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Joy boundless! Bliss eternal! Were we to speak in these terms to the average "man in the street," he would dismiss us as absurdly "visionary." ("What are you trying to sell?" he might ask.) Yet we have seen that true realism demands a view of life from the heights of expansive sympathy, not from the depths of cynicism and self-involvement. Clarity and perspective come far more clearly with breadth of vision than with ego-contractiveness.
Bitterness and cynicism are not, as many believe, the hallmarks of realism. They reveal only an unwillingness to face reality. They are indications of a selfish heart, and of a mind absorbed in petty self-conceit. Realism demands openness to the universe -- that is to say, to what is -- in forgetfulness of the little self and its petty demands.
The true signs of realism are not contempt, but respect; not bitterness, but appreciation; not ruthless ambition, but kindness and compassion.
This, then, is the meaning of life: not some sterile new doctrine, but continuous development of the heart's feelings toward joyous, ever-conscious experience: perpetual self-transcendence, unending self expansion -- until, in the words of Paramhansa Yogananda, "you achieve endlessness."
We all seek permanent happiness. No one has, as his long-term goal, a happiness that is evanescent. Permanent happiness can be attained only in absolute consciousness. This state of perfect bliss lies beyond striving. As St. Augustine put it, "Lord, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee."
Rest, in a spiritual sense, altogether transcends the temporary repose granted by subconsciousness. It is, for one thing, an infinite increase, not a diminution, of awareness. For another, it is calm and forever undisturbed by dreams of further fulfillment. And for a third, it is superconscious: complete and blissful in itself.
Ego-motivated action seeks rest of a different kind, though it counts as rest all the same. For it hopes in fulfillment to achieve the end of that particular form of striving. One pursues a desire with the purpose of finding release from that desire. Activity is a means to that restful end.
The Goal of Activity: Happiness & Joy?
Activity may also, of course, seem an end in itself. Skiing is a good example: a form of activity sought and enjoyed for its own sake. Even so, what one subconsciously wants is something more than strenuous movement: a kind of weightless freedom, perhaps, and a transcendence of body-consciousness. Pursued further, this bodylessness would eventually lift one to omnipresence and absolute rest. In any case, the desire for rest is implicit in every movement, and cannot be dismissed by transitory excitement as so many people try to do.
Both kinds of action, therefore, whether spiritual or desire-motivated, have essentially the same goal: transcendence in a state of rest. Desire-motivated activity, however, achieves its end only fleetingly, soon turning back again to restlessness of heart and mind. That seaside cottage one has dreamed of, with breeze-blowing roses and the freshness of sea air, becomes boring after a time. Outward fulfillment, if sought to excess, constricts the ego and suffocates its deeper aspirations.
Spiritually motivated action, on the other hand, is expansive of its own nature. It frees a person's consciousness from its bondage to ego, and brings ever-increasing inner peace. To the extent, moreover, that spiritual action lacks ego-motivation, it leads toward union with infinite consciousness. The Law of Transcendence [The ultimate goal of action is freedom from the very need to act.], then, is the key to freedom: conscious, blissful freedom in an end to all striving.
Desire for Expanding Awareness
Freedom increases to the degree that one is motivated by a desire for expanding awareness, which includes expanding sympathy.
It is in contact with the deeper Self, or soul, that the natural urge to self-expansion comes into its own. Ego-consciousness belongs in the realm of relativity, but true transcendence is achieved in that deep state of consciousness which is the very heart of existence, and is beyond relativity.
Everything points to the conclusion that man is innately divine. Psychologists rightly claim that full self-integration cannot be achieved by suppressing one's true nature. The Bhagavad Gita makes this statement also, stating: "All beings, even the wise, follow the ways dictated by their own natures. What can suppression avail?" (III:33) The kind of suppression of which people are particularly guilty, however, is not that which concerned Freud.
Sigmund Freud declared that people suppress their true nature when they pretend to possess noble or uplifting qualities. Humanity, he claimed (following the discoveries of Charles Darwin), is the outcome of an upward thrust from below, not of a divine call from above. If we would live "honestly," Freud insisted, we should abide by our animal impulses. If anything, what we should suppress are our higher aspirations, for anything loftier than our present state is merely fanciful, if not dangerous, for the delusions it encourages, to our mental health.
In this thought, those psychologists who accept his influence have erred greatly. Their teaching encourages bondage to emotion and ego. The way of escape lies not, in any case, in redefining one's personality, but in transcending it. Lasting relief will not be found by wandering from one room of ego-consciousness to another, but only by returning to the divine simplicity that is everyone's true nature. For this achievement, one must leave that house altogether.
The Universe is Full of Meaning
The entire universe is full of meaning -- a meaning that can never be defined, for mere words are utterly unequal to the task. It is the heart that recognizes meaning. The intellect, when not balanced by feeling, is incapable of such insight. Meaning can be experienced, but it can never be reduced to a formula. It is relative, yes, but it is by no means chaotic. Nor, therefore, is truth a matter of mere opinion. Indeed, the very relativity of meaning is directional. Our understanding of it develops experientially, like a mountain goat leaping upward from crag to crag. This directionality, while not absolute, is universal. It becomes absolute when individual consciousness merges in Absolute Consciousness.
Meaninglessness, therefore, which modern intellectuals have paraded as a new "truth," is seen to be no challenge to true values at all, but the merest of vagrant superstitions.
To someone, then, who is sincerely seeking truth, the question comes at last: How could matters possibly be otherwise? The very analysis of which those intellectuals are so proud has no essential meaning. Since it is purely intellectual, it is wholly without love or joy. Lacking these, can they really expect to find meaning in anything?
Desire for Meaning: Greater Love & Joy
Our discussion of meaning, then, need not be limited to that indefinable abstraction, consciousness. There exists another, irreducible demand placed upon us by nature herself. We have named it already. It is the fact that our impulse toward expanded awareness is invariably accompanied by another: a desire for greater fulfillment, and therefore for ever-greater love and joy.
For fulfillment must finally be recognized in terms of enjoyment. If it is defined merely as material success, it soon becomes worthless to us. More than anything else, what we want of life is escape from pain, and the attainment of joy. The deeper our joy, the more deeply meaningful our lives become also. The duty with which we are charged by life itself is to find that "hidden treasure": infinite joy and bliss.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Crystal Clarity Publishers. ©2001, 2004.
Out of the Labyrinth: For Those Who Want to Believe But Can't
by J. Donald Walters.
The last hundred years of scientific and philosophical thought have caused dramatic upheavals in how we view our universe, our spiritual beliefs, and ourselves. Increasingly, people are wondering if enduring spiritual and moral truths even exist. Out of the Labyrinth brings fresh insight and understanding to this difficult problem. J. Donald Walters demonstrates the genuine compatibility of scientific and religious values, and how science and our most cherished moral values actually enrich and reinforce one another.
Info/Order this book. (Revised edition.) Also available as a Kindle edition.
About The Author
Donald Walters, 1926-2013, (Swami Kriyananda) has written more than a hundred books and pieces of music., He has written books on education, relationships, the arts, business, and meditation. For information about books and tapes, please write or call Crystal Clarity Publishers, 14618 Tyler Foote Road, Nevada City, CA 95959 (1-800-424-1055.http://www.crystalclarity.com.
Swami Kriyananda is the founder of Ananda. In 1948, at the age of 22, he became a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. He bought property in Northern California in the late 1960’s and started Ananda Village. Now there are several more communities, including one in India and one in Italy, and many more centers and meditation groups. To visit the website of Ananda, visit www.ananda.org.