There are many different religions and spiritual teachings but all religions and teachings have one thing in common. They all teach that there is a “soul” and that the soul is embodied into a physical form during this life and that it lives on after our physical death. Religions also agree that there are consequences after our death which are related to the things we do in this physical life. With this as the general agreement, one question still remains. Why does the soul have to enter into a physical body and then leave again after the body dies? Why can’t the soul just remain out of the body forever and avoid all the problems and temptations that plague it during physical life? What is the purpose of the soul? Why did it come here?
The answer about the purpose of the soul can be discussed in two different ways. One answer is that the soul has the purpose of guiding the body through a very difficult landscape where the body itself actually can find a purpose of its own. We can see many purposes of the body, for instance, in term of eating, breathing and growing. Then we can see the purpose of eventual reproduction of the physical body through birth and the raising of children. But isn’t there more purpose than just having babies? Apart from the purpose of the body, the soul seems to have a purpose and this is the real question we are here to answer.
In fact, the purpose of the soul is to earn a reward for something that is possible to achieve but only through a physical means. Because of the fact that it is more difficult to do something in the physical world, the soul has an opportunity to accomplish or achieve something beyond its normal opportunities when it is “out-of-the body”. What are those accomplishments that the soul can achieve? First we must understand the position of the soul when it doesn’t have a body to inhabit. Free unearned enjoyment as an unencumbered soul certainly sounds great to us but we may have trouble imagining how it can also be an embarrassment when considered in the context of being “unearned” or never struggled for in the physical plane.
An example which might make this more clear is to consider a child who is born to extremely rich parents and is dressed up in perfectly clean clothes and sent off to school. As he is walking to school, he passes the slums of the city and he sees other boys his age playing with each other in the dirt. The poor boys cannot afford to go to school like the rich boy and they point their fingers at him and make fun of him for wearing such ridiculous clothes. “Look at his tie!” they say and laugh with each other and then run off to play.
The child feels embarrassed of his clothing and wants to take it off and go play like the other kids in the dirt. He wants to be “tough” and “independent” and “able to take care of himself”. He walks on to school that day but he decides to carry a second set of clothes with him from now on and change into his dirty clothes after he leaves his parents house each morning. He decides to leave a bit earlier in the morning and he takes a detour into the slums to play with the other kids as if he were “only a poor kid” himself. His plan actually works and he begins to make friends with the poor kids of the slums.
The purpose that this child is after is the same purpose that the soul is after when it enters into a body. The soul chooses to enter into a difficult environment in order to feel like it is “one of the tough kids” and to feel as though it has somehow “earned its integrity” as an individual. After playing with the poor kids from the slums for many mornings, the child may actually gain something positive and learn to be more self-sufficient. He may grow into a stronger person who can protect others or instill confidence in them. It is possible for good things to come out of this scenario although we all know that it is more likely that the child will end up in trouble in most cases. This is because the soul often forgets itself and gets carried away in the moment.
Although it is certainly dangerous take a detour into the slums, the child would hopefully remember to put his clean clothes back on after 30 or forty minutes and get back on the path to school. If he missed the entire day, he might get into a lot of trouble from his parents and find himself locked in his room for a whole week. He might even get kidnapped and never find his way back to his parents again. Living in the slums is a lot more difficult than simply playing in the slums and there can be dire consequences if the child decides to leave his parents and forego his schooling altogether.
Nonetheless, there are certain benefits which this child may get from playing with the poor kids from the slums each morning and then returning on his path to school each day. He may find that he becomes a stronger, more compassionate person after having befriended these other less fortunate children. He may discover that they are only a lot like himself and he may even make a permanent friend who he can invite back to his house one day to meet his parents.
If the soul is successful in this life, it can reach a much greater reward in the next world but this task is extremely dangerous and risky for the soul. It may also become trapped in this world and find it impossible to ever get out. If it fails to ride the fence between two worlds, it may even be punished for its actions. It is imperative that the soul remember it’s true purpose for coming into the physical world and navigate carefully so as to not fall off its real path. This is the ultimate soul purpose and the opportunity that exists for all of us in the physical world.