Why Are We Here?
Eternal Happiness and the Meaning of Life
By John of AllFaith 12.28.2009
Everything material, without exception, is at best temporary and limited. So if one is seeking eternal happiness one can take any and all material things off the list of possible ways to attain it. Eternal happiness can not be found there. Everything material is fleeting, be it positive or negative, at best. This being a given, eternal anything (happiness or anything else) can not be stored in any material container (be it in vaults, banks, philosophies, experiences, religions, doctrines, creeds etc.). Religions etc. point the Way to discovering It but can never contain It.
Eternal happiness is only to be found in eternal existence.
Happiness is a material thing. This is shown by the fact that happiness has an opposite: sadness. No dualistic material thing is eternal and hence there is no "eternal happiness" per se.
The problem is we lack a vocabulary (which is a material thing) to describe that which is truly spiritual and eternal.
"Eternal" means without beginning or end and so if one does not already possess this eternal happiness it is not eternal.
See the difficulty here? Sanskrit and Hebrew are far far superior to utilitarian English for considering such topics, but alas we are stuck with English for now. When studying the wisdom these scriptures reveal we must carefully understand the terms as revealed in those languages and overcome our linguistic limitations.
One can not "achieve" something that is eternal unless one has eternally possesses it.
The good news is that we have always possessed "eternal existence" which is composed of, as best we can conceive, "sat chit ananda" (eternity, knowledge and bliss). Therefore we are all eternally sat chit ananda vigraha (or beings of eternity, knowledge and bliss).
As Sri Krsna says:
Bhagavad Gita 2:12: Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings, nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.
2:13: As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul also passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.
2:14: O son of Kunti, sensory perceptions afflict one with cold, heat, pleasure and pain. They appear and disappear and are impermanent. Therefore endure them all O descendant of Bharata.
2:15: One who is never distressed, O best among men, and who remains unaltered [in the face of] suffering and pleasure and is patient, such a person is eligible for immortality.
2:16: Being does not come from the non-existent, nor does non-being arise from the eternal. This is the considered conclusion of those who see the truth. (my translation).
However we have temporarily laid our eternal nature aside in order to experience separation from the One God Who alone is Sat Chit Ananda Vigraha (we are of sat chit ananda vigraha however Ek Devata or the One God IS Sat Chit Ananda Vigraha). We have entered into what is comparable to a Dark Cloud of Unknowing. We have temporarily donned a form lesser than our true Self in order to learn and experience what we, as eternal Children of God, would not be possible to learn with the full awareness of our eternal nature. Consider: How could we as omniscient beings, the Children of the Most High, ever be deceived by Maya (illusion) and Avidya (ignorance)? We know better! And yet this is temporarily beneficial or desirable in ways hard to fathom as embodied beings.
The Sanatana Dharma Masters call this Dark Cloud Sa-guna Brahman.
Guna means qualities or attributes.
Nir-guna means devoid of or "no" qualities. It is not that there are no spiritual qualities but that there are no dualistic (material) qualities.
Sa-guna means possessing or "yes" qualities. Material nature is not eternal. It is temporary. Everything material has a beginning, a middle and an end, but Jiva Atman (the Self) has no beginning, middle or end. We are eternal beings, children of Ek Devata, the One God. As beings of Nir-guna we temporarily enter into the consciousness of Sa-guna Brahman. When we are ready, we return Home to Godhead, to the Nir-guna Brahman consciousness. The myriad yoga systems, religions and so on exist to guide us Homeward when we are ready to return. The irony is, as eternal beings we are already there! As Master Y'shua taught, 'The Kingdom of God is already in our midst' (Luke 17:21)!
It is no wonder we can not conceive of God in fullness, we can not even conceive of ourselves in fullness! Even our temporary material shells are a mystery to us on so many levels! Therefore the Psalmist urges us, "Arise Oh God!" and yet we slumber on unaware of our true natures and we "die like men, and fall like one of the princes" (Psalm 82).
How will we ever discover and reclaim our eternal natures? This is the goal of religion and the spiritual quest.
Because we are limited in our consciousness we use dualistic words like 'eternal" and "happiness" but "real reality" is so much greater than anything we can conceive. As the Christian Apostle said:
1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Or as Sri Krsna reveals to Arjuna when displaying His Vishva-rupa or Universal Form, whatever we believe we know, whatever we conceive, whatever our studies have unearthed... God is more AND so are we! The Vishva-rupa or Universal Form is discussed in the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. To read this chapter in my translation go here: http://srijagannatha.com/gita/gita11.html
For an insightful presentation of how to wisely interact with material existence consider reading Lao Tsu's Tao te Ching. I recommend the English translation of Gia Fu Feng and Jane English. It is widely available and can also be read on my Taoism site: http://allfaith.com/Religions/Taoism/taoteching.html Note that the Sage or wise person is cautious, like one crossing an icy river. While we exist here in material form we must tread carefully so as not to be consumed by the icy waters of illusion (maya) and ignorance (avidya).
We in the West are accustomed to thinking in absolutes, everything must be "right" or "wrong," "true" or "false," but in the spiritual realms no such duality exists. 1 + 1 sometimes equals 2 but it can just as easily equal any other number! This is very difficult to wrap ones head around after years of materialistic programing, but think of it this way:
- We are unfathomable eternal beings, created in the very image of the Inconceivable One God: We have been so eternally past and will ever so continue into what we regard as the future.
- We are temporarily occupying these material forms for eternal reasons and so we do well to be fully present within this moment in order to learn from these experiences and insights. And yet those who are wise will occupy their physical form with spiritual consciousness (Luke 19:13).
- Eternity is not something future, we are living in eternity even now.
- Physical embodiment is not a curse nor a prison, it is better thought of as a classroom, an opportunity for growth, personal development and service to the One.
- As eternal beings we are now, as always, sat chit ananda vigraha (persons of eternity, knowledge and bliss): we are children of the Most High God!
- Our task is to arise from self-imposed slumber when the time comes and to realize our True Nature as sons and daughters of the One God beyond all comprehension.