Excellence Reporter: Acharya, what is the meaning of life?
Acharya Shunya: The meaning of life for me is the search for life. To not merely lead the life mechanically — we are born, we grow up, we are given goals by society to meet, be it earning wealth, finding some position in society, raising a family, aging with some grace and then die. Just live your life. Everybody lives it that way. You do it too. And make sure you don’t do anything extraordinary or different in that sense. Yes extraordinary, but not different. Follow the script.
But for me the meaning of life would be that while we are leading a life, it may be extraordinary in the terms of our accomplishments, be that material or spiritual. But what is important is do I know life? Do I know this essence of life that is within me as pure awareness? That quest for life will then give meaning to life, because when we are alive we have questions, deeper questions. And we must give these questions some time to unfold. We should go find ourselves a tradition, a teacher, which supports us in the contemplative meditative process. It doesn’t indoctrinate us, it doesn’t give us a dogma. But it definitely allows us to go within and change the paradigm of living, so that life doesn’t deplete us, doesn’t command from us pure obedience alone, doesn’t put fear in us. But instead it excites us and tunes us.
And all along while we are enjoying life playing our roles we are also in touch with something deeper. Something that is within that I call Atma — the Self. Atma is a sanskrit word from the Vedas which means — that which is boundless. And also connecting with another entity which is really One in the Vedas — known as Ishvara. Ishvara means the light that dwells in everything, in all beings. Ishvara is the name for the Divine allness, the Universal intelligence. Not a god person necessarily but a god presence, a god principle.
So life is really the quest for Atma — the Self, on one end and, Ishvara — the absolute reality, on another. This absolute reality is nameless, formless. The Self is nameless, formless. But yet Ishvara and Atma give essence, give manifestation, give their light, give their truth, empower their energy into everything that has name and form.
I believe that life has meaning when we try to discover the Self within us. We are looking and worshiping at gods outside us but then we find that the Self within us is Ishvara. That great divine absolute truth is shining right here in our own heart.
Therefore, the meaning of life comes from one who seeks Moksha. Moksha is another Sanskrit word from the Upanishads which means — the end of all forgetfulness, the end of all ignorance, the end of all delusions, which kept us limited and small. Believing that we are just this entity, five feet something of made of a body, and we are just this limited amount, this fragmented intelligence that’s bound up in stories and memories and beliefs and limitations. Instead we realize that we are life itself. We are that boundless pure consciousness, we are that awareness.
But beyond the intellectual understanding it has to become experiential, it has to become real. Therefore the quest to know who I really am gives meaning to life.
Everyday I get up in the morning and I go to bed. And my little self is leading a mechanical all bidden ayurvedically beautiful yogicly suffused Vedanta blessed existence. But yet it is the existence of a body with a mind. But deep inside me through my every living awake moment, and even when I am dreaming, I am always remembering I am Spirit, I am boundless, I am limitless and I’m One with Divine allness Ishvara. And the more I contemplate upon it the more it becomes my living reality and more I live a sovereign existence unshackled by my false limitations. My life has become a celebration, because this life shall not end when the body ends. This life is not interrupted when the mind is having a hiccup. This mind and this body are actually being supported by Life, because now my life has meaning, because I’m connected with something deeper — the truth, which is my true Self.
Most of us think money will give meaning to life. Most of us think pleasure, relationships will give meaning to life. But meaning begins to creep into our life when we make someone else’s joy important to us that is called Dharma. And it comes to a culmination when Moksha is achieved, which is — we have become liberated. Liberated from our false beliefs, from our own mechanical scripted existence, when we have recognized that I, and the Divine truth of all of existence share a relationship — We Are One.
I hope what I have shared inspires you. Whatever tradition you are in, whatever religion you follow, even if you are an atheist or an agnostic, some way you exist and you may want to know who am I. Call it a scientific or a spiritual journey or a mystical journey. Name does not matter. You cannot deny your own existence. Your self-awareness is prima facie — your first fact — who is this, and what is the quality of your relationship with your own self. That gives meaning to life.
Thank you for asking me what life means to me.
~Acharya Shunya is a Vedic lineage holder and teacher of nondual wisdom from the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, along with the Vedic sciences of Ayurveda and Yoga. She is the spiritual preceptor of a global community of truth seekers. She teaches out of her wisdom school, Vedika Global and lectures worldwide. She is the award-winning author of Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom (Sounds True, 2017), voted among the Top 10 Books in Alternative Medicine by Health Line (2017).
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