the subsequent processes that the human mind can discern.

The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery of these purposes — the more obvious it becomes that:

“the ultimate purpose is beyond our comprehension…”

As it is in the case of the bee — it is the same in the case of humans too.

“the ultimate purpose is beyond our comprehension…”

Remember — when you live your life in a certain way — or — you indulge in certain actions — you and different observers of your actions may derive certain perceptions about your “immediate purpose” — but — your “ultimate purpose of life” is beyond your or anyone else’s comprehension.

Maybe — towards the end of your life — comprehension may dawn on you as to what was the “ultimate purpose of your life”.

The Moral of the Story is encapsulated in Chapter 2 Verse 47 of The Bhagavad Gita:

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।

मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते संगोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥

karmany evadhikarass te maphalesu kadachana ma karma-phala-hetur bur ma te sango stv akarmani

(Seek to perform your duty; but lay not claim to its fruits. You have a right to perform your prescribed action, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results your activities, but neither should you avoid doing your duty)

So that is the essence of a philosophical approach to life:

Always do your best without expecting results — and you will be happy

Isn’t that the ultimate purpose of your life — to be happy — by doing your best — without expecting results…

Dear Reader:

Think about it — what is the purpose of your life — not the immediate purpose — but — the ultimate purpose…?

Reflect — ruminate — introspect — meditate…

Isn’t there is lot to learn about Philosophy from Literature…?

VIKRAM KARVE

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All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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Link to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2017/01/new-year-musing-what-is-purpose-of-life.html

Revised repost of my selfhelp article posted online many times earlier including at urls http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2013/09/learning-philosophy-from-literature.html and https://www.quora.com/profile/Vikram-Karve/Writing-by-VIKRAM-KARVE/What-is-the-Purpose-of-Life and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2012/08/what-is-ultimate-purpose-of-life.html etc

Originally published at karve.wordpress.com on October 3, 2017.

A creative person with a zest for life, alumnus IIT Delhi, Lawrence School Lovedale, Vikram Karve is a retired Navy Officer turned full time Writer and Blogger