Meaningless material existence becomes meaningful through the human form (Churning the Bhagavatam 1)

by April 24, 2015

Material existence, when subjected to a hard look, seems futile. A lion pounces on a deer and rips it apart. What terror and trauma the deer must be undergoing during its last moments as it watches itself getting caught and cut and consumed!

On observing such brutality, naturalists such as Darwin posited that the struggle for existence was nature’s innate feature. Given the severity of this struggle, he held that only the fittest could survive. However, he didn’t get it quite right – actually, even the fittest can’t survive; they too end up on the losing side in the struggle for existence. That they may die a little later than the less fit doesn’t change death’s inescapability.

Contemplation on this harsh nature of nature begs the question: What is the point of it all? Struggle, struggle, struggle, and then die – is that all there is to existence?

Struggle, struggle, struggle, and then die – is that all there is to existence?

No, there is more, declare the world’s great wisdom-traditions. Vedic wisdom explains that at our core lies an immortal being, the soul. That soul is the real person. The soul within you is the actual you and the soul within me is the actual me. And this soul has an eternal relationship with the supreme soul, God, Krishna, who is the all-attractive Supreme Person. By redirecting our love from temporary things to our eternal Lord, we can raise our consciousness to the spiritual level of existence, which being immortal is beyond the meaninglessness of mortal material existence.

Srimad Bhagavatam (11.09.28) outlines how the Lord didn’t feel satisfied after creating various nonhuman species, but became satisfied after creating the human form with its capacity for spiritual perception. This verse appears in a section of the Bhagavatam that deals with the importance of the human form, not the process of creation. This non-creationist context points to the verse’s thrust – not chronology, but teleology.

Krishna felt satisfied after creating the human form because humans alone can fulfill the purpose of creation. That purpose is to provide a facility for souls to rise from the temporary world to the eternal world. The human faculty for metaphysical enquiry, which is our unique gift, makes us seek meaning in life. Such a search if pursued unsentimentally forces us to admit that our present life is rendered ultimately meaningless by death. If we still persevere in our search, then we look for some meaning that survives and transcends death. That search, when guided by the wisdom coming from God-given scriptures, enables us to progressively realize our spiritual identity and ultimately attain eternal life with Krishna.

Thus, for the soul entrapped in pointless-seeming material existence, the human form offers the intelligence to understand the point of it all. Put another way, the human form makes all of material existence meaningful – souls in nonhuman forms need to evolve by transmigration to the human form, wherein alone they can realize their spiritual identity and thus transcend material existence’s meaninglessness.

As the need for meaning keeps nagging materialists, they try to construct a colossal edifice of meaning through material society, friendship and love. 

Unfortunately, many humans neglect their privilege of metaphysical enquiry and devote their lives to pursuing material pleasures. As the search for meaning keeps nagging such materialists, they try to construct a colossal edifice of meaning through material society, friendship and love. But the whole edifice comes crumbling down when the Grim Reaper comes calling. Thus, though material existence inclusive of the human form is ultimately meaningful, still this meaning eludes those humans who live non-spiritually. So, the responsibility to make our existence meaningful by living spiritually rests on each one of us.

Pertinently, the next verse (11.09.29: arthadam anityam api) indicates that though human life is mortal, like life in all other species, still it holds the potential to grant a meaningful fruit – the fruit of eternal existence. And the verse urges us to not waste time in pursuing the bodily pleasures available in all other species, but to forthwith pursue the spiritual fulfillment available only in the human form, thereby making our existence supremely meaningful.


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