Nicolae Tanase: Yogi Dada, what is the meaning of life?
Yogi Dada Gunamuktananda: I don’t know the answer to that question. Which really means I know the answer to that question. Because, as the saying goes, “He who thinks he knows, does not know. He who knows he does not know, knows.”
But here’s an answer based on the teachings of my guru, someone infinitely wiser and more capable of answering this question than me. It’s also based on the experience I’ve gained from my meditation practice over the last 25 years.
The purpose of our lives is to realize ourselves. In the yogic tradition this is called “self-realization.” We all have a sense of self; of self associated with our body, our mind, and our relationship between our body, mind and the people and things of the world: our family, friends, possessions, surroundings, our community, society and the wider world.
But we also have a deeper sense of self, our spirit, the essence of which is the love and peace, the infinite happiness or bliss, that we all yearn for. No matter who we are, no matter where we come from, no matter what our race, culture or religion may be, we all want the same thing. We may call it love, we may call it peace, we may call it happiness. But whatever we call it we all know what it is. It’s that deepest feeling of being and connectedness within us all. It’s our most precious feeling of self at the core of our existence. It’s our beloved essence.
Now, according to yogic philosophy, our own sense of self is part of a greater self. In fact, our own self is not only part of, but one with, the greater self. Our own consciousness is one with the infinite consciousness of the universe, just as the waves on the surface of the sea are one with the sea. The more we realize our own consciousness as the one infinite universal consciousness, the more we satiate our innermost longing for bliss, because bliss, or infinite happiness, is the essence of infinite consciousness.
So in order to attain what we ultimately want deep within ourselves we must look within ourselves. This process is called meditation. Meditation is not about anybody telling you what you should believe or experience. Meditation is the process of looking within yourself, of strengthening the connection to your deepest sense of self, of finding the essence of yourself within yourself and realizing that essence as the essence of the greater self that pervades all people and all things, the universal self.
This is inevitable for each and every one of us. It’s our destiny to realize ourselves as the one infinite and universal self. That’s why we have a thirst for limitlessness, for perfect peace and contentment, infinite happiness or bliss, because the bliss we are all searching for is the essence of ourselves. There’s a beautiful paradox here. Our inner self and our final destiny are one and the same. We don’t actually have to become anything other than what we already are. We only have to realize ourselves. We are all on a journey towards realizing ourselves in the deepest possible sense; as the essence of our own existence and of all existence. We are all on a journey that will ultimately culminate in the total and permanent realization of infinite bliss for each and every one of us.
That realization will not only be the consummation of our deepest life’s desire, but the more we realize our own existence as the essence of the universal existence, the universal consciousness, the more we will also feel the essence of everyone else as our own essence too; that everyone is part of us just as all waves are part of the same sea. Our own existence is one with the existence of all others. In fact, at the deepest level there are no others. We are all one. Another beautiful paradox. And it is that realization which will facilitate the greatest peace, contentment and bliss within us all and amongst us all, because the more we realize our oneness with others — all people, animals, plants, our planet, the entire universe — the more love we will feel for others too, because we will feel others as one with ourselves. The more we feel our own self as one with the cosmic self, the more we feel all others as one with our own self. And the more we love others as one with our own self, and feel the destiny of others as one with our own destiny, the more empathetic we will be, the more loving we will be, the more compassionate, the better our relationships, and the more willing and able we will be to help others and to make this world a better place.
So the purpose of our lives is self-realization. And translating that realization — that expanded feeling of self — into loving others; including all within the embrace of our love; helping all to attain their inner destiny; our one collective destiny. There’s another beautiful paradox here. At the heart of our own emancipation lies the emancipation of us all.
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