by Fr. George Morelli
"Have a purpose in life, and having it, throw into your work such strength of mind and muscle as God has given you," wrote1 Scottish essayist, historian, teacher and writer Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881). This highlights the importance of keeping focus on the goal to be attained. Canadian educator and writer Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990), author of The Peter Principle (1968), put it this way: "If you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else."2 As the Book of Leviticus encourages us, we can have God at our side in our journey of life. "I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people." (Leviticus 26:12).
The Buddhist tradition, while eschewing a personal God, nevertheless holds to the view of individual and group responsibility, so much so that one Buddhist scholar wrote: "Thus we are capable of changing ourselves, even to the extent of changing the world.... If we start toward the direction performing wholesome acts from this very moment, then our future will be full of brightness."3
Purpose in life is more complex in Hindu teaching. It involves four features: dharma (paying debts (thanks) for being born, cared for by parents and teachers, respect for guests and other living things; artha, (prosperity) guided by dharma; kama (desire) as is appropriate in terms of dharma and artha, and moksha (enlightenment) self realization, that is to say, liberation and attaining a sense of being one with God and the universe.4