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Article LXXIX: The Meaning of Life -- Perspectives of Vedanta and the World

"The central principle of Hinduism is that of moksha. I am ever striving for it. All of my activities are for moksha. I have as much faith in the existence of the atman and in its immortality as I am certain of the existence of my body and its transience." Mahatma Gandhi

Moksha, salvation, knowledge, peace, enlightenment, nirvana, Brahman, heaven, God, realization, samadhi... It is said in the Sama Veda that "Truth is one. Sages call It by various names... These various names manifest the different aspects and attributes of the same and one Reality." The wise may call the Divine by different names, and the wise may refer to the meaning of life by different words. However, various religions and philosophies have strikingly similar core beliefs, which are most certainly related. Perhaps each represents a different perspective on the same ultimate Truth.

Sri Ramakrishna, who was Swami Vivekananda's guru, is believed to have experienced ultimate Truth in many ways. In Ramakrishna's own words, "So many religions, so many paths to reach the same goal. I have practiced Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and in Hinduism again, the ways of the different sects. I have found that it is the same God towards whom all are directing their steps, though along different paths." The basis of Hinduism and Vedanta is that there are infinite paths to the same goal. Depending on one's tendencies (vasanas) and impressions of past action (samskaras), the path may vary.

The meaning of life from a Vedantic perspective is moksha, or freedom. One can be freed from the cycle of reincarnation (samsara). One can be freed from the attachments to the material world. By realizing the Self within (Atman), one can find eternal peace and joy. Atman is ultimately no different than Brahman, supreme Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, infinite beyond space, eternal beyond time, and immutable beyond causation. One will be limited by transient happiness and existence until realization of that eternal and infinite Truth.

Although moksha may be a lofty meaning of life, it is important to realize that any small step toward moksha gives life that much more meaning. "A sip of the Ganga is a taste of the Divine." Figuratively, the Ganga has a Divine origin from Shiva, and even a taste of that water can give bring one closer to that Divine source. With every step toward moksha, one will find greater joy and peace in life as one approaches ultimate Truth.

East-West Counseling & Meditation -- Modern Psychiatry Integration -- Himalayan Philosophy -- Penn & Stanford Medicine
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