When Hindu philosophy is compared with the monotheistic traditions such as Christianity and Islam, people often ask “What is the Hindu view of cosmology” ?
The problem is hard to answer because the question comes from a lens of Christianity or Islam. It is hard to explain a helicopter someone whose mental model has only seen a car. In Christianity or Islam, the purpose of human life is very different from Hinduism. The purpose of a Christian or Muslim is to walk on the path given to them by their book and by their God. Once the God is pleased, the person is promised an eternal life of pleasure in heaven or if the person fails, an eternal torment in hell. This mostly boils down to living a life based on a blueprint set forth by the God who is all powerful.
Of course, this theology too has many finer aspects and has been criticized by various philosophers. But we will not go into that.
Compared to that Hindu philosophy takes a different approach. The purpose of human life in Hinduism has nothing to do with God or morality or heaven or hell. Hindu view of existence is cyclic which means we will all die and reborn and the cycle will repeat. Even the Gods will be born and killed infinite number of times and just like a Christian we may chose our actions wisely to praise the right god for temporary results but in the end it is all pointless as all those stages are temporary.
No one has seen life after death and most of the ideas of heaven or hell are at best conjunctures and in worse case pure fantasy. It might still have some value for human minds and society to have books and codes that require its followers to engage in certain behavior by putting a fear of afterlife in their hearts.
Hindu philosophers who pondered over greater purpose of life seems to have arrived at a very conclusive answer which is upheld as true by nearly all philosophical traditions of Hinduism. The purpose of human life is self-realization. This is a concept very hard to realize because, it is beyond intellect and hence can not be described using intellect not understood. The process of “self-realization” is hard and very very individualistic.
But, it tells us that what we are obsessing with, the current world, the very existence is merely a bubble in a time space, and we can access something far greater beyond this immediate existence. We do not merely exist on this plane where we perceive time and space, but we exist on a higher level where all this becomes a bit pointless.
This in my opinion is best explained by Allan Watts.
Imagine you are dreaming, you can control the dream and also control time you spend in the dream. What will you dream about ? You will dream about pleasures of life. But then pleasure is limited by your own imagination so eventually you would want to add some “surprise me” element to it. But even the surprises would be boring eventually. At that stage you would want some “risks”, you might want to fight off dragons and rescue princess.
It would be fun but at one stage you will be bored even with that because you know you are dreaming and like a video game you will respawn when you die. You are not taking a real risk.
The next stage is you will decide to dream, a dream full of surprises and risks and also where you do not know you are dreaming. It is no more a video game. It is real as it feels real.
Listen to Alan Watt’s lecture here.