What is the Aim of Life? - Audio

This book the Aim of Life has been designed as a first attempt, a kind of an initial step because what we envisage is that several books should be written on this theme and this book is only to help students, teachers, educationists and others to explore this vast subject. As I said yesterday the subject of life can be considered, can be spoken of only by those who have seen the totality of life and various kinds of lives and who have gone and accumulated the knowledge of the past, experience of people and the highest experiences. Therefore it is not possible to compress all that in one book it has to be an unending process actually but this is the first step. Now the attempt here is to collect together some of the most important statements which have been made either in the East or in the West, statements made by some of the best representatives of different aspects of human life to derive from them what they have thought not only of what life is but also what is the aim of life?

Now there is one important subject which I should like to draw your attention to, first that the moment you raise the question of the aim of life you are raising a question which is directly relevant to the soul of man. There are many questions in the world which do not have any special connection with the soul of man but this particular subject is directly related to the soul of man. And if you want to develop the soul then this question inevitably will be raised and has to be answered. So this aspect is also kept in view, while drafting this particular book.

The book is not supposed to be a book of preaching, it is not a book of prescriptions. We are not going to tell the readers what should be the aim of life, we are only going to present to the readers various views which have been expressed throughout the ages of what should be the aim of life? And it is left to the readers to decide on their own after studying various views of life as to what should be the aim of life according to them, each reader has to decide for oneself that is why this book is subtitled as An Exploration. This exploration is necessary because very often we find particularly among young people; since this subject is hardly discussed anywhere in the schools or colleges they pick up some stray ideas from the surroundings and then they fix themselves upon that particular idea. They do not have before them materials which they can explore which they can weigh, which they can consider, which they can evaluate and therefore very often individuals who come across some stray ideas about the aim of life they begin to attach to that particular idea which comes in their surroundings and this is quite contrary to the real process of education. The real process of education must involve presentation of materials, presentation of alternatives, presentation of ideas, discussions, as a result of which one can afterwards take one's own step, one can decide for oneself. Therefore, this book is designed to present to the students alternative ideas about the aim of life and we have selected those writers who are themselves advocates of the respective points of view in regard to the aim of life; take for example we have here a passage from Ishopanishad.

Ishopanishad deals with what may be called an integral aim of life as advocated by the ancient Rishis of the Vedic period.

Then we have a presentation from Dhammapada which describes the aim of life as conceived by the Buddha.

Then there is a passage from Sermon on the Mount which presents the aim of life as conceived by Jesus.

 There is also a passage from the Quran but it is not merely a kind of a combination of ideas from religions. In fact our idea is to search the aim of life is presented by different religions, by philosophers, by scientists, by thinkers, by materialists, those who believe in God, those who don't believe in God so that the readers have a very wide choice of understanding.

We have for example a passage describing the life of Alexander the Great. What is the aim of life that he was pursuing? Why was he pursuing the aim of life that he had conceived for himself? A life of great ambition, a life of conquest, a life of a kind of heroism, we have chosen this because this is the kind of aim of life which many people in the world are attracted to and the psychology that leads an individual to pursue this kind of aim of life also has to be understood. You have to see what was the motive power of Alexander how he planned in order to satisfy his motive, what he felt he achieved ultimately? What happens if one allows such a great ambition to overpower an individual and he has all the means around him so that his aim can be fulfilled at least to a great extent; what happens then? Can you prescribe that kind of aim of life that he pursued? It is for the reader to decide in comparison with other aims of life which have been presented also in the book.

We have also a passage from Sri Chaitanya; we have passage from the Free Man's Worship by Bertrand Russell. As you know Bertrand Russell believed that there is nothing more than matter in this world and yet he had a very high ideal for human beings, he was a great pacifist. It’s a very interesting study how a materialist can advocate universal peace in the world. He did not advocate as many materialists do, to seek pleasure as much as possible in the world; since from dust we rise into dust we return. So how materialism is consistent with pacifism, with the noble way of life; it's also a very interesting way of looking at the world and students should know that there is a way of looking at life and the aim of life that emerges out of it which also has to be considered.

There is also a passage it from Einstein and towards the end we are given a very interesting play written by the Mother, where she describes different stages of ascent to the Truth and where she represents different points of view which come up in the process of the ascent towards the Truth. But these are some of the important aims of life which have been presented here; and as I said this is only a tentative first step and this can be followed up by many other passages which can be taken up by the students but these are some of the representative aims.

Now at the beginning however we are giving an overview this overview is a kind of a summary, of a panoramic view of the whole history of mankind and it is an attempt to describe very briefly, what are the aims of life which in general have been pursued by human beings throughout the history of the world. And after making a detailed study on this subject a conclusion has been reached which has been stated in simple short 3-4 pages. with the help of what is stated in these three four pages, a student can be aided to understand any particular aim of life and to fix the aim of life in the framework of a larger point of view and to decide whether that particular aim of life is of one kind or of the other kind, in brief three points of view have been stated.

Now these views have been expressed in terms which are at first sight quite difficult. the first view has been described as the view of the supra cosmic aim of life, the second has been described as that of the supra terrestrial aim of life and the third is the terrestrial way of life or the cosmic aim of life, these three aims of life have been pursued by human beings either exclusively or in some kind of combination or in some kind of a disorderly order and then there is also the fourth point of view which can be called the view of an integral aim of life.

Now these three four pages which are at the very beginning, placed at the book in the book can be studied best: first by understanding the meanings of these three, four words which have been used. There is first this word terrestrial. The word terrestrial normally means that which pertains to the earth. In French terre is a word, terre means the earth. So terrestrial means that which pertains to the earth. In a larger sense terre also means the physical, not only this earth but all that is physical. It may also mean therefore the entire universe which is physical, physical universe not confined only to the earth but to various planets, stars galaxies the entire physical universe. Therefore, the word that is used is terrestrial aim of life or cosmic terrestrial aim of life, so it refers not only to the earth but also to the entire physical universe.

So the terrestrial aim of life declares that human beings are concerned only with this earth on which they live. What is most important for human beings is to know where they are living and the problems which arise while living on this earth and to be concerned with the solution of those problems. But sometimes it may take you in a wider view and argument would be that we are all inhabitants of the physical universe, which we can see, which we know, which we can roam about and learn about. And our problems of the world are connected with the physical universe. So the aim of life is to know the physical universe, to solve these problems and to make best out of the physical universe. Now this is the view which has been advocated by a large number of people throughout the history of mankind. The question is, is this the only aim of life which has been pursued by human beings? It is here that when we begin to study the history of thought, we find there are many other points of view also which have been advocated.

In fact there is what can be called the supra terrestrial view of life. Now the supra terrestrial is to some extent a difficult thing to understand because the supra terrestrial is not normally experienced by us. We experience the physical world, we experience the earth but we do not experience that which is above the physical universe and supra terrestrial aim points out that apart from the terrestrial, physical universe there are many other worlds which are not physical in character.

Religions for example speak of heavens and they point out that the real habitation of man is not this earth that the earth is only a temporary field of sojourn. But before and after this sojourn on this earth there is a further travel and that the aim of life here on the earth is to prepare oneself for that travel. While on the earth be prepared for a greater travel this is the message of this supra terrestrial aim of life.

There is in general a view of a paradise. Islam for example speaks of paradise,  Christianity speaks of heaven, in scriptures of Hinduism from time to time we hear of Goloka, of Vaikuntha, of Swarga and of other worlds; worlds other than the physical world. The fact is that this supra terrestrial aim of life has been pursued by human beings quite seriously even though the supra terrestrial worlds are not physically visible people have been led to believe in the existence of supra physical worlds, either on the basis of some kind of occult experience or on the basis of revelation made by some people, who were supposed to be in touch with the supra physical worlds. People have been asked to believe in it, people have been asked of faith in that belief and to direct the energies of life under the guidance of that belief but there have been other Seers and great leaders of humanity who have given their accounts of still higher experiences. And they have declared that apart from the supra terrestrial existences there is still what may be called supra cosmic reality.

According to this view not only the physical universe, not only the supra physical universes but even the highest heavens are only temporary and that one can ascend to a state where one can transcend all cosmos. The whole idea of cosmos itself can be transcended; it formulates a concept of the absolute, a transcendental reality which is the source and support of this universe but in itself above the universe. Now this supra cosmic aim of life is often advocated to support what may be called ascetic view of life. It proclaims that the world has basically no significance. Life whether earthly or otherworldly has no meaning. This world is basically illusory from a higher point of view and therefore one must prepare oneself as soon as possible to transcend the network of the physical world, supra physical worlds, all concern for the universe because universe itself is fundamentally illusory.

There are many other shades of this view but ultimately even when some kind of reality is granted to the world, as in some of the Upanishads even then it is made very clear that whatever reality of the world, it is inferior to the reality of the absolute and therefore ultimately one has to give up the universe and strive to reside permanently in the absolute. So this is the supra cosmic aim of life.

The Upanishads are several and certainly some Upanishads give some kind of credence to the belief that this world is not ultimately to be cherished. In the Veda some kind of an integral aim of life has been advocated that is where you find in the Ishopanishad an integral aim of life, in the Kenopanishad also an integral aim of life. In any case the integral aim of life where it is stated very clearly and fully, it affirms the reality of the absolute. It also affirms the reality of the supra-terrestrial worlds, supra-terrestrial cosmos. it also affirms the reality of the physical universe and it points out that there is a special significance of earthly life and that it should be pursued but it can be pursued only when the powers of the supra terrestrial existence and the powers of the absolute are brought down on the earth. Therefore according to this view the life on the earth can be fully pursued and fulfilled only when there is a full integration of the earth life by means of the access to powers of the supra terrestrial and the supra cosmic. This in brief is the overview which states all the four aims of life supra cosmic, supra terrestrial, cosmic terrestrial and the integral. And this can be taken as a guideline because whenever any particular passage regarding the aim of life can be presented to anybody and if one knows there are four basic aims of life, they've been pursued in the world history one can easily mark out, what exactly is a particular view of life, whether it is supra cosmic or cosmic or it is supra terrestrial or integral. It becomes easier for students to understand as to which category a particular theory belongs to.

Question: Would it help the understanding of these four would it help if we would give at least the seven planes of consciousness that have been clearly stated in the Vedas and the Upanishads to understand the terrestrial the three below and then the supracosmic and then the....

 No, no, no the fourth one is also cosmic and then the absolute.

Question: There would it at least some kind of a clarity in the mind.

You can say let us start with the Veda, you don't say that you describe it as a Vedic view. Therefore, you can say according to the Veda these are the seven planes of existence but these are also planes therefore the Absolute is also beyond these planes.

Question: The absolute is a part of this and yet transcends...

Yes, that's right, it transcends.

Question: Uncle if you could explain the seven planes the whole understanding there will be some more clarity.

There’s a chapter here. So I don't need to speak at all now about this book.

Question: You’re speaking here something else.

You have spoilt the whole book.

To start with Matter, Life, Mind, Dyau, then the Truth and the Right — Mahas that is the intermediate link — it is supermind.

Truth plane is the supermind. Beyond it the Ananda, consciousness force and Sat. They are also lokas, they are also supra- terrestrial.

Question: But when Shankaracharya ji spoke of Brahman, the static reality, did he not mean Sat?

He meant....Sat but not Satloka. According to the Veda there is also Satloka, there is Chitloka, that is mahas there is Anandaloka and there is the Satyaloka, not Satloka and then Dyau, Antariksha and then prithvi. So prithvi is the only lowest. So what we see terrestrial aim of life is only with the lowest according to the Vedic view. When you deal with antariksha, dyau and all this is supra terrestrial so there are many, many levels of the supra terrestrial. Shankaracharya spoke only of the absolute which is beyond these seven.

Remark: He talked of the Absolute beyond the seven but he never meant the Satloka.

In his view Shankara he did not have this full statement of the Vedic view as you and I have now. So according to him all universe, whether it is this loka or that loka all is transcended in the stillness of the absolute. In the stillness there is no movement, there is no universe. All universe means becoming, all universe means movement.

Even that permeation according to him is only from a certain lower point of view.

Remark: The permeation is also becoming.


Remark: So in what way did he conceive of Brahman, if it did not permeate and yet it is everywhere.

It is not everywhere even the word everywhere would be objected by him, ultimately. There’s nothing like everywhere, everywhere means space. Space is illusory according to him. As long as you are in the universe you can say that that reality permeates all this world but this world itself is illusory; so this question of everywhere does not arise, it simply is — tat sat.

In fact Tat Twam Asi also is a proposition to be given to illusory man for the time being because there is no plan there.

Remark: What I have not understood is did Shankaracharya believe in Tat Twam Asi?

No, it is a proposition for an ignorant man. If you read the whole of it there are certain statements which are not made. Yes fine, so he makes comment that it is true that you are that but you yourself ultimately are illusory, therefore he doesn't write that therefore this statement is wrong. So, if somebody says has he written that I would say no he is not written?

You can certainly, oh yes, why not, you can. Can you just tell me a little bit of the fine difference between unmanifest on the great self.You see when you take any specific Upanishad and try to tell other people about it, it is very difficult because each Upanishad should be commented by itself but if you make a general statement that therefore Ultimate Reality is this, then it will be difficult because different Upanishads have used different language. So there'll be lot of controversies, so don't enter into that.

Question: The fine difference between the great Self and the Unmanifest.

Great self would mean the supermind and beyond the supermind is unmanifest. the supramental self is the great self and beyond that is the  unmanifest. Divine will and divine cosmos the divine world, the Satyaloka. The Satloka is higher than the Satyaloka. The unmanifest is beyond that. But in the Upanishad again you see if you say these Satloka and all that, is not mentioned in the Upanishad. So that is where the difficulty lies, when you try to see everything is not in every Upanishad. Upanishads are like notes written by the Rishis for their classes. And these are to be explained by the teacher in detail according to teachers who had knowledge. That is a difficulty about the interpretation of the Upanishads. So the best thing is to know our own scheme quite well and then to see if there is that scheme corresponds anywhere there or not.

Therefore Ishopanishad, you should take as a much more comprehensive statement, Kenopanishad also to be a good statement even Kathopanishad also is good, apart from these nuances; is basically correct I mean from the point of view but if you try, in a very subtle manner to fix one thing with the other; in fact this whole attempt to see parallels is itself wrong. We should not, I know all of us, all of us try to do that when we hear so many then we try to correlate but correlating is such a wrong movement. It’s not very, very helpful because each one has used the words in his own way. For example even if you read Islamic books they speak of seven heavens and all that; now if you try to fix them again correlate them, it won't fit in, somewhere it will be some hiatus. It is not correct. Let everybody follow his own scheme as if he likes the particular scheme he let him follow it. We should only say that according to my understanding the world is like this, as is written here, these are seven planes and Absolute is beyond this; that is all. Now if anybody wants to correlate, let him correlate in his own way, but we don't give any correlation in a specific manner because then we become the authors ourselves, so we should avoid this co-relationship.

Question: You had given the teachers those two mantras they wanted an explanation of them if possible.

I’m now tired.

Ye janaha vishwa tasthu supathyani kurvanaso amritatwaya gatum

Ye means those, ye janaha those people vishwa all those, tasthu means who have stood, supathyani  means in the right inference. All those who have become ripened, you might say kurvanaso they are the makers, of the amritatwaya gatum, gatum means the path, of amritatwaya the essence of immortality. So those who have become ripened, which is a very important qualification, those who stood above the whole lives, experienced life fully, thoroughly, become mature, then you become qualified to make this path of immortality; till that time you are not even qualified. All right, this is what that is meant.

Question: Sometimes people would like to understand the difference between crossing beyond death and immortality.

You are raising a problem and then you say that they are asking this question. Some of the questions you should not raise before. I know you have given them everything then all the questions arrive and then you say now they ask these questions and how to answer them. They are difficult questions.

Question: At least for my understanding immortality....

We go from death to death no when we cross death, when you die, you cross the death. Again you take birth, again you cross the death. So crossing the death is only a question of your ordinary life as long as you're in ignorance, you go on crossing death. When you are in avidya you go on crossing the death and then when you attain to the vidya you attain to immortality.

Question: Immortality would not just mean what ordinary people say that one would want to stop being born again stop taking rebirth and become one with the lord is that...

No. I know the important point is not to be born but immortality is attained even when you are in birth here. But you attain to a state of consciousness which is forever unborn — that is the real experience of immortality, it is transcendental therefore unborn. To be one in your being with the Supreme so that there is neither birth nor non-birth, you might say, you arrive at a eternal, not unending but eternal oneness with the Supreme. So naturally you go beyond birth then if you want to decide not to take birth it is also possible for you but even if you take birth, you are still above birth, all right. Merely taking birth does not mean that you are bound by births, the moment you realize yourself one with the Divine you are free from birth even when you are in this body. Even when you are born you become free from birth that is the state of immortality. A asambhuti and sambhuti — sambhuti is birth, asambhuti is non-birth, so when you attain to knowledge, you attain to asambhuti, you experience non-birth.

Question: Would this immortality be again equated to real moksha.

Oh yes, jivanmukta, moksha, immortality is one, identical. But some who people who believe in moksha they believe that you have got to go out of the body then only you attain to moksha, again jeevanmukti is not possible according to them. So that is where the conflict is, according to some even while you are in this body, you become mukta.

Question: Jeevanmukta is the term that is used in the Veda.

There is no world view, no. These are all ideas which are developed in due course of time. 

 Question: The luminous world of swar is...

The luminous world of swar is you might say the fringe of suprametal world.

Question: Things are on the lower side lower side above the mind?

Much above the mind, the top you might say. Just below but here is an  ambiguity some people use the word swaha as equivalent to the surya but Veda makes a clear distinction between suryaloka and swaha. Suryaloka is a real suprametal world, the swaha is a world of light. Suryaloka is the supramental. Surya is a symbol of the supermind. Satyam, ritam brihat that is suryaloka. Swaha is the last fringe you might say. It’s a fringe, it is outside or inside, it is the fringe on the lower side. Indra is the Lord of swaha because surya is the lord of suryaloka — supermind. Indra is the highest of the mind, lord of the illumined mind then would be swaha leading to surya.