Take the 2-minute tour ×
Hinduism Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for followers of the Hindu religion and those interested in learning more about Hinduism. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I wonder at this question, because as with most major religions, it seems all you are mostly meant to do is to serve/devote yourself to God. It also seems that even in Hinduism this is the only way to unite with God? Why can't we just be good, why must we worship, what we must do in order to worship?

Is there nothing else that we are meant to do? The concept of "worship" just makes me more like we are enslaved to God.

share|improve this question
3  
Hinduism places Dharma (performing one's duty) and the law of Karma (what you sow, is what you reap) as utmost scales of leading one's life. Worshiping a deity is just one path to attain nirvana/moksha. –  Vineet Menon Sep 3 at 6:05
    
I have heard a story of one meat seller, Dharmavyadha. He sold meat, but he was doing his duty of looking after and serving his old parents with utmost care, and that Karma lead him to Moksha. Not sure in which text this story is mentioned. –  A_runningMind Sep 3 at 17:49

6 Answers 6

tl;dr;

Worshiping God is not mandatory. But one who wants true happiness (which actually all do), can only obtain it by approaching and surrendering to God. But because God is both with and without attributes one can chose the path of worship and serving God or the path of meditating upon His formless aspect or only continue to do actions in a detached way without worshiping God. However, the path of devotion is the easiest, safest and quickest way of deliverance from this materialistic mode of existence filled with dualities like pain-pleasure, happiness-distress, birth-death, etc. It is because, in other paths, the jiva walks on his own power and hence must deliver himself through his own effort. But in the path of devotion, God delivers his surrendered devotees:

But those who worship Me, giving up all their activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, having fixed their minds upon Me, O son of Pṛthā – for them I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death. [BG - 12.6,7]


Since many users are taking interest in this question and the title has changed since the time I originally wrote the answer, I am improving and explaining the original brief answer a bit more clearly.

Is the ultimate purpose of life only to serve God?

No, serving God is not the ultimate purpose of life; at least not per Hinduism. The ultimate purpose of life is happiness, peace, bliss or whatever other name you give it. Why? Because serving or worshiping God is something that a person comes to know about much later in life. But seeking happiness or avoiding pain is something that a person (jiva) knows inherently starting from his birth without even anyone teaching him it explicitly. Because it is happiness that a person ever wants, getting true happiness that is eternal and everlasting is the ultimate purpose of life. Anything that a person does, is only a mean to that end.

So in Hindu or Vedic schools of thought avoidance of suffering (dukha) and obtaining of bliss (ananda) has been accepted as the purpose of life. Now the question is, if happiness is the purpose of life where does God come from into the picture?

Happiness and God

In Hinduism real happiness is defined as something which is infinite. That is, it doesn't wane away or taken over by distress and problems. But the happiness that we generally get from the world and its objects are momentary and temporary being under the influence of time. Driven by never satiating desire, a person will have to work again and again at the cost of disappointment and distress to maintain such temporary happiness. But the sages and saints who have realized God have experienced God as the ultimate everlasting bliss. So the scriptures say, God is nothing but bliss, or bliss itself is God (i.e. God and bliss are synonyms). And by attaining that bliss that once can become blissful:

anando brahmeti vyajānāt [Tait. Up - 3.6]
- Brahman (God) is bliss, thus I (Brhigu) realized.

raso vai saḥ , rasa hyevāyaṃ labdhvā ānandī bhabati [Tait. Up - 2.7]
- He is the sweet mellow. Obtaining this mellow one becomes blissful.

So God being eternal and beyond the effects of time, unlike the material happiness, any happiness that will be derived from Him will be eternal. Because happiness is the objective of life and God is the ultimate happiness that there is, scriptures suggest to approach and attain God :

O scion of Bharata, surrender unto Him utterly. By His grace you will attain transcendental peace and the supreme and eternal abode.[BG - 18.62]

So, not because God is our creator or master that we need to approach God, but because knowingly or unknowingly it is the ever lasting happiness of God that we are looking for, we are told to attain God. Because until and unless that happiness is obtained, a jiva will be doing various kinds of activities for it (both sins and good deeds, but mostly sins due to ignorance and illusion) and will be suffering their reactions in various kinds of bodies in this materialistic mode of existence.

Is serving God the only path in Hinduism to unite with God?

No, there are other paths too. Some schools of thought like Samkhya and Nyaya say a person needs to acquire the right knowledge to eradicate ignorance and thus he will be able to avoid suffering, because suffering (dukha) is caused by ignorance only. But it is not always guaranteed that just by avoiding suffering one will become happy (e.g. sleep state). So Vedanta school of thought says by attaining God or bliss that the objective will be fulfilled. So for the purpose of attaining or uniting with God three different paths have been laid out in scriptures for people of different ability, state and situations:

1. Karma Marga (path of detached action)
This is the path of just doing good without any attachment to the work and its results. In this path there is no worship of God is required.

2. Bhakti Marga (path of faith or devotion)
This is the path where worshipping and serving God mentally and physically is required. Here God is worshipped with form and attributes. The devotee surrenders to God leaving every kind of dharma and always remembers and practices His devotion. So God gives him liberation from the sins of leaving other actions (BG - 18.66).

2. Jnana Marga (path of knowledge)
This is the path of realizing oneself to be the Brahma himself (aham brahmasmi). Here the nirguna nirakara (attribute less and formless) aspect of Brahma is meditated upon. There is no worship or serving of God in this path.

But among these three paths, Jnana Marga is too difficult and Karma Marga is too lengthy. Because it may take quite a number of births until one's actions and reactions get balanced out so that he will not born again. Also there are chances of failing from the path in the above two. So the path of devotion is the easiest and safest for most people in this age of Kali, so it is mostly suggested by saints and sages. But the thing is, all paths are cyclically related, so irrespective of from where one starts, if he follows that sincerely he will get the results of the next. And at some point or later a jiva has to practice devotion because only through God's grace that one can get rid of maya (illusion).

Are we all meant to do is worship God?

No, we are not meant to serve God by default. That is, it's not mandatory or compulsory. Jiva (a being) is independent and hence free do to whatever he likes. But whatever a jiva will do, he will do it only for the purpose of getting happiness. So by understanding where true happiness exists, a jiva has to do the decision and choice for himself. It's always the choice of the jiva whether to approach God and get real happiness or revolve in this materialistic mode of existence attaching his mind to temporary happiness and suffering distress and disappointment on its way.

Because it is always the choice of the jiva, even after Krishna (an incarnation of God in Hinduism) explained everything to Arjuna, He didn't tell him to do whatever He said just because He was God. He told Arjuna to think over all the instructions and do as he liked:

iti te jñānam ākhyātaṁ guhyād guhya-taraṁ mayā
vimṛśyaitad aśeṣeṇa yathecchasi tathā kuru
[BG - 18.63]

Meaning
Thus I have explained to you knowledge more confidential than the confidential. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.

So says the Katha Upanishad (2.2) in a similar context that, both material happiness (preya) and spiritual happiness (sreya) approach a person, the wise is he who chooses the later.

share|improve this answer

Adding to jabahar answer. Also Serving God and his fellow men is a way to express our love (Bhakthi) to the Lord. It is believed widely that through Bhakthi we could reach Moksha(ultimate bliss or one-ness with the Lord), where the soul does not the enter the cycle of of birth and death. If the Jiva chooses this path, serving him in some form is prescribed by the Lord.

Having said that, the Jivas are given a free will to pursue our destination and our happiness. According to the law of Karma "What goes around comes around", so if the Jiva does good, good will surely come to it. But rebirth of the soul is still inevitable.

share|improve this answer
3  
It is believed widely that only through Bhakthi we could reach Moksha I don't think it's true. Althought, Gita says Bhakti-marga is the easiest among the three. –  Vineet Menon Sep 3 at 7:37
    
@VineetMenon Thanks for pointing out. I have edited my post.Although I was under the thinking that Karma Yoga was the easiest among the three and hence most grihasthas are suggested to adopt Karma yoga as a path to moksha. –  karthikbharadwaj Sep 3 at 7:48
4  
Gita 12.5 asitis.com/12/5.html about Bhakti being the easiest. –  Vineet Menon Sep 3 at 8:48
    
Thanks for adding the karma part. I forgot to add it while writing. It's very important because although a person is free to chose his actions, he will certainly have to experience the reactions accordingly. –  jabahar Sep 3 at 11:04
1  
@VineetMenon Thanks for the quote.Was very informative. –  karthikbharadwaj Sep 3 at 13:17

It depends on the Love towards GOD. If you Love someone you want to be with them always right!!! If you Love GOD then you will always want to be with HIM. If you think GOD as your guest then you will feel that you are slave for HIM when you worship HIM. If you think HIM as your LOVE who does everything for you, then obviously you will worship HIM always. GOD is with us always, HE cares us always because HE loves us always. If you Love HIM always you will worship HIM always. Worship is to show your love towards GOD. When you love your wife or parents you will always talk proud and good things about them. Even if they do bad things you will condemn them which is also a part of Love. This is what happens with GOD too. When you love your creator, obviously you will love HIS created beings. When you Love GOD you will love your family, your neighbour, your environment, your society and your life. And this is the entire purpose of our life, Love GOD then you will love everything. He created us because HE loved us. Its about to us to Love HIM and Serve HIM.

share|improve this answer
    
I like that. Unfortunately, many people forget about the path (as to Love God is a path to love everybody) and want to just steal some love for themselves without trully giving anything (any love to others and/or God). This leads to missunderstanding what is worshiping all about. –  firda Sep 3 at 10:57
2  
This sounds like its Christian explanation rather than Hindu. –  Xarcell Sep 3 at 12:17
    
@Xarcell: Is that a problem? It statet on entrance that I don't need to be religious to enter, I wouldn't even post otherwise. I have spent a lot of time on religious discussions, mostly Christian, but left when it became non-sence about words rather about true meaning and a path. –  firda Sep 3 at 13:57

I would ask a different question: Do every life have a common purpose? We people are individuals, and have our own ways. There probably is some common point to reach, but that is far far away. And to your question: If you have to ask, than the answer probably is: NO, it seems not to be your path.

Serving God may have different reason. It should not be slavery, but a tool. I don't think that almighty God needs/wants slaves and mindless followers. He created us in His image (this is from Christianity) to think, learn and evolve (my interpretation).

I myself do believe in something, but won't say I am religious, neither Christian, nor Hindu, maybe both, depends on how you define it, how you like it. You might say I follow the path of Knowledge and Love. That is my path and I would like to add, that I came to a conclusion, that every human feeling/emotion can be seen as a kind of love or fear (mostly fear of not being loved/accepted).

Now we can rethink what is worshiping good for? I think that it can lead people to understand love and possibly each other more. Isn't that a good way to evolve? Not for everybody, but some people can really learn a lot this way, let the love they express to God fill them and help them to love others and be good.

Why can't we just be good? Didn't I just answered this question? I truly believe that this is the best way, to be good. But how you learn what is good and what is bad? Would two people always agree on same act to be good or bad?

This seems what life is all about: learn to be good. And be happy to be good ;)

share|improve this answer

The four Purusharthas or goals of life according to Hindu Dharma are Dharma, Artha (wealth), Kama (pleasure) and finally Moksha (liberation). Dharma, Artha and Kama are for those who find this world pleasant. Moksha is the goal of people who find this ocean of life positively unpleasant. Mahabharat Santi Parva Section CCCIII describes the ocean of life and the need for moksha as follows:

"That Ocean, so terrible has sorrow for its waters. Anxiety and grief constitute its deep lakes. Disease and Death are its gigantic alligators. The great fears that strike the heart at every step are its huge snakes. The deeds inspired by Tamas are its tortoises. Those inspired by Rajas are its fishes. Wisdom constitutes the raft for crossing it. The affections entertained for objects of the senses are its mire. Decrepitude constitutes its region of grief and trouble. Knowledge..is its island. Acts constitute its great depth. Truth is its shores. Pious observances constitute the verdant weeds floating on its bosom. Envy constitutes its rapid and mighty current. The diverse sentiments of the heart constitute its mines. The diverse kinds of gratification are its valuable gems. Grief and fever are its winds. Misery and thirst are its mighty eddies. Painful and fatal diseases are its huge elephants. The assemblage of bones are its flight of steps and phlegm is its froth. Gifts are its pearl-banks. The lakes of blood are its corals. Loud laughter constitute its roars. Diverse sciences are its impassibility. Tears are its brine. Renunciation of company constitutes the high refuge (of those that seek to cross it). Children and spouses are its unnumbered leeches. Friends and kinsmen are the cities and towns on its shores. Abstention from injury and Truth are its boundary line. Death is its storm-wave. The knowledge of Vedanta is its island (capable of affording refuge to those that are tossed upon its waters). Acts of compassion towards all creatures constitute its life-buoys, and Emancipation is the priceless commodity offered to those voyaging on the waters in search of merchandise. "

So your goal for your life would depend on whether you find the Hindu scriptural view of the ocean of life to be realistic or pessimistic. Those who find it to be pessimistic would naturally aim for artha and kama moderated by dharma. Those who find the scriptural view of life to be realistic would want to attain moksha.

I would like to say a few words here about how one can attain moksha. Is serving God or worshipping God absolutely necessary to attain moksha? The answer is no. Bouddhas, strict Advaita Vedantins try to attain moksha without invoking God. Others, those who follow Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Mantra Yoga take help from God to attain moksha. The ultimate purpose of life is Moksha while serving God is a method to attain Moksha.

share|improve this answer

In my view the main "mistake" here is that we are all PART of someone/something with the name God. I see it differently. We are not a part but equal entity with one have more knowledge and ability than others. We are all equally god-like creatures entrapped within our own postulated inabilities. Therefore God as a "Creator" is just a superior to us in a magnitude of knowledge and ability to create. This assumption does not make anyone a "part" of him and give one Much better perspective in a long run to grow and be bigger as person or entity. Even bigger than God him/itself. And there is nothing wrong about it but just a show that individual desire greater Knowledge, Responsibilities, Havingness, Abilities and want to be more a Reason and to Create, rather than be an effect of someone or something. The purpose of life in this regard will be to play, create games and learn from them acquiring experience and abilities to grow as a spiritual being. Those games must be ethical and help oneself and others to grow up, otherwise one will only get more inabilities and fall instead of rising above himself.

share|improve this answer
    
Seeing oneself as a part is rather humble way than anything against any though you presented. And I like your every word including "Even bigger than God him/itself" with the addition: God in his current state. I don't see God as ultimate non-evolving entity, I would rather say we are a thread of same program (yes, I am a programmer), that is going somewhere. I feel that humble enough. –  firda Sep 3 at 13:48

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.