What’s the Point?

By Swami Prajñananda

Looking at all the suffering in the world, you may question, what is the point of all this?  Life can be so hard.  If you have had these thoughts, you are not alone; they are age-old.  While the world is in crisis right now, it is not the first time and it will not be the last.

You can see this in the Bhagavadgita, an ancient yogic scripture.  Arjuna, a warrior, is poised at the brink of a world war.  With his world on the verge of mass destruction, Arjuna is questioning his part in it.  Krishna, his charioteer and an incarnation of God, gives Arjuna yoga’s teachings.  Krishna explains to Arjuna that you experience both pain and pleasure.  Yet, these experiences come and go, they are not permanent.  In our current time, with a situation that feels like it can last forever, Krishna’s teachings are important to remember.

Yet beyond his teachings on impermanence, Krishna shares the priceless gem of knowledge with Arjuna, the purpose of a human life.  An eternal reality exists within us all, beyond the reach of pleasure and pain.  This eternal reality is your own Self.  It is not born and it does not die.  It does not age and it does not get sick.

Even when your body undergoes changes, your own Self is untouched.  Like an orange that falls from a tree, while the outside may get bruised, the nectar of the fruit is unaffected.  If that same orange was washed and the outside perfumed, the nectar inside would still be unchanged.  Similarly, your own Self is absolutely free from external influence, whether they are painful or pleasurable.

The heart of yoga’s teachings is that you are that eternal reality.  The problem is: you don’t know it yet.  You get caught in the idea that you are your body or that you are your mind.  It’s like dressing your dog up as a shark.  Even though the outer covering is a shark, your dog is still a dog.  It is the same for you, even though your outer covering is your body and mind, you are not your body nor your mind.  You are the one who has a body and who has a mind.  You are the Self.  To discover this truth for yourself, you must look inward.

Swami Muktananda explains:

“Inside, there is great divinity.  Just as a person absorbed in deep sleep doesn’t experience pleasure or pain, only great peace, so one who is absorbed in meditation does not experience the pleasures or pain of the outer world.  He experiences only the bliss of heaven.”

This is Muktananda’s promise to you, that you will experience the bliss of heaven no matter your external circumstances.  He tells you how you attain this: by becoming “absorbed in meditation.”  This means that you turn your attention inward.  Instead of focusing on the external world, you focus on your own divinity.  Yet, while your focus is inward, you still participate in the world.

Can you act in the world without getting caught up in its ups and downs?  If you had asked me this question before yoga, I would have said no, that it was not possible.  Now, not only do I know it is possible, I experience this inner steadiness.  This is your future, and even more.  Yoga’s promise is not only that you will experience inner steadiness, but you will abide in your own Divinity.  You are that eternal reality.  To live in this knowing, do more yoga.