Recently I was asked by a friend that was going through a really difficult time “what do you think is the meaning of life?” Light question…I know. It was useful as it got me to think what was the meaning to my life. I feel like this question is a multifaceted one. On the personal level the meaning to your life is the one that you give it. It is crucial for a person to know their purpose, or in Sanskrit their dharma. Without knowing this, why would you get up in the morning? This is the reason that so many people feel lost or out of place in this world.
When you are living your dharma you have the feeling that you are in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. The synchronicities are flowing and the doors are opening. This doesn’t mean that life won’t have its ups and downs and that will only be pleasant from here on in. Gandhi is a great example. There can be no doubt he was living his dharma totally, though his life was anything but simple and without its challenges.
After spending many years with my Teacher Sri Prem Baba I would say that ultimately this life is an opportunity to purify our system of any beliefs causing us to feel separate from the divine. We are here to evolve to the point that we no longer believe that we are a victim to life and its circumstances. This planet could be looked at as being a school to teach us how to love unconditionally.
Many people come to spirituality looking to become more of something. It is an idea that is underpinned by the thought that I am not enough. So to be loved, I need to become more loving, more kind, more talented etc. In this way we are looking to add something to what we already are. I would say I carried this belief for a very long time until I read Jed Mckenna’s book Spiritual Enlightenment: the Damnedest Thing. This book literally flipped my world upside down for good. At the beginning of his third book he gives a funny warning with statements such as:
“BY CONTINUING BEYOND THIS POINT. The reader acknowledges and agrees that the state of Spiritual Enlightenment discussed herein conveys upon the seeker-aspirant-victim no benefits, boons, blessings, or special powers and bears little or no resemblance to assorted New Age or Eastern varieties widely dispensed under the same name. Orgasmic euphoria, orgiastic bliss, obscene wealth, perfect health, eternal peace, angelic ascension, cosmic consciousness, purified aura, astral projection. pan-dimensional travel, extra-sensory perception, access to akashic records, profound wisdom, sagely demeanor, radiant countenance, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence and opening of the third eye are not likely to result.”
And explains some of the consequences:
“CONFRONTATION WITH PERSONAL DEMONS, the facing of deep seated fears, and the step by step dismantling of personal identity may result in elevated pulse, high blood pressure, loss of equilibrium, loss of motor control, loss or pallor and skin tone, loss of hair and teeth, loss of appetite, loss of sleep, loss of bowel and bladder control, tremors, fatigue, shortness of breath, dry-heaves, acid reflux, dyspepsia, halitosis, diarrhea, seborrhea, psoriasis, sweating, swelling, and swooning. The emotional upheaval attendant upon the discovery that one is oneself a fictional character in a staged drama may result In forlornness. weltschmerz. intolerance, anger, hostility, resentment, hopelessness, despondency, suicidal despair and morbid depression”
One of the things that came out of this for me was that I started to see that the work was actually a process of removing rather than of adding. Spirituality is a process of removal, which can be a painful experience. The removal of beliefs, doubts, projections, expectations enable us to start to experience the present moment as it is. These beliefs are often what we cling for to give us a sense of who we are. I think McKenna puts it quite eloquently when he says, “I don’t have something you don’t; you believe something I don’t.”
He suggests a process in which each day you write down what you know to be true. Ideally as time passes you should be able to look at your old beliefs and see that they are no longer certain.
This process of removal uncovers all the ways in which we don’t believe that we are worthy of love and that we actually do not love ourselves. If we don’t love ourselves its impossible to love others. “You cannot give that which you do not possess” – Sri Prem Baba. So our whole life we end up running around searching for that external approval and love. We then try to possess that source of affection because without it we would once again have to face this belief that we are not worthy of love. This leads to unavoidable suffering in a downward spiral.
This idea of removal and destruction of beliefs is very present in yogic and hindu mythology. This energy is represented in the forms of Shiva and Kali. An aspect of both of these deities is that of transformation, but for those who pray to them, it is advised to be careful. If you have any attachments that you are no ready to relinquish, then this can be a painful path. Just look at the image of Kali.
At first look this image can be off-putting. How can we look to this symbol without fear? Each of the symbols in this image represent that of transformation. Rather than being a terrifying characterisation she is offering the boon of removing our beliefs, attachments and ego. In Daniel Odiers book A Tantric Quest- An Encounter with Absolute Love, he describes the symbols of Kali in the following stanzas:
“The severed head, the offering of your intelligence.
The fusion of colors and opposites in the black skin.
The nakedness, the illusions set free.
The severed heads, its central omnipresent power.
The sacrifice, the birth of the empty fetus.
The trampling of the corpse, the rupture of bonds.
The rebirth, the absolute freedom.”
So, coming back to the original question. For me the meaning of my life is to remove the false beliefs separating me from the Truth. To be able to live life fully aware of the present moment and to open to love as fully as possible. Ironically this too is a belief that is to be dropped…