To know the meaning of challenge, know the challenge of meaning
Materialists sometimes accuse spiritualists, “You are escapists – you run away from problems. You don’t even know the meaning of challenge.”
The fact however is that it is the materialists who run away from the ultimate challenge: the challenge of meaning.
The deepest thinkers throughout history have pondered the challenge of meaning, especially when confronted with the mortality and fragility of human existence: “What is gained by succeeding in challenges that will mean nothing to me when everything will be finished at death? Why do I exist? Why does anything exist? What is the point of it all?”
The deepest thinkers throughout history have pondered the challenge of meaning, especially when confronted with the mortality and fragility of human existence
Materialists find such questions so discombobulating that they frequently avoid them altogether. They lose themselves in the here-and-now by setting challenging worldly goals. On achieving some of these goals, they ostentatiously pat each other on the back. But even after joining such a self-congratulatory circle, they can’t get rid of the existential meaninglessness that gnaws at their hearts. So they bury themselves in new challenges – till death ends their meaningless pursuit of challenges.
Spiritualists are bold enough to confront the challenge of meaning head-on. They recognize that the search for meaning being a function of consciousness cannot be fulfilled in unconscious matter. So they explore the arena of consciousness, the spiritual reality that underlies material reality. To guide such exploration, they turn to time-honored spiritual texts such as the Bhagavad-gita. Therein they come to know about their own identity as indestructible spiritual beings, souls, whose search for meaning comes from the consciousness that is integral to their spiritual essence. And that search culminates in understanding the all-attractive, all-loving supreme person, God, Krishna, who imbues everything with meaning. All living beings are his eternal parts and are meant to delight in a life of eternal love with him.
Those who dedicate themselves for learning to love and serve him transform their life in this temporary world into a gateway to the eternal world. Significantly, such devotee-spiritualists don’t avoid all challenges in this world – they embrace those challenges that are spiritually meaningful. For example, Arjuna after hearing the Gita took up the challenge of assisting the divine in establishing dharma in this world by doing his prescribed duty, and so do all Gita-guided spiritualists.
Gita wisdom offers its analysis of meaning not as a dogma to be accepted uncritically but as a proposition that can be realized experientially through the time-honored process of bhakti-yoga. The Gita (07.03) indicates that those who meet this challenge of meaning are rare, one among millions. After all, it takes courage to turn away from the meaningless challenges of popular culture – courage that materialists lack and spiritualists possess.