Spirituality and the Meaning of Life

SWAMI SHIVAPRAKASHANANDA SARASWATHI

Introduction

Human beings are endowed with special features which make them different from animals. Animals are programmed to pursue an instinctual life. Since they don’t have a free will, they cannot think of the meaning of life.  Human beings on the other hand cannot be happy with a jelly fish existence. We are interested in finding the meaning of life.

Money, marriage and material prosperity are all parts of life. But they cannot be the meaning of life. They don’t bring fulfilment in life. Only spirituality can bring fulfilment in life, thereby making life meaningful. Therefore, to make life meaningful, one should take recourse to spirituality.

The Two Pursuits

The Kathopanishad (1.2.1 and 1.2.2) points out that human beings have two pursuits in front of them. One is preyas, the materialistic pursuit, and the other is shreyas, the spiritual pursuit. It also says that one who pursues shreyas accomplishes the highest. On the other hand one who chooses preyasmisses the ultimate goal of life.

Materialism is Not the Meaning of Life

Materialistic pursuit cannot lead to the ultimate goal of life. Any success in materialistic pursuit is relative. When you have an accomplishment, you find that there is further to accomplish. Desires are not quenched by the fulfilment of desires. Before you gratify a desire, another desire arises. Therefore materialistic pursuit keeps you going endlessly.

Moreover, one cannot derive lasting happiness from materialistic pursuit. Any worldly accomplishment is ephemeral in nature. The shastras reveal that the other worlds like heaven are also impermanent. Therefore, materialism is not the meaning of life.

Spirituality Makes Life Meaningful

It is spirituality which brings fulfilment in life. The goal of human life is to find lasting and unsurpassable happiness. This happiness cannot be found outside oneself. The perennial source of happiness lies within oneself. Spirituality is the only way of finding the inner source of happiness.

The Spiritual Lifestyle

When spirituality is the theme of life, everything else in life has to be subservient to it. Money, marriage, relations etc. are the parts of life. They become subservient to spirituality, which is the keynote of life. The lifestyle of an ideal Hindu is centred on God. There is nothing secular for a Hindu. Every action he does is spiritual. Even taking a bath is a ritual for him. When he eats, he considers the food as oblations to the fire inside the body.

Marriage and Spirituality

For a Hindu, spirituality is the keynote of life. Therefore, everything he does has to be centred on spirituality. It is so with marriage also. A Hindu marriage is meant for performing the yajna. The life of a householder consists of spiritual disciplines known as yajnas, which leads to spiritual growth. Husband and wife are expected to participate together in their religious duties.

The life of a grhastha is a life of Karma yoga. Karma yoga is the performance of the duties as a worship of God and accepting the results of action as the grace of God. Besides supporting his family, a grhastha is supposed to give a part of his earnings in charity.

Love for God

The keynote of spirituality is love for God, which is called Bhakti in Sankrit. When there is love there is happiness. When there is happiness, there is meaning in every moment. Therefore, to make every moment of life meaningful, we should find love for God.

Eating gives happiness when there is love for food. One who loves music finds happiness in listening to music. When there is no love for music, one cannot enjoy listening to it. Therefore, we can understand that happiness depends on love. Moreover, the happiness one derives out of love for music is greater than the happiness derived out of love for food. This is because music is greater than food in terms of its subtleness. Thus, we also know that the greater the object of love, higher is the happiness therein. Therefore, to find the highest happiness, one should love the greatest, namely, God.

The Knowledge

The spiritual pursuit culminates with the knowledge of the self. The shastras reveal that the knowledge of the self is the only remedy for the fundamental problem of life. The cause for misery is the ignorance of the self. Self knowledge can dispel the ignorance and reveal the completeness of our own nature. Once we have found the completeness in ourselves, there is nothing further to accomplish. That is the culmination of all accomplishments.

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