Nicolae Tanase: Hari-kirtana das, what is the meaning of life?
Hari-kirtana das: The meaning of life is to try to understand the highest truth. The highest truth is reality distinguished from illusion for the benefit of all. While illusion invites us to participate in a futile search for happiness along a path that moves in opposition to reality, the wise find sustainable happiness through a life lived in harmony with reality.
In order to live in harmony with reality we have to know what reality is. To acquire such knowledge, we can pursue three lines of inquiry. The first is, ‘who am I?’ The second is, ‘what should I be doing?’ The third is, ‘what is the ultimate goal of life?’
To understand who we are, we must first tune into the essence of our nature. The most obvious thing we can observe about ourselves is that we exist: we are conscious of our own subjective experience of being. So, on the most fundamental level, it’s easy to see that it’s our nature to ‘be’. It’s also easy to see that we want to ‘know’: we gravitate toward knowledge – especially knowledge that helps us make sense of the world and our place in it.
And we all want to be happy, preferably forever. Thus we can conclude that the three fundamental components of our essential nature are to be, to know, and to be happy.
Our greatest happiness is found in relationships of love. We instinctively pursue relationships of trust and affection and it is only within the setting of such relationships that we truly reveal ourselves to others.
We express love by offering service for the pleasure of our beloved. In fact, everything we do is a form of service: we serve our lover, our children, our boss, our dog, our cause, our country – everything we do is service.
We hope that the service we perform will move the universe, or at least some part of it, in such a way as to fulfill our desires. We may even petition the universe, as if it were a person, to collaborate with us in the fulfillment of our desires. But even if a compliant universe facilitates the fulfillment of all our desires we are all ultimately overcome by time. Inevitable sorrows are imposed on us, impenetrable mysteries baffle us, and then we die.
Somehow we have acquired a desire to influence the universe even though we are ultimately unable to do so, for when we try to control the universe or win a race against time then we are acting in opposition to reality: under the influence of illusion, we live a life of futility.
So we ask, ‘why doesn’t the world move in harmony with my desires? Am I in the right place? Am I doing something wrong? Are things really what they appear to be?’
We live in an inconceivably vast universe by comparison to which we are quantitatively insignificant. If our lives have significance then it must be qualitative rather than quantitative. To find that significance we can once again look at the qualities of the universe.
Self-similarity is a recurring feature of the world, meaning that the part is always similar to the whole. For example, the pattern of twigs extending from the end of a tree branch is similar to the pattern of all of the branches extending from the trunk of the tree. Similarly, what we observe about our selves as microcosmic portions of reality must apply in some way to the macrocosm of complete reality. If it is our nature to be, to know, to seek happiness through relationships of love, to reveal ourselves to those who love us, and to express devotion to our beloved by means of service, logic dictates that these qualities must be present in reality itself.
If we are conscious of our own subjective experience then reality itself must also be conscious of it’s own subjective experience. In other words, as we are all unique persons then reality itself is the ultimate unique person.
The highest truth about reality is that reality is a person. The highest truth about our selves is that our essential nature is a reflection of the essential nature of reality. Thus, as it is our nature to be, to know, and to be happy, the personal feature of reality is eternal, omniscient, and blissful. And as we have the propensity to love, to reveal ourselves to those who love us, and to express love through service, so, too, with the personal feature of reality.
The ultimate goal of life is to live in harmony with reality and the ultimate harmony is a relationship of love. The highest truth is that reality is a person. Thus, the meaning of life is to enter into a relationship of love with the highest truth: the personal feature of Absolute Reality.
~Hari-kirtana das is a yoga teacher and author of the upcoming book, 8 Life Lessons from the Bhagavad-gita.
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