Nicolae Tanase: Dr. Satyanarayana Dasa, what is the meaning of life?
Sri Satyanarayana Dasa: Every living being has an inherent nature to avoid pain and to attain happiness. This nature is most developed in human beings. Whatever we do in our life, knowingly or unknowingly, we do so with the intention to be happy and not to suffer. There are various ways to attain happiness but the greatest happiness which we can experience comes from love. When love is there, there is only happiness and life has deep meaning. Without love we may have various experiences of pleasure, yet they are fleeting.
Inevitably each time we come down from a pleasurable experience, our life appears incomplete because we are facing the very pain we have been trying to avoid. Basically our drive in our life is only for love, and so we go on seeking more pleasurable temporary experiences. But we do not stop to ask why am I not happy? Most people continue to seek love where it does not exist such as in wealth, power, position, name, sex, drugs, and fame. All these look very appealing, but ultimately, they don’t bring the satisfaction which comes from true love. Unfortunately, most people do not have the experience of pure unconditional true love.
True love is possible only between two living beings and not between a living being and an insentient object, like wealth. True love is a steady state, meaning that you can not come down from it. Once you have it, you are in that state eternally. This is in contrast to romantic love, where you fall in love and out of love.
But, to have an experience of true love, it is not so easy. You first have to understand your own true self. Who are you? Who are you beyond your roles, titles, and accomplishments in life? How do you define yourself, when all else fades away? What still remains? In our conditioned state we identify with our mind and body and so we think we are that. We think we are the mother, or father, or husband or wife, or marketing executive, or teacher, or engineer or doctor. Then we seek love at the level of body and mind, falling in love with the other person’s title or role, instead of seeking love at the level of the soul – the unchanging part of a person.
Basically, there are two ways we can derive happiness. One is by being self-centered such as trying to gratify our own senses physically or mentally, which is what happens in a typical romantic relationship. Ultimately this love of the body and mind leads to frustration and instability because your love vacillates just as your body and mind are constantly changing.
The other type of happiness is called love-centered in which the center is not “I” but the object of love. The basic principle of true love is different. In true love, you live for the happiness of the object of love. Your happiness does not come from if your lover can make you happy, it is the opposite. In true love, your happiness comes from if you can make your object of love happy. Your whole focus is on pleasing your love. By giving happiness to the object of love, the lover feels happy naturally and there is not a limit to this happiness. This is the real meaning of life.
~Sri Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji was drawn to spiritual traditions of his home country India since childhood. After receiving a postgraduate degree in 1978 from ITT Delhi, he then worked in the United States for four years. After this period, he returned to India to begin formal study of the orthodox systems of Indian philosophy known as sad-darsana under the direct guidance of his guru Sri Haridasa Sastri Maharaja and Svami Syama Sarana Maharaja. This education was pursued in the traditional manner for more than 25 years as he dedicated himself to the practice of bhakti-yoga. In 1991 he accepted the traditional Vaisnava order of renounced life, Babaji-vesa. His main focus has been on the works of Jiva Gosvami, particularly the Sat Sandarbhas, providing English translation and commentary. He also earned four sastric degrees, and received both a law degree and PhD in Sanskrit from Agra University. Satyanarayana Dasa is the director of the Jiva Institute of Vaishnava Studies in Vrindavan, India. In 2013 he was honored by the president of India, Pranah Mukherjee, for his extraordinary contribution presenting Vedic culture and philosophy to students and audiences within India and internationally.
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