Ravi Ravindra: The Meaning of Life and The Great Mystery

Ravi Yoga Crib 1 2014Excellence Reporter: Dr. Ravindra, what is the meaning of life?

Ravi Ravindra: For me a question about the meaning of life is intimately connected with the perennial inquiry ‘Who am I?’ or even more accurately, ‘What am I?’ And I am quite convinced that this question can never be answered in any usually understandable rational terms.

In fact, to know the meaning of life in any expressible fashion, is to limit myself to what I know. To base anything in life on the basis of what we know is to shortchange ourselves. Even if I had the combined intelligence of Einstein, Nagarjuna and Shankara, I cannot know all there is to know. Therefore, it is important to remain in a state of unknowing—a state not of ignorance, but of openness to whatever may come.

To know the meaning of life is to undo the celebration of life. It is an amazing miracle that I exist in this body, at this time, in this place. As we realize the vastness of the universe, and the subtle and conscious energies pervading the entire space—variously labeled as Brahman or the Holy Spirit or Cosmic Intelligence or the Absolute or Allah—the Great Mystery deepens and becomes more and more intimate: why have these subtle and supra-intelligent forces have taken the trouble to create us for a few decades?! Then, knowing that we cannot figure this out, we can celebrate the Mystery by doing whatever we find delightful in the journey of search. For me the delight lies in freeing myself from any knowledge of the meaning of life and in celebrating the quest.


~Ravi Ravindra was born in India and received his early education there. He went to Canada as a graduate student and later as an immigrant. Now he is a Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he served for many years as a professor in three departments: Comparative Religion, Philosophy, and Physics. He was a Member of the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in Shimla, and the Founding Director of the Threshold Award for Integrative Knowledge. He has been a member of the Board of Judges for the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. Ravindra’s spiritual search has led him to the teachings of J. Krishnamurti, G. Gurdjieff, Yoga, Zen, and a deep immersion in the mystical teachings of the Indian and Christian classical traditions. His last book was The Pilgrim Soul: A Path to the Sacred Transcending World Religions and his new book on the Bhagavad Gita is in press.

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