‘What is the purpose of life’ was the question addressed to me. ‘Life is there to LIVE’, was my response. But how to LIVE that life depends not upon my own choice, but based on ‘dharma’ (here both my privilege and responsibility) in my relationship with others—both human and creation.
Of course nothing new in my response and also in the question. But sometime it is good that we are reminded by such rhetorical question about life. The following from Mitilal help us to understand this more clearly:
‘Life is devoid of any value’ may be an evaluative statement. It may also be a factual one. I think it is both. And ‘Life is duhkha and it is utterly unsatisfying’ belongs to the same category. For a mouse, ‘Life is meaningless or devoid of value’ is a factual statement and false. For those among us who have taken the crucial backward step and self-consciously searched for value, this is a factual statement and true. But for those among us who refuse to search for the ultimate values or meanings, those who envision a role of function in something larger than themselves and seek fulfillment in service to the society, the state, the revolution, sciences, religion and the glory of God, this is only a value-judgment. It is true for only such persons who do not doubt and question much larger purposes that confer meaning, value and justification to our life-activity. For theirs is the realization that such standards for conferring value and meaning can simply be called in question in order to be dismissed.(p. 386)
…The absurdity of our situation is heightened by the fact that while we can take this view (may be part of our original sin to eat of the tree of knowledge) and realize what we do in life is arbitrary and meaningless, we cannot disengage ourselves from life by this awareness. In Indian jargon, we realize the Truth while we remain, as we must, immersed in the ocean of untruths….
…What sustains us in this unreason is a mystery, maybe the ‘inertial force’ of taking the life and the world for granted, maybe the ‘animal’ way that dominates part of our being. (Remember that ants and rats do not face this problem and WE have eaten not only of the tree of Knowledge but also of the tree of Life.) For our lives and beliefs would collapse entirely—psychosis will actually take over, if we tried to rely entirely on reason and pressed it hard. ‘How does the wise man behave?’ The Indian mystic answers, ‘The wise man behaves as the fools do. There is no difference in their external behavior.’— The Collected Essays of Bimal Krishna Matilal: Ethics and Epics, ed. Jonardon Ganeri, New Delhi, Oxford, 2002, p. 387