What is expected of us during our sojourn on this planet? Sigmund Freud said we should love and work hard. That is, in order to live a meaningful life, we should cultivate relationships and do socially meaningful work.
In Hinduism, the goal of life is self-realisation, which we can be attained by one or a combination of meditation, study, work and devotion. For Buddhists, the goal of life is enlightenment and for Christians, it is to love God and love our fellow humans.
A householder has to strive to acquire two things: knowledge and wealth, said Swami Vivekananda. A monk can lead a good life even when he is poor, but a householder needs some wealth to ensure a decent life for his family.
Life is for service and not for enjoyment, said Mahatma Gandhi. It is by serving others that one can find God.
Then there are certain don’ts too. The foremost: We should refrain from violence. Not injuring others (ahimsa) is the highest religion. First we have to refrain from physical violence and then try to avoid speaking harsh words. Finally, we have to try not to hate (mental violence) anyone.
But we have to remember that what we do in life is not purely a matter of conscious choice. To a large extent, we are pushed by our unconscious drives. Dr Sudhir Kakar, psychoanalyst and writer, says, “The unconscious may be more like an elephant which you cannot really control and which is mostly good natured. The elephant (unconscious) is much stronger than the mahout (conscious part of mind) and goes where it will, though the mahout can nudge it in certain directions.”
The Buddha stressed on controlling our lower, selfish desires. We can eliminate them by walking on the Noble Eightfold Path.
We are born again and again in this world because we have worldly desires. If we aspire for liberation and make efforts, we will attain it.