The Purpose of Life


What is that one source which can help me understand the evolution and duality of life clearly?

—Akanksha Bhardwaj, India


Dear Friend,

India’s ancient teachings (Sanaatan Dharma) are the source and essence of the teaching of duality and the meaning and purpose of life. It doesn’t matter whether that source is Shankhya, Vedanta, or Yoga, even if pundits insist each of these is different, one from the other.

In modern times, however, we are blessed with the clarity, wisdom, and simplicity of the explanations given to us by Paramhansa Yogananda. The one distilled source of his explanations of Sanaatan Dharma can be most readily found in the book, Essence of Self-Realization. (I am fairly certain it is published in India, albeit most likely in English. If this is not correct, most any Ananda center will stock the book in its bookstore:

God is One. Truth is simple; all else complex. One must begin his search however with a warning and a caveat: the intellect can never perceive satisfactorily the essence of truth. Like the addict craving his drug but no longer enjoying it, the intellect is compelled to seek book after book, teacher after teacher, and technique after technique but like the Musk Deer whose fragrant scent lies in a pouch in her belly and not outside herself, it will destroy itself in frustration for it can never find completion.

It is the heart that knows. It is through the intuitive perception of truth that wisdom is experienced; not through a finely crafted phrase, sentence, definition or dogma.

Yogananda’s most famous book is his life story: Autobiography of a Yogi. If you have not read it, I cannot recommend it highly enough for it is a modern scripture. Nonetheless, he adds his testimony to that of the sages down through the ages when he said, inter alia, “Leave some questions for the end (i.e., enlightenment),” and…”You will know when you will know…he who says he knows, doesn’t; he who says he doesn’t, doesn’t; he who knows, knows.”

When we are identified with the illusion of duality, we cannot pierce the veil to the sphere of Oneness and Bliss out of which the shadow show emerges. All we, and our intellect, reason, and senses, can perceive is always just one half of the total picture show. It’s like experiments in quantum physics: you can either know where the particle is, or its speed, but not both (did I quote that correctly?).

Devotion is of the heart and the heart holds the secret to soul satisfaction and union with God, who is the Bliss (the Sat-chid-Ananda) beyond duality. In that experience, one cannot differentiate, or slice apart the matrix of maya (the measurer).

I don’t say give up your quest. I only warn you that intellectual explanations, however somewhat satisfying, will not “save” you from suffering, illness, or death. The intellect is itself an aspect of duality and can never comprehend the whole. Ok?

May your quest for truth lead you within yourself wherein resides “tat tvam asi.”

Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA