By Krishna Chaitanya
Krishna Chaitanya is founder of Yoga Vidya Retreats and a professional yoga trainer and spiritual teacher. His expertise is in the field of meditation, philosophy and psychology of Yoga-Vedanta. He lived and practiced for more than twelve years in some of the best ashrams in India and embraced the monastic life at the age of 19. Krishna has travelled to various teachers and traditions in many parts of the world in order to gain knowledge from his experiences, not just from books or spiritural traditions. You can read more about him in our guest writer post or on the Yoga Vidya Retreats website.
Sadhana: Spiritual Practice in Yoga
Part 3: What is the Purpose of Life?
In Part 1 of this series on Sadhana, I introduced Sadhana as the path to self realization in yoga. In Part 2 I explored what yoga is all about and what we try to achieve by practicing Sadhana. In the last of this 3-part series, I ask: What do I need to know and experience the truth?
This questions occupies every moment of our lives, most of the time unknowingly! Yes, every single thought-feeling-action in our daily life is centered on ‘I’ and focuses on either proving its existence or protecting it from death.
One may say, “I know who I am already and what I want from my life.”
Okay, what do we want from this life?
That’s another big question which is asked by everyone at some point of their lives but hushed up in the restless waves of the ocean called the mind. Some would prefer to leave it for scientists or Socrates and don’t care about all this philosophy! Well, yoga is for the people who care about themselves and about life and the world. So, yoga students ask this question again and again and try to find the answer from within.
A Big Question: What is the Purpose of Life?
A typical answer can be:
1) To grow up as a healthy kid in a safe environment (we can’t do anything about it now).
2) Good education at school (with lots of games and fun).
3) Acquire skills/degrees at college (for some this can mean party time with drinks-drugs-sex!).
4) Finding friendships and relationships (Facebook time?).
5) Getting a job to make enough money, to meet our needs for existence and have a lot of fun on weekends and during vacations.
6) Marriage and having kids (for some it’s a scary burden and the end of freedom).
7) More money to support the family, pay credit card bills and insurance (Oh I am getting older).
8) Retirement (a long holiday and waiting for death).
9) Peaceful death (who cares what happens next?).
So, the purpose of life is reaching a peaceful death and on the way having some exciting times with work, a home, cars, money etc… Also it is important to have fun with friends, family, kids and let’s not leave out our lovely pets. For some, it is important to be something in society or to do something for society!
Well, it’s not a pleasant way of putting the complexities, absurdities and subtleties of our life in a few simple points… but this is what most of us aspire in life, knowingly or unknowingly.
Actually, or psychologically, very few people aspire to some big goal which they have in mind! It’s not that we can’t dream but very few of us dare to break the walls of archetypal social patterns and dare to walk the unique path. We are told (or brainwashed) to flow with the masses or maybe a smart sheep in the flock of humanity. We surrender to the great wheel of Samsara, dictated by our parents, teachers, society, media, friends, family, colleagues, governments etc… and also by our own minds. So, we are busy getting small doses of happiness from events, things, people and meeting day-to-day challenges, with no time for all these weird ideas about life and death!
When we study the undercurrents of human life, we have an unspoken rule of thumb:
1) Seeking happiness / life.
2) Avoiding unhappiness / death.
Names, places, people, things and gadgets may change or repeat themselves in a different order, but what everybody wants from living this life is happiness/life. Avoiding unhappiness/death is just another way of saying “I want happiness and I don’t want death or the end of happiness!”
All this boils down to one word: ‘Happiness’. Life becomes a pursuit of happiness! Happiness becomes a standard of living. When we are happy, we feel alive. When we are not happy, we call it bad times!
In the next section we will study the secret of happiness that yoga offers!
The Secret of Happiness!
So, it is happiness that drives us crazy in doing, talking, thinking and feeling all the things which make up what we call life. Yes, happiness, the never-ending promise fueled by the desire to be happy. The desire to have nice clothes, a nice house, a nice car, a nice this and that is secondary, what is important is ‘to be happy’. We catch hold of anything that makes us ‘happy’ and leave or throw away anything that doesn’t give us that ‘happiness’. Deep inside us we feel anything that makes us happy is ‘good’ and what doesn’t make us happy is ‘bad’, irrespective of what we think or say about good and bad social values.
The few yogis who embarked on this journey of finding the truth of life and death, ask if we are really happy even after pursuing happiness for years and decades. Is Bill Gates, with all his wealth, luxuries, name and fame, happy? If so, why does he still do things to make other people happy – well, that’s another way of making ourselves happy!
Photos courtesy of Krishna Chaitanya / Yoga Vidya.
2 replies on “Sadhana Part III: What is the Purpose of Life?”
a very central htthing to know is, that truth and happiness or the abiltity of aquiruíng truth is deeply connected to happpines by the certainity. it is only, because the body is so determined by izts atomic strucutre and outwards effects, that this inner source of happiness is always overrun, mostly. the problem of a cohice betwen happines and truth is this a bit more intricate, than simple autonomization by renunciation. in yoga, all possibilities of the body, which is nautural and outer determination to deep parts (called thus prakriti in yoga) are developped. during life, a lot of happiness is unavoidable tied to the body. The happiness through certainity of truth is partly from this. so, in yoga sensual pleasures are autonomized, which gives intensification by the mentioned certainity truth happiness connection (chit sat ananda in yoga). This is done by asanas, tapas. The eternal knowing part, purusha, is thus enhanced directly and indirectly. Most yogis may not be aware, that the western mathematical style philosophy of Spinoza teaches the same. Especially the purusha is to identify with his eternal part of the human mind – as a rule for understanding both. How easy western yoga and eastern science become by spinoza-yoga unity.
I believe happiness or unhappiness are simply states of mind. I’m not suggesting we all go around faking happiness when we feel rubbish, but being aware that your state of mind is a choice has to be the first step. In any situation we always have the power to choose our mindsets and I guess realising this is pretty empowering and would lead to longer lasting happiness. If you haven’t already, psychologist, Viktor Frankl wrote a really interesting book about this called Man’s Search for Meaning.