We were on a retreat. Away from the hustle bustle of daily routine. No phones, no newspapers. Repeating a mantra – when I am in the retreat, I am in the retreat – for a few times.
We did a mental exercise to relax the body and the mind. Reducing the distractions, now we could focus on the topic. Initially I thought the topic was simple. Sharing of our experiences of asking what for and exploring the essence of – the meaning of whatever we were doing.
There was a suggestion. What we are doing with parts, can we do with the whole also? I was puzzled. Then came the clarification. While it is good to explore the meaning of the different tasks we are doing, can we ask the same question about our life itself?
‘Why not?’ was my immediate response.
But slowly the significance of the sentence sank in me. I had never thought from this angle. The word ‘life’ itself appeared to me too heavy and philosophical. To think about my life appeared to be very big thing. Are we supposed to live the life or think about the life? Is it not the area of philosophers or spiritual gurus or religion or simply for elderly people?
Being in the retreat I was at peace with myself. Everyone around was in a reflective mood too. The situation was congenial to take the plunge. Like all others, I located an isolated spot, sat there alone and started reflecting. What for am I living? What is the meaning of my life?
A statement made by a friend popped up in my mind. He related life to an ice-cream. Enjoy before it melts. Is it not true? Is life not for enjoying? Eat, drink, dance and enjoy. But in my daily life I am faced with so many challenges, tensions and even frustrations that I rarely enjoy. Am I living the life in a wrong way? But then a doubt appeared in my mind – does this not appear to be too trivial an answer? The meaning of life can’t be just to enjoy. There must be something more. The sentence necessary but not sufficient kept on ringing in my mind.
I explored further. I could think of life all around. Children being born, growing up, school, college, job, business, marriage, having children, growing them up, aging and death. In the meantime, all along a race to be bigger and better in all streams with a tone of tension all throughout the life. Could life be a rat race running from one goal post to another until ‘the end’? While this may capture the external aspects of life of many people this can not be an answer to ‘what for’ for the life. While birth and death are reality, there must be some meaning for how you live in between the two.
I remembered a religious discourse that I had attended. The speaker was talking something about life that did not interest me much then. He was telling that purpose of the life is to achieve God. It is to get liberty from the cycle of multiple births. I did not understand it much then and even now when I am thinking on it, I could not make much sense out of it.
I realised that this apparently simple question has raised multiple other questions that I have never raised all along in my life.
After a while all us gathered in the hall and exchanged our notes. We realised that it is a difficult question with no easy answer in sight. But we also agreed that it is an important question that we need to think over
I did not get the answer, but I realised one thing for sure. That I am moving ahead in my journey of becoming better human being.