Excellence Reporter: Sharon, what is the meaning of life?
Sharon Gannon: The meaning of life is to drop all the meanness. When meanness drops away—what remains is kindness. To choose kindness over meanness is to live a meaningful life. The purpose of our lives is to remember who we really are—to remember our eternal connection to the supreme source—to God. This remembrance is called Self-realization, awakening, enlightenment and yoga. This awakening happens when the soul realizes that it is not just a separate skin-encapsulated ego, a mortal body and mind, but that it is the living residence of God.
To live a meaningful intentional life makes life worth living and gives our lives purpose. God is Love, and that great love lives within us as well as in each living being as the atman, the eternal soul. To awaken spiritually is to remember the presence of God in your life. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna suggests a simple practice to awaken this remembrance. He says, remember Me in everything you do. Call My name. Before you eat or drink anything offer it to Me first. Make every action an offering to Me, then I will be present in your life. This is how you consciously spiritualize your physical existence. Every moment that you engage in the remembrance of God it causes your soul to awaken to His love and with great love all is possible.
The yogic scriptures say that the nature of God is satchidananda—truth, consciousness and bliss, actually mostly bliss. A blissful happy person, one who shines from an inner divine light, is naturally kind to others. Their bliss radiates and overflows from the atman—their eternal soul. When they interact with others it is a magnetic soul-to- soul attraction. They look for a deep connection with another. They are not mean-spirited, nasty, callous, miserly, judgmental or self-centered. They are other-centered. They are compassionate and friendly exuding warm-heartedness toward everyone. Their very presence brings the promise of happiness to every situation; subtly reminding the rest of us that happiness is possible—that we too can remember who we really are.
Patanjali in his yoga sutras tells us that avidya is the biggest obstacle to this remembrance. Avidya means ignorance—not knowing or rather forgetting the divine blissful nature of your soul, being in denial that God lives within you. Avidya gives rise to other obstacles that keep the soul in bondage and makes the experience of true happiness difficult to feel or experience. According to Patanjali, the other obstacles to the remembrance of your true nature are: asmita (egoism, arrogance), raga (attachment to likes), dvesha (aversion to dislikes) and abhinivesha (fear of death). Yoga practices help us overcome these obstacles.
Yoga is a practical science that provides us with ways to interact with others and the world around us. The method gives us suggestions to improve our behavior toward others so as to free us from fear and suffering and liberate us from the wheel of samsara, so there is no cause for future rebirth in the cycle. Ahimsa means non-harming and it is the first recommendation to the aspiring yogi who desires to discover how best to relate to others. The best way to behave is to refrain from harming them. This is one of the reasons why a serious spiritual practitioner would choose a vegan diet, because to eat meat and dairy products is a mean thing to do as it involves tremendous cruelty. Choosing a compassionate diet is a big step towards purifying ourselves from meanness and opening us up to the flow of kindness. Our actions are powerful. Whatever we do will come back to us. How we treat others will determine how we are treated.
There is nothing that we actually own—all we really have in life is our affect upon others. A happy person is a person who brings happiness to others. Because happiness dwells within us, when we engage in making others happy we draw from that inner well, we pull it up to the surface and release it to benefit others. But in the process we actually experience that happiness—it transforms us as it comes through us. It is God’s gift moving through us. To live in a way that our lives enhance the lives of others and increases God’s bliss in this world is to engage in the project of remembering who we really are—remembering our connection to God and the goodness of our eternal souls. We have two jobs in life: to remember God and to be kind to others and they go hand in hand.
If we can be daring and courageous enough to let go of meanness, let go of complaining, blaming and seeing ourselves as victims then we have a real chance of feeling God’s mercy. We embark renewed every moment on the adventure of discovering happiness. We live a blissful, delightful, meaningful life filled with purpose. A jivanmukta is the Sanskrit term used to describe a person who is living such a liberated life.
~Sharon Gannon is a polymath, excelling in many arts: painting, music, dance, cooking and writing as well as an animal rights activist, perhaps best known as the co-founder, along with David Life of the Jivamukti Yoga method, but above all she is a Krishna bhakta.
Photo by Guzman
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