By Manisha Melwani, Teacher and Speaker. Author of “So you’re a spiritual being—now what?”
Nothing happens randomly in this world. The universe is a harmonious, ordered system where everything is determined by a cosmic intelligence.
It’s not by chance that you and I are human. Vedanta, the spiritual science of life explains that being born as a human is a very rare thing.
The uniqueness of our human lives lies in the fact that amongst all the millions of species of life on the planet, we humans alone have the capacity to consciously advance the evolution of our own head and heart.
Our higher purpose
Having such a special capacity, there must be a higher purpose to our lives. According to Vedanta, that higher purpose is to use our special gifts to rediscover our essential spiritual nature known as the Self.
We are divine spiritual beings living and functioning as humans with the main goal of rediscovering our innate divinity. This will bring us the highest happiness and fulfillment in life.
Most of us aren’t aware of this higher purpose and live fully identified with our human personalities. We take ourselves to be our bodies and allow ourselves to come under the sway of our thoughts and emotions without stopping to question if they are serving us. We identify with our roles, responsibilities, and live governed by our personal desires, likes and dislikes, attachments, greed, and selfishness.
We spend all our time pursuing worldly goals, totally missing the real purpose of our lives. Our lives are short and now is the time to turn within and grow spiritually.
No time to waste
There is a story of the great teacher of Vedanta, Adi Shankaracharya, who was walking along the streets of a city in India when he came across an elderly gentleman sitting by the side of the road with a book in his hands. The man was engrossed in memorizing Sanskrit grammar rules.
The master, seeing the futility of learning grammar rules when the gentleman obviously didn’t have many more years left, gave him this advice: Seek the divine O Fool. Grammar rules will surely not save you at the time of death.
We will not be able to take our worldly achievements or possessions with us to the afterlife.
Vedanta tells us that it is only in a human body that we can earn karmic merits or demerits. We take these karmic results of our actions with us to our next life.
What’s more, there’s no guarantee that we will come back in a human body. Our actions in this life may require that we take on the body of another species. Cosmic laws will determine our next birth based on the actions in this life.
I can imagine that if I were to die today, I would not look back at my life and say, “I wish I had spent more time working in the office, putting in more energy to accumulate wealth or degrees.”
Chances are I would look back and wish I had put in greater efforts to grow spiritually, to be more loving, kind, generous, and forgiving. I would wish that I had the big heart and courage to focus less on my own concerns and more on giving to others.
These qualities are what we all value and love. Time is running out and our lives will come to an end all too soon. We must shift our priorities and embark on our spiritual journey back to our true Self.
The right outlook on life
My guru, Swami Chinmayananda, advises us on the right outlook on life: The right attitude would be to play about in the world as in a field of sport and consider secular activities as hobbies–all the while maintaining a constant vision of the ultimate goal of human existence, that is, realization of one’s true Self.
This may seem quite radical or even absurd. He wants us to consider all our everyday activities as hobbies, while holding the main pursuit to be the rediscovery of our innate divinity.
This perspective turns the tables on our vision, values and pursuits in life. But there must be truth in it. Think about it…we put in all our efforts to acquire, enjoy and preserve our possessions, family, relationships, careers and skills only to leave them all behind when we die. What’s the point of it all? Without a higher purpose, our lives would not make sense.
Now is the time to turn within and prioritize our spiritual pursuits. We must cultivate a spiritual outlook on life that will transform our vision from being limited humans to souls on an evolutionary journey through lifetimes.
Where do we start?
Commitment to a daily practice
The very first thing to do is to set aside at least 30 minutes every day for our spiritual pursuits. Early in the morning is the best time because the mind is fresh and uncluttered with our usual everyday concerns.
We can take a little time to read some spiritual literature. It’s important to then reflect on what we’ve read.
Reflecting on the new ideas will help us assimilate the teachings into our life. Without it, the new knowledge will be quickly forgotten.
Taking up some formal and focussed spiritual study may also be a good idea. It will help us gain the answers to the larger questions of life such as, Who am I? What is the purpose of life? Where can I find true happiness? What is the cause for suffering? Is there a creator and what is His/Her/Its nature?
Once we have a better understanding of the larger picture, our values, ideals, emotional reactions and bodily actions will follow accordingly.
To develop the heart, cultivating a love for God or the higher power is key. We could pray, chant the holy names of God, and read or listen to stories of the divine.
We could end our daily practice with a short meditation.
Outside of our practice, our daily interactions must reflect the noble qualities of the head and heart such as integrity, honesty, humility, love, kindness, forgiveness and patience.
Live and leave happier
When we put in efforts to grow spiritually, our lives will begin to take on greater purpose and meaning. It will help to steer us away from melancholy, depression, resentments, anger, and frustration. It will take us to living happier and more fulfilling lives.
When the time for parting from this world comes, we will have a better chance of leaving with greater peace and satisfaction knowing that we did our best to bring out the spiritual shine from within.
There is an urgency to make the best use of our human lives. Now is the time to turn within.
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