Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Purpose

"From the very beginning of a person’s life one learns that the purpose of life is not uninterrupted pleasure. Every infant suffers pains and illnesses. We should not perceive illness and pain as negative. Suffering teaches us humility. We learn that we do not have complete power over ourselves." - Shlomo Wolbe, aka Wilhelm Wolbe

"A man's true greatness lies in the consciousness of an honest purpose in life, founded on a just estimate of himself and everything else, on frequent self-examinations, and a steady obedience to the rule which he knows to be right, without troubling himself about what others may think or say, or whether they do or do not that which he thinks and says and does." - Marcus Aurelius, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus

"The happy man needs friends... not, indeed, not make use of them, since he suffices himself, nor to delight in them, since he possesses perfect delight in the operation of virtue, but for the purpose of a good operation, namely, that he may do good to them, that he may delight in seeing them do good, and again that he may be helped by them in his good work." -

"The purpose of this discipline is to bring man into the habit of applying the insight that has come to him as the result of the preceding disciplines. When one is rising, standing, walking, doing something, stopping, one should constantly concentrate one’s mind on the act and the doing of it, not on one’s relation to the act, or its character or value. One should think: there is walking, there is stopping, there is realizing; not, I am walking, I am doing this, it is a good thing, it is disagreeable, I am gaining merit, it is I who am realizing how wonderful it is. Thence come vagrant thoughts, feelings of elation or of failure and unhappiness. Instead of all this, one should simply practice concentration of the mind on the act itself, understanding it to be an expedient means for attaining tranquillity of mind, realization, insight and Wisdom; and one should follow the practice in faith, willingness and gladness. After long practice the bondage of old habits become weakened and disappears, and in its place appear confidence, satisfaction, awareness and tranquillity. What is the Way of Wisdom designed to accomplish? There are three classes of conditions that hinder one from advancing along the path to Enlightenment. First, there are the allurements arising from the senses, from external conditions and from the discriminating mind. Second, there are the internal conditions of the mind, its thoughts, desires and mood. All these the earlier practices (ethical and mortificatory) are designed to eliminate. In the third class of impediments are placed the individual’s instinctive and fundamental (and therefore most insidious and persistent) urges - the will to live and to enjoy, the will to cherish one’s personality, the will to propagate, which give rise to greed and lust, fear and anger, infatuation, pride and egotism. The practice of the Wisdom Paramita is designed to control and eliminate these fundamental and instinctive hindrances." - Aśvaghoṣa NULL

"Life has neither material nor idealistic secrecy or mystery about it. Life is equal to itself only, hence perceiving its meaning is out of the question... The exaggeration of our mental abilities has given rise to what we perceive as “the problem” of discerning life’s purpose... If it is beyond our powers to disembowel love and beauty - we can only ravish them - it means that they are given to us not for cognition but for reflection. Similarly, the freedom of choice granted to man, a freedom denied the rest of the living species, is man’s task, a duty to exercise and fulfill, not merely an opportune option." - Andrei Bitov, fully Andrei Georgiyevich Bitov

"With our finite minds we cannot presume to know if there is a Purpose. We sense, however, the presence of something greater than we can comprehend, a force as yet unknown to us - perhaps even to be unknown. So we accept our situation, learn from it, and do the best we can, resting on faith, despair, or cynicism, depending on the individual. Overriding all this must be an obligation - self-imposed or externally impressed - to do the best one can for others, to relieve suffering and to exercise compassion. We are all in this together, for life is a common, not an individual, endeavor." - Harry Blackmun, fully Harold "Harry" Andrew Blackmun

"The highest level of compassion is without any purpose or intent. It seeks neither the good of others nor its own good. It lies in being good not ‘doing good.’ There is simply living without design or conscious reflection. It embodies the fostering of love." - David A. Brandon

"The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose." -

"She knows what is the best purpose of education: not to be frightened by the best but to treat it as part of daily life." -

"There is only one Duty. It is to realize the divinity within... our most sacred life purpose, the most honored ground of existence, and everything else must be made to subserve it." - Paul Brunton, born Hermann Hirsch, wrote under various pseudonyms including Brunton Paul, Raphael Meriden and Raphael Delmonte

"We never deceive for a good purpose; knavery adds malice to falsehood." - Jean de La Bruyère

"Every branch of knowledge which a good man possesses, he may apply to some good purpose." - Claudius Buchanan

"Public reformers had need first practice on their own hearts that which they purpose to try on others." - Charles I NULL

"If we think of life as a journey and consider it to be the opportunity for getting from where we are to where we want to be, we will have a working rule that provides us with both a purpose and expanding possibilities for our lives." - Fred Pierce Corson

"To make a man happy, fill his hands with work, his heart with affection, his mind with purpose, his memory with useful knowledge, his future with hope, and his stomach with food. The devil never enters a man except one of these rooms be vacant." - Frederick Evan Crane

"The purpose of life is to do the right thing at the right time... Everything that comes your way is your purpose in life... put it into an order, a perspective." - Sholom B. Dubov

"Each moment is a summons calling us to recollect and test ourselves. There is no activity, serving whatever external purpose, that does not contain an opportunity to dedicate ourselves more ardently to the search for truth." - Karlfried Graf Von Dürckheim, fully Karl Friedrich Alfred Heinrich Ferdinand Maria Graf Eckbrecht von Dürckheim-Montmartin

"The vital force in business life is the honest desire to serve. Business, it is said, is the science of service. He profits most who serves best. At the very bottom of the wish to render service must be honesty of purpose, and, as I go along through life, I see more and more that honesty in word, thought, and work means success. It spells a life worth living and in business clean success." - Abba Eban, born Aubrey Solomon Meir Eban

"Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men - above all for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received. My peace of mind is often troubled by the depressing sense that I have borrowed too heavily from the work of other men." - Albert Einstein

"Only those who know the supremacy of the intellectual life - the life which has a seed of ennobling thought and purpose within it - can understand the grief of one who falls from the serene activity into the absorbing soul wasting struggle." - George Eliot, pen name of Mary Ann or Marian Evans

"I love the man that is modestly valiant; that stirs not till he most needs, and then to purpose. A continued patience I commend not." - Owen Feltham

"Faults will turn to good, provided we use them to our own humiliation, without slackening in the effort to correct ourselves. Discouragement serves no possible purpose; it is simply the despair of wounded self-love. The real way of profiting by the humiliation of one’s own faults is to face them in their true hideousness, without ceasing to hope in God, while hoping nothing from self." - François Fénelon, fully Francois de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon

"The search for truth is, as it always has been, the noblest expression of the human spirit. Man's insatiable desire for knowledge about himself, about his environment and the forces by which he is surrounded, gives life its meaning and purpose, and clothes it with final dignity... And yet we know, deep in our hearts, that knowledge is not enough... Unless we can anchor our knowledge to moral purposes, the ultimate result will be dust and ashes - dust and ashes that will bury the hopes and monuments of men beyond recovery." - Harry Emerson Fosdick

"If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality, since lost time is never found again; and what we call time enough always proves little enough. Let us then be up and doing, and doing to the purpose; so by diligence shall we do more with less perplexity." - Benjamin Franklin

"Maybe the purpose of life is not as important as the process of growth that’s integral with being alive... In answering the question “What’s the meaning of life?” maybe the people who have taken the challenges of life as meaningful are the best ones to ask... These are the people who have appreciated and taken advantage of the possibilities life has to offer. They find life precious." - Philip Glass

"Austere perseverance, harsh and continuous, may be employed by the least of us and rarely fails of its purpose, for its silent power grows irreversibly greater with time." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"There are but two roads that lead to an important goal and to the doing of great things: strength and perseverance. Strength is the lot of but a few privileged men; but austere perseverance, harsh and continuous, may be employed by the smallest of us and rarely fails of its purpose, for its silent power grows irresistibly greater with time." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"What our deepest self craves is not mere enjoyment, but some supreme purpose that will enlist all our powers and will give unity and direction to our life. We can never know the profoundest joy without a conviction that our life is significant - not a meaningless episode. The loftiest aim of human life is the ethical perfecting of mankind - the transfiguration of humanity." - Henry J. Golding

"The function of values is to give us the illusion of purpose in life." - John P. Grier

"The purpose of suffering is to arouse a person to improve his ways and this is the greatest good for a person. This love of the Almighty manifest in suffering is not merely to save a person from retribution in the afterlife, but also to elevate a person and assist him in attaining more virtues." - Avraham Grodzinski

"Unless a life is activated by sustained purpose it can become a depressingly haphazard affair." - Richard Guggenheimer, fully Richard Henry Guggenheimer

"The purpose of my existence as I climb is to adapt my personal dimensions to the environment around me at each moment. I become an active player sharing some of the responsibility for my own destiny, achieving a heightened sense of awareness and seeing the direct result of my efforts; either I fall or I reach the top. But the meaning does not come from conquering the rock. Purpose comes from moving in harmony with nature, rather than destroying it or altering it for my immediate satisfaction. What gives life meaning is the fulfillment of directing energy in a way that brings a higher order to, and harmony with, the environment I live in... The ultimate meaning of our lives is relative to how much we have given to others. The ultimate meaning of our lives is connected with death... I would like to know that I have inspired people to go beyond self-limiting stereotypes to experience and nurture the true richness of their passions." - Lynn Hill, aka Lynn Hill-Raffa

"Childhood may do without a grand purpose, but manhood cannot." - Josiah Gilbert Holland, also Joshua Gilbert Holland

"We are here for communion with God who is Love, the One in whose image and likeness each one of us is made. We find this communion by loving as God loves us... The miracle of all miracles is the ability to transform through love the smallest, seemingly insignificant detail of the routine drudgery of everyday existence into paradise; the ability to become ourselves, at each moment, a fresh paradise to those around us, thereby becoming “gods by grace” for those who are “gods” to us. Each person accepts or rejects communion with God in his or her own unique manner... The act of communion comes always as grace. For those who know it, it is not life’s meaning, purpose or goal. It is life itself: God with us making us what God is." - Thomas Hopko

"The man who is tenacious of purpose in a rightful cause is not shaken from his firm resolve by the frenzy of his fellow citizens clamoring for what is wrong, or by the tyrant's threatening countenance." - Horace, full name Quintus Horatius Flaccus NULL

"I began to accept that the meaning of life, even the purpose of the pain that accompanies it, would be found not in the question I asked of life, but in the questions life asked of me." - Arianna Huffington, born Arianna Stassinopoulos

"When, in our pain, we turn our attention to life’s purpose, we take up pain as a thread through the labyrinth... But when we deny pain, we are denying life itself. When we flee from pain that we cannot escape, we are fleeing from an opportunity to grow." - Arianna Huffington, born Arianna Stassinopoulos

"The spirit of the people must frequently be roused, in order to curb the ambition of the court; and the dread of rousing this spirit must be employed to prevent that ambition. Nothing so effectual to this purpose as the liberty of the press; by which all the learning, wit, and genius of the nation, may be employed on the side of freedom, and every one be animated to its defense." - David Hume

"If there is freedom... there is a spiritual Reality, which it is the final end and purpose of consciousness to know; then all life is in the nature of an intelligence test, and the higher the level of awareness and the greater the potentialities of the creature, the more searchingly difficult will be the questions asked." - Aldous Leonard Huxley

"Man’s final end, the purpose of his existence, is to love, know and be united with the immanent and transcendent God head. And this identification of self with spiritual not-self can be achieved only by “dying to” selfness and living to spirit." - Aldous Leonard Huxley

"The aim and purpose of human life is the unitive knowledge of God. Among the indispensable means to that end is right conduct, and by the degree and kind of virtue achieved, the degree of liberating knowledge may be assessed and its quality evaluated. In a word, the tree is known by its fruits; God is not mocked." - Aldous Leonard Huxley

"Whenever, for any reason, we wish to think of the world, not as it appears to common sense, but as a continuum, we find that our traditional syntax and vocabulary are quite inadequate. Mathematicians have therefore been compelled to invent radically new symbol-systems for this express purpose. But the divine Ground of all existence is not merely a continuum, it is also out of time, and different, not merely in degree, but in kind from the worlds to which traditional language and the languages of mathematics are adequate." - Aldous Leonard Huxley

"The inlet of a man's mind is what he learns; the outlet is what he accomplishes. If his mind is not fed by a continued supply of new ideas which he puts to work with purpose, and if there is no outlet in action, his mind becomes stagnant. Such a mind is a danger to the individual who owns it and is useless to the community." - Jeremiah Whipple Jenks

"What is your purpose? A purpose is something you discover. It's already there. It's always been there. You've lived your life by it, perhaps without fully realizing it... It is not a goal. A goal is something that can be reached. A purpose is a direction...A purpose is never achieved; it is fulfilled in each moment that you are "on purpose."... A purpose is not an affirmation. Affirmations can be created and used to make the creation real." - John-Roger & Peter McWilliams NULL

"He has learned to no purpose, that is not able to teach." -

"Life, to be worthy of a rational being, must be always in progression; we must always purpose to do more or better than in time past." -

"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." - Carl Jung, fully Carl Gustav Jung

"Our unconscious existence is the real one and our conscious world a kind of illusion, an apparent reality constructed for a specific purpose like a dream which seems a reality as long as we are in it." - Carl Jung, fully Carl Gustav Jung

"To know and to serve God, of course, is why we’re here, a clear truth that like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard... Even in time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people. If we had no other purpose in life, it would be good enough to simply take care of them and goose them once in a while." - Garrison Keillor, fully Gary Edward "Garrison" Keillor

"Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." - Garrison Keillor, fully Gary Edward "Garrison" Keillor