What is the ultimate goal of my life? What is expected from me?
I recently read a quote from someone well-known in the fitness world encouraging people to “widen the aperture of what’s possible for yourself”. These are inspiring words but often the ‘aperture’ people are encouraged to expand into, in this case a strong body, is really very small. The ‘world’ encourages us in these limited expectations. Words similar to these are used to encourage people to worldly success — strive to get the best job, the highest income, live in the best house and neighborhood, associate with the ‘best’ people.
But what is actually ‘best’ for us? For most people it does not take much time on this earth before they realize that worldly success of any type is ephemeral. We finally possess what we longed for or achieve the goal we were seeking and soon we ‘sour’ on it in some way. The possession is not everything we expected, neither is the job nor the house and our friends are not ‘perfect’ either.
The striving just described is of the ego which is our soul attached to our body. We must have an ego to act in this world but the ego has definitions, likes and dislikes, attachments, and a very limited identity, which we might call the little ‘self’. The unenlightened ego only acts to satisfy its desires and preserve this little identity. In the spiritual life we seek to live in soul awareness and to realize our soul’s potential as a child of God; this is Self-realization. The soul’s one goal in life, which Yogananda called a ‘desireless’ desire, is to know God. All of the ways we are given to act in this life and in this world are subordinate to this goal. When we live for God alone we will still live out our God-given life including family, work, social connections and our various roles. It is just that they do not define us, they are not who we are.
Yogananda said that when someone lives for God “It isn’t that he loses touch with who he is, in himself. That, one never loses. But he assumes responsibility for manifesting God in his life, instead of living in bondage to the ego with its limitations of likes and dislikes.” He also said “Self - realization means the realization that your true Self is not the ego, but God, the vast ocean of Spirit which manifested for a time the little wave of awareness that you now see as yourself.” These quotes come from the book The Essence of Self-Realization by Swami Kriyananda (the founder of Ananda and a direct disciple of Yogananda), who, while living with Yogananda, recorded many of his words. You can listen to Swami Kriyananda giving a talk about this book for free. This book is available at Ananda Sangha Publications in India and other large online bookstores.
An individual has many, many incarnations before realizing that there must be something more to life than the daily ups and downs. And then often has more incarnations before finding the spiritual path and seeking God with all of his heart, mind and soul. That you ask this question on a website dedicated to the spiritual life suggests that you are open to exploring the true purpose of your life. I encourage you to open the ‘aperture’ of what’s possible for yourself to the widest possible and seek God.