The Journey of Life

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Life is a voyage in the infinite ocean of time, where the scenes are perpetually changing. Life is a journey from impurity to purity, from hatred to cosmic love, from death to immortality, from imperfection to perfection, from slavery to freedom, from diversity to unity, from ignorance to eternal wisdom, from pain to eternal bliss, from weakness to infinite strength.

Life is joy. Life is a conscious stream. Life is vibrant in every atom. There is life in everything. There is no such thing as inanimate matter. Matter is vibrant with life. Life is God in expression. Life is service and sacrifice. Life is love. Life is relationship. Life is poetry but not prose. Life is art and imagination but not science. Life is worship.

We are here as passing pilgrims. Our destination is God. Our quest is for the lost inheritance, the forgotten heritage. The great central aim in life is the coming into a conscious realization of our oneness with God. A separate life has no meaning. Life has meaning only when it becomes full or whole, when the individual soul joins the Supreme Soul.

The goal of life

The true goal of life is to return to the source from which we came. Just as rivers flow restlessly till they join the ocean, the ultimate source of their supply of water, just as fire leaps and burns furiously till it merges in its own origin, so too we will be restless here till we obtain His grace and become one with Him. The attainment of infinite life is the supreme purpose of finite life.

Life in the spirit is the only real eternal life. The modern life of rush and hurry, with fear, insecurity, illness and friction is not real life. A life of material luxury, of wealth and power, is not the end of life. Such a life does not produce peace of mind and serenity of soul. Sensuous life is not worth living. Sensual pleasure is like honey mixed with virulent poison. Sensual enjoyment is attended with various defects, attachments, bad habits and mental restlessness. Indulgence in sensual pleasures weakens the capacity of the mind to enquire into the Reality.

Mundane life is illusory and transitory. Its end is only dust. It is full of sorrow, pain and bondage. It is full of weaknesses and limitations. It is full of hatred, jealousy, selfishness, treachery, worries, anxieties, diseases and death, crookedness, deceit, cut-throat competition, quarrels, strife and war, disappointment, despair, cruelty, exploitation and restlessness.

All objects are coated with a little imaginary pleasure. In reality, life is all tinsel and shadow. Behind the sugar coating, there is bitter quinine. Behind the so-called pleasure, there is pain and suffering. To live means pursuing the Truth, and surmounting all obstacles with courage. Spiritual life gives meaning to human life and imparts glory to it.

The struggle of life

To live is to fight for the ideal. Life is a fight for fullness and perfection. Life is struggle and resistance. Life is a series of conquests. Man evolves, expands and gains various experiences through struggle. Life and society cannot exist without struggle. You will cease to exist the moment you cease to struggle.

Fight bravely with the internal foes on the battleground of your heart. Even a little victory in the inner battle with your mind and senses will develop your willpower, and give more assurance and courage. The harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph. Self-realization demands very great struggle.

Face all the difficulties and tribulations of this petty, earthly life with courage. Climbing a mountain, crossing a channel, bombing a city, or blasting a fort – these are not true acts of heroism and real courage. Controlling your mind and senses, and overcoming anger, passion and egoism by attaining self-mastery – these constitute real heroism. How long will you be a slave of the senses? Assert your real divine nature and your mastery over your lower nature and lower self. This is your most important duty.

Life is a school

This does not mean, however, that we should ignore life in the physical plane of matter. Matter is the expression of God for His own lila. Matter and spirit are inseparable like heat and fire, cold and ice, flower and fragrance. Brahman and Maya are inseparable and one. A life in the physical plane is a definite preparation for the eternal life in Brahman.

Life is a great school for learning many useful lessons. The world is the best training ground for the development of various divine virtues, such as forgiveness, tolerance, universal love, generosity, courage, patience, strong will, etc. and for the development of character. Life is a school in which every sorrow, every pain, every heartbreak brings a precious lesson. Life on earth is the means to self-perfection.

The world is your best teacher. This world is your best guru. There is a lesson in each experience. The world is an arena for fighting with the diabolical nature, and for expressing divinity from within. The central teaching of the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Vashishtha is that one should realize the Self by remaining in the world. Be in the world, but be out of the world. Behave like the water on the lotus leaf. Give up the lower nature. Assert the divine nature. Live a life of mental renunciation and self-sacrifice.

Sure ways for success in life

Have a simple and unassuming way of life. Live not to eat, but eat to live. Bear no envy. Commit no slander. Speak no falsehood. Practise no deceit. Harbour no malice. You will be ever joyful, happy and peaceful. Righteousness is the rule of life. Lead a virtuous life. Adhere to dharma. Human life is not human without virtues.

The salt of life is selfless service. The bread of life is universal love. Life is not fully lived, life has not been fully realized, if you do not serve and love the entire humanity. The secret of true life is in the love of God and the service of humanity. Live to help others. The divine power will stream through you as a life-giving force.

Study the lives of saints and draw inspiration from them. Cultivate a melting heart, a giving hand, kindly speech, a life of service, equal vision and an impartial attitude. Serve, love, give, purify, meditate. Your journey will take you into a new realm of infinite bliss. You will discover shining treasures. You will rediscover God. You will be strong, healthy, free, happy and peaceful. You will inspire and bless all whose lives you touch.

Make life a perpetual joy. Derive joy from satya, truth, from tapas, austerity, from daya, compassion, from daan, giving. Lead a simple, regulated life. Lead a hard life. Take hold of each day as if it were the last, and utilize every second in prayer, meditation and service. Let your life become a continuous sacrifice to God. Live in the present. Forget the past. Give up hopes of the future. Understand well the meaning of life, and then start the quest. Life is thy greatest gift. Utilize every second profitably.

Unity of life

See life as a whole. Have a comprehensive view of life. All life is one. All life proceeds from Brahman or the Absolute, which is the one and only Reality. The world is one home. All are members of one human family. All creation is an organic whole. No man is independent of that whole. Man makes himself miserable by separating himself from others. Separation is death. Unity is eternal life. Cultivate cosmic love. Include all. Embrace all. Recognize the worth of others. Destroy all barriers that separate one person from another. Let all life be sacred. Then this world will be a paradise of beauty, a heaven of peace and tranquillity.

Smile with the flower and the green grass. Play with the butterflies, birds and deer. Shake hands with the shrubs, ferns and twigs of trees. Talk to the rainbow, wind, stars and the sun. Converse with the running brooks and the waves of the sea. Develop friendship with your neighbours, dogs, cats, cows, human beings, trees, flowers, etc. Then you will have a wide, perfect, rich, full life. You will realize the oneness or unity of life. This can be hardly described in words. You will have to feel it for yourself.