In an earlier post I asked the question, "What exactly does it all mean ?" and talked about the existential questions that arise in our lives. Most of us push the questions out to the boundaries of our lives and they are often only revisited during times of trauma or great stress - the death of a loved one, a fall from grace from a very great height or worse - sometimes it may be our own impending death.
Many of us spend our lives thinking about these questions. It becomes a lifetimes work or perhaps an obsession. Sometimes the prompting has come from unusual or formidable transcendental experience of one sort or another. For me it has been an enjoyable obsession. I have read many of the western philosophers, delved into the works of Carl Jung the great psychoanalyst, read some of the more accessible theologians and read much on comparative religion, especially Christianity and Buddhism.
The conclusion that I have come to is that the meaning of life is not a set of philosophical principals, a system of beliefs, but a process of finding out how to be fully human, to live with intensity and creativity in the present moment. Why this conclusion? - because to try and understand ultimate reality is impossible. The ultimate answer is Gods alone, however you might conceive the term God. If this ultimate enlightenment comes to us it will be in another life, another reality, beyond our present situation.
Perhaps one book that has struck a resonance with me beyond all others has been "THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE - My Climb out of Darkness" by Karen Armstrong. Her story is about becoming human, being recognised and finally recognising herself, about dead end byways off the main track that paradoxically in the end help her find her own royal highway to self hood and a kind of redemption. It is a wonderful story. At the end of the book she has this to say:
" He had told me that in most traditions, faith was not about belief but about practice. Religion is not about accepting twenty impossible propositions before breakfast, but about doing things that change you. It is a moral aesthetic, an ethical alchemy. It you believe in a certain way you will be transformed. The myths and laws of religion are not true because they conform to some metaphysical, scientific, or historical reality but because they are life enhancing. They tell you how human nature functions, but you will not discover their truth unless you apply these myths and doctrines to your own life and put them into practice."
"I have discovered that the religious quest is not about discovering "The Truth" or The Meaning of Life" but about living as intensely as possible in the here and now. The idea is not to latch on to some superhuman personality or to "get to heaven" but to discover how to be fully human - hence the images of the perfect or enlightened man, or the deified human being. Archetypal figures such as Muhammad, the Buddha and Jesus become icons of fulfilled humanity. God or Nirvana is not an optional extra, tacked on to our human nature. Men and women have a potential for the divine, and are not complete unless they realise it within themselves. A passing Brahman priest once asked the Buddha whether he was a god, a spirit, or an angel. None of these the Buddha replied; "I am awake." "