Vernon Howard and The Purpose of Life

Vernon Howard Teaches about the Imaginary Self and the Purpose of Life


Written by A Seeker with A Passionate Desire for Change


Printed by Mark L. Butler

One time VERNON HOWARD explained to us the purpose of life. "The purpose of life is to change the kind of human being you are." As with much of what Vernon tells us, the statement is deceptively simple.

On this particular evening there were perhaps sixty students in the classroom. These men and women had come from various parts of the world and many walks of life. Some were educated, some not. Some were old, some young. Some were wealthy, some poor. The common thread that had brought all these people together was a passionate desire to reach a higher understanding. Each had sensed something terribly wrong in life, each had sought a greater wisdom that would ease the inner pain and confusion, and each had found that Vernon Howard could guide him or her on the path to wisdom as no other person or book ever had.

An analysis of Vernon Howard's statement about the purpose of life reveals the essence of this man's teachings and shows why they have so powerfully affected the lives of those who will listen. "The purpose of life is to change the kind of human being you are." Well, what kind of human being are you? Are you lastingly happy? Are you content with what life has brought you? Are you self-sufficient? Do you live fully in each moment? Most people, if they are honest, must admit that none of these statements are true. Because of our complete misunderstanding about our true nature we are unhappy. We find no lasting satisfaction in anything the world can give us. We constantly lose ourselves in other people and events. And we live scattered lives in which we wander as in a trance through the present moment while our minds drag us into imagination about the past and future.

What is the misunderstanding that has brought us to this sorry state? From the time we are born we start experiencing things. These experiences become the basis of thought and memory whose function is to assist us in dealing with the practical challenges of each day. As more thoughts associate with one another they form a network of ideas upon which another thought puts a label. It calls the network of ideas "I" and imagines that these ideas have a solid existence.

This imaginary "I" now becomes the center of our lives. Because it defines itself as separate from the rest of the world it suffers from loneliness. Because it refers everything that happens back to itself, it sees the world in a distorted way, leading to errors of judgment. Because it must continue to convince itself that it is real it must defend itself against all perceived attacks. Thus we are arrogant, overly sensitive to any form of criticism, and as a form of defense, critical to others.

We seek solutions to all our problems through this false "I." But since the "I" is only a collection of past thought and experience, it can provide no new solutions. Thus the same problems appear again and again. This is obvious if we examine the history of mankind.

Ironically, the problems which the false "I" attempts to solve are often, in fact, produced by itself. If we did not have ideas about what we expected life to provide or how we expected others to behave, we would have no problems. We would simply react to events as they developed, making no value judgments.

Another characteristic of the false "I" is that it is not unitary. Each of our different experiences has produced a different false image. As a result, we each have a hundred different people inside of us. One day you're friendly, the next day, aloof. One day you picture yourself as a great humanitarian, the next day you indulge in selfish desires. One minute your beloved seems to be the perfect mate, the next day you can't stand to be with each other. You seek happiness, but how can you ever find permanent fulfillment when the very seeker changes form moment to moment?

Can you see that this is, indeed a description of your life? And can you see that if you continue to approach life as you have in the past you will never find the peace and security you seek? If so, then it becomes clear why the purpose of life is to change the kind of human being you are. But of what does this change consist?

Since the basis of you problem is our wrong belief in a false "I" the solution is must involve seeing through the hoax and coming to understand our true nature. Once a person has come to this understanding of the problem he is ready to embark on what will prove to be the most exciting and glorious adventure of his life, and ultimately, the only one that is worthwhile. The journey is often difficult, and there are many pitfalls along the path, but there are also rewards at every point along the way. These rewards consist of renewed joy in life, improvement in personal relationships, and growing relief from anxiety, false guilt, and fears about the future.

Vernon Howard has made this journey, for himself, and for this reason he can help others who wish to travel the path themselves. What is to be found at the end of the path? Of what does our true nature consist? Vernon says that a description would be meaningless to someone who has not experienced it for himself. But through his teachings, he provides guidance for all who seek assistance in their journey.

Vernon often helps us to understand his teachings through the use of stories. Once he told us a story that had a great impact on me. I would like to share it with you.

One lovely spring day a man paddled a canoe down a quiet stream. As the afternoon passed he became drowsy, lulled by the gentle rocking of the boat and the soft hum of the birds and wind. He settled himself on the bottom of the canoe and sleep overcame him. As he slept he dreamt beautiful dreams. In his dream he was handsome, rich, beloved. He slipped deeper and deeper into the wondrous images that filled his mind.

After a while he became aware of a persistent noise that threatened his dream. He tried to ignore it, but it would not go away. With irritation he forced his eyes open and drowsily lifted his head. A man was running along the shore yelling "Wake up." The canoe was heading toward the rapids and a treacherous waterfall. Unless he redirected his boat he would be destroyed. He wanted to go back to his dream and he hated the man on the river bank for disturbing him, but his only chance would be if he shook off his sleep and paddled for the safety of the shore. What will he do?

In a way we are all like the man in the canoe. We can continue to dream that our lives are satisfying and refuse to see the danger ahead. Or we can heed the warning of the man on shore to re-evaluate our situation and take control of our lives in a new way. If we wait too long to react a time will come when we will fall so deeply into our dream that we will no longer hear the warning from the shore. This is the message of Vernon Howard. If you have been at all stirred by what you have read, I urge you to look more deeply into the teachings of this man. They can open the door to a new life of happiness and meaning.

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Comments 1 comment

Catherine 8 years ago

A fantastic description of the false self we constantly try to please every second of every day which is not real. Clarified for me how this false self was constructed and how it is the cause of all suffering - and also points to the solution. i am very grateful to you for making this article available. Thank you.

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