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The Goal of Life

by Swami Mukundananda

A very common question is posed to young children, “what do you wish to do when you grow up?” The children promptly reply that they wish to become doctors, businessmen, artists, teachers etc. The childhood dream to become something one day is a tiny part of our human quest for a peaceful and happy life. When children grow up and become doctors or businessmen their desires are further directed towards getting married, having kids, building houses, buying luxurious cars and earning more wealth. It is truly a never ending pursuit of happiness, because by no means does a moment arrive when a person says, “I am contented and I do not wish to please myself in the world anymore.”

A thread that ties all our dreams and expectations in the world is our search for happiness. Whether it is our dream to get a good job, a loving life partner or earn a lot of money, it is all in our pursuit of happiness. Did anyone teach us to seek happiness in the world, just as we had to learn everything else? We were taught, “My child! You should always speak the truth.” “Son, you should obey and respect your elders.” “My daughter, you should never steal from anyone.” We had to learn how to read, write, and speak. In the same way, did we have to be taught, “My child! You must always seek happiness. It should not come about that you start loving misery.” This instruction was never given to us. Without ever being taught to do so, we naturally began to seek bliss.

In fact, the moment we were born, the first thing we did was to express our desire for happiness. We did not say it in words since we could not speak. Instead, we did it by crying out with all our might. That is the first thing a child does when it comes into this world. Why does the child cry on birth? In the process of birth, it experiences pain, and it cries to reveal its nature. “I have not come into this world for pain. I have come for bliss. Give me happiness!” Since then, until this day, all we have done is for the sake of happiness. Hence, we can safely conclude that the goal of all living beings is happiness.

If in some way or the other, happiness is all that 6.5 billion people on this planet earth are looking for. A very obvious question arises, why is each one of us naturally searching for happiness? Even though people have varied ways of seeking happiness in the world, it is really the only thing we are covetously searching. In the entire world, the answer to this question is only found in the ancient Vedic scriptures. They declare that we are all looking for happiness because God is an ocean of happiness.

anando brahmeti vyajanat (Taittiriya Upanishad 3.6)

anandamyo ‘bhyaasat (Vedant Darshana 1.1.12)

Anand means bliss, and the above verses from the Vedic scriptures state that God is an ocean of unlimited bliss.

We souls are tiny parts of God, and as a result, we all are tiny parts of the ocean of bliss. Shree Krishna told Arjun:

Mamaivansho jivaloke jivabhutah… (Geeta 15.7)

“All the souls in the world are my eternal parts.” For example, a stone is a part of the mountain, a drop of water is a part of the ocean, and a ray of light is a part of the sun. Similarly, we souls are small fragments of God.

Now, every part is naturally attracted toward its source. A lump of mud is a part of the earth and it is drawn towards it. If you throw it up, it will automatically fall down, pulled by the gravitational force of the earth. Newton discovered this gravitational force when an apple fell on his head. Similarly, rivers are parts of the ocean and are pulled toward it. They were created from the water vapor that rose from the ocean, and then formed into clouds and rained back on earth. Hence, rivers naturally flow toward the ocean, which is their source. In the same way, we souls are naturally attracted toward our source, which is God. And since God is the ocean of bliss, we souls are drawn towards bliss. This is the explanation to the question why we all have the desire for happiness within us.

The ancient scriptures have also imparted the knowledge of our true identity, I.e. we are souls and not this material body. But we have forever mistaken ourselves to be the body and not the soul. This life is not the first time that we are attempting to find perfect bliss, but this has been our eternal quest. From past unlimited lives we have the same insatiate hunger. And even if we narrow down this quest to our present life, the experience remains the same. Although we have been searching for happiness, we have still not attained it. No matter how many worldly pleasures we may enjoy the feeling of dissatisfaction remains. For example, some people argue that by becoming billionaires they will become blissful. But if that was true, why are all billionaires not blissful? Why do they suffer from the same miseries of fear, anger, and jealousy as ordinary people do?

The reason is that worldly pleasures give us only a fleeting experience of enjoyment. For example someone says, “I had a great time yesterday. We went to the football game and had a lot of fun.”

You ask him, “What happened today?”

He says, “Today my car was out-of-order. So I stayed at home. The TV was also not working, and I got terribly bored.”

“So the happiness of yesterday went away today?”

“Yes it did.”

“That kind of happiness, which comes and goes, cannot satisfy you.”

Our soul is looking for happiness that will remain forever, and which is unlimited in extent. Such happiness is the bliss of God. Our desire for bliss will only be fulfilled when we attain God. This desire for bliss is, knowingly or unknowingly, a desire to be one with the ocean of bliss, God himself.

The ancient Indian poet, Valmiki said:

loke nahi sa vidyeta… ( Ramayan)

“There is no soul in this world who is not a devotee of God. Even if one tries for many ages, one cannot desire anything apart from God, because one cannot desire the reverse of happiness, which is misery.”

Besides happiness, we also naturally love godly virtues, such as truthfulness, non-violence, justice, kindness, etc. You may ask, “How is that so? Not everyone is truthful. There are so many people in this world who are habitual liars.”

Definitely, there are liars in this world. However, if you tell a lie to them, will they like it? No, they will object, “Why did you lie to me?”

“But you speak lies yourself.”

“Yes I do, but I want everyone to be truthful to me.”

In English language, there is an expression, “Honesty amongst thieves.” If a member of a gang of thieves speaks a lie to the gang leader, he gets annoyed. Even the leader amongst thieves expects truthful behavior from others.

The above examples illustrate that everyone desires kind, just, and honest behavior from others, no matter how unjust, unkind, or dishonest they themselves may be. Why is this so? The reason is that these godly virtues are the qualities of God. We all are his tiny parts, so we inherently love godly qualities. This explains why we expect virtuous behavior from others. It again goes to show that, knowingly or unknowingly, we all are searching for God.

It is indispensable at this point to realize that human life is a rare opportunity presented by God to the soul. The other species, such as plants, fishes, birds, reptiles, insects, and mammals, only have sufficient knowledge to survive. They cannot ask philosophic questions related to God, the soul, divine love, and the goal of life. They do not have sufficient knowledge and intelligence to ponder over these topics.

Even if they could, they would not be able to do anything about it. They do not possess the ability to go against their basic instincts. For example, a lion is carnivorous by nature. It cannot willfully decide to go on a vegetarian diet for spiritual progress. On the other hand, humans possess both the power of knowledge and the ability to control their mind and intellect. As a result, human beings can willfully decide their goal in life and strive to attain it.

Many humans have never thought about their goal and wander purposelessly through life. This is like the traveler who asked a bystander whether he was on the right path. The bystander asked him where he wished to go. The traveler replied that he did not know. The bystander said that if he had no goal in mind, then it did not matter which path he went on. Similarly, many people stumble aimlessly through life, from childhood to youth to old age, confused about their goal. To be successful in life, it is important to think deeply about one’s goal.

And we can conclude that the goal of our life is to realize God. Only on attaining him can we experience the peace, contentment, happiness, and satisfaction that our soul has been searching for since endless lifetimes. Once we have decided that God-realization is the aim of our life, we then have to learn, from the Vedic scriptures, how to attain it and devote our time and energy to search happiness in the right direction.

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