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The Purpose of Life

According to Indian philosophy, it is only through the human birth that the supreme Experience can be attained and the individual soul can finally merge into the Supreme Soul. And that is the purpose and the goal of human birth. Swami Sivananda lays repeatedly great emphasis on this aspect, and assures that you can attain That in this very birth. His teachings on this subject are worth reading, reflecting and contemplating daily. Here are some of his teachings on this subject...

The purpose of life is to realise the oneness of all creation and one's identity with the Divinity. True life is life in God.

The goal of life is God-realisation. Never forget this. It is your birthright.

To become divine is the aim of life.

The purpose of human birth is to achieve Divine Consciousness. You have come here to attain supreme and unalloyed Bliss.

The purpose of your existence is to serve with divine bhava (attitude), to purify and steady the mind, to attain freedom and perfection, which is Self-realisation.

In one sentence I can tell you what I myself wish to convey to you. It is: "Know thy Self and be free." This is the very essence of spiritual discourses.

Have definite, chief aim - God-realisation. Practise self-control, have a fully ripe and pure mind. Cultivate strong discrimination, burning yearning for liberation. Meditate ceaselessly on your inner Self which is the only Reality, which is pure Consciousness, have perfect faith in guru and God.

Do not miss the golden opportunity this life gives you for God-realisation. Let each day dawn for you as a fresh opportunity and occasion, opening up before you to move one step further towards the great attainment of God-realisation.

Identify yourself with the pure, immortal Atma, the non-dual Brahman.

Man! Wake up. Precious is human birth. It is given to you to do rigorous yoga-abhyasa (practice of Yoga) and to attain the supreme goal of God-realisation. Awaken the soul-force in you. You can work wonders.

There is a para-vastu (transcendental Principle) in the innermost recess of your heart - the daharakasha. It is self-luminous, sva-prakasha.

Recognise, O Prem, that you are the living Truth. Realise that you are always inseparable from the one Essence that is the substratum of all these names and forms, these false shadowy appearances. Get yourself firmly established in that Brahman, the Light of lights. Nothing can disturb you now. You have become invulnerable.

Stand up, O Prem! Follow me. Enjoy the Bliss of Atman. The river of Atmic joy is flowing all around. There is deluge of the Bliss of Self. Drink the nectar to your heart's content.


Swami Sivananda maintained that unless the mind becomes free from the impurities of man's lower nature and man purifies himself by selfless service, he cannot take up the advanced spiritual practices. Karma Yoga or selfless service is the starting block. He used to allot selfless service to new aspirants. Even after attaining the highest State selfless service continues, because the yogi has become totally selfless and it becomes his very nature to help others. In this way, Swamiji's entire life was a saga of selfless service, and had he helped others without ever thinking about his own self. Swami Venkatesananda has observed: "The world has never seen another person who has rejoiced to give - to give his all, to give himself, to give unasked. Posterity might well call him 'Give-ananda' (one who rejoices in giving) instead of Siv-ananda. There is not a thing, which he would not give without the least thought. Giving spontaneously is his second nature, basic urge." Gurudev Swami Sivananda himself has said: "I take immense delight in service. Service has elevated me. Service has purified me. This body is meant for service. I live to serve everyone and make the whole world happy." And also, "To give people and to share what I have is my inborn nature. I spent all my energy and time in relieving human suffering by serving the poor and the sick day and night with a sympathetic heart. This kind of selfless service gave me purification of heart and mind and led me to spiritual path."

Karma Yoga is the Yoga of selfless service. It purifies the heart and leads to the descent of Divine Grace, and dawn of wisdom of the Self.

God's plan for man's evolution is work. Love of God and service of man is the secret of true life. Service of man is service of God. Do service of others with the feeling that God dwells in all and receives your service as worship. Service is worship of God.

Do not lose a single opportunity in helping and serving others. Do not expect anything when you serve a man or when you give a gift. Thank him for giving you a good opportunity to serve him.

By doing service you purify your heart. Egoism, hatred, jealousy, idea of superiority vanish. Humility, pure love, sympathy, tolerance and mercy are developed. Selfishness is eradicated. You develop a broad heart with broad, generous views. You realise One-in-all and all-in-One. Sense of separateness is annihilated. You feel unbound joy.

Do not expect the fruits of your actions. Give up agency or doership. Feel that you are an instrument in the hands of the Lord and that God does everything. Be balanced in success and failure. Be not attached to the actions themselves.

Actions should be performed without attachment, without the feeling of doing. Perform works merely for God's sake, abandoning even such attachment as 'May God be pleased'.

The spirit of service must be innate or inherent in you. Make others truly happy as you strive to make yourself happy. Speak a helpful word. Give a cheering smile. Do a kind act. Wipe the tears of one who is in distress. Render smooth a rough place in another's path. You will feel great joy.

Work is worship. Work is meditation. Serve all with intense love, without expectation of fruit or reward. You will realise God. Service of humanity is service of God.

A karmayogi does not expect even a return of love, appreciation, gratitude or admiration from the people whom he is serving.

Actions do not bind. It is only the erroneous idea 'I am acting' that binds. Serve everyone without the idea of doership. Serve everyone without the idea of agency. Feel that you are only a nimitta (instrument) in the hands of God.

When you serve others, feel that you are serving the Lord in them, or your own Self.

Remember that all are His children. Serve the poor.

Keep God in your heart, selfless service in your hands and God's name on your lips.

There is not an iota of hope to realise the Self without self-purification by Nishkama Karma Yoga (Yoga of selfless action).

Of all the paths for the individual soul to realise the Supreme Soul, the Karma Yoga is the best, safest and quickest, and is suited to modern conditions and temperament of the people.

A doctor who works in the hospital should think that all patients are manifestations of God. He should think, 'I am doing all my actions to please the Lord.' He should think that he works to carry out the Divine Will in the grand plan. He should consecrate all his actions at His feet.

Bhava is important in the practice of Karma Yoga. Every action becomes a yogic activity or an offering unto the Lord, when it is performed with the right bhava or spirit. Spiritualise all your actions.

Service of sick and suffering persons, service to society or country, in any form with atma-bhava or Narayana-bhava will constitute Nishkama Karma Yoga in the broad sense of the term.

Karma Yoga is a leveller. It removes all illusory distinctions and differences, and leads to unity and advaitic feeling of oneness. It removes inertia and idleness and gives you good health.

If you abandon attachment to the fruit of actions, if you are contented, if you consecrate the fruits of actions and the actions themselves to the Lord, you will attain emancipation. You are (then) not doing anything, although doing actions.

Purify your mind through selfless service of humanity. Service of humanity is service of God. See Lord Narayana in the poor and sick. Serve him with intense faith and bhava. When you purify yourself by untiring service for a number of years, the light of Knowledge will flash in you and you will ultimately merge in God.

God helps those who help themselves. God's grace will descend on those persons who exert. Be up and doing. Strive. Plod. Persevere. The Lord will shower His grace upon you.

The spirit of service must be deeply ingrained in your very bones, cells, tissues and nerves. My dear friends! Evince intense zeal and enthusiasm for work. Be fiery in the spirit of service.


Swami Sivananda says that ego and selfishness are the main obstacles preventing man from attaining his real nature, which is divine perfection. Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of devotion) helps the aspirant in transcending these obstacles. A bhakta (devotee) forgets his self and treats all men as children of the Lord. Swami Venkatesananda saw in Swami Sivananda, an embodiment of love and Bhakti Yoga as well: "If love walked on earth in human garb it could not have excelled Gurudev (Swami Sivananda) in his self-giving compassion. Gurudev's life is but a song of love, a love that had no thought for self, but constantly wished and practised welfare of everyone...Welfare of man is his gospel of positivism."

Way to God:

Start the day with God,

Fill the day with God,

End the day with God,

Live the day with God.

This is the way to God.

That Yoga through which the devotee unites himself with the Lord is Bhakti Yoga. Prayer, japa, kirtan, remembrance, worship, meditation, self-surrender are all limbs of Bhakti Yoga.

Bhakti is devotion or unselfish love. Bhakti is an intense attachment to God, deep interest in God and things concerned with God. Bhakti is resting in God. It is supreme love for God. Love for God should be unselfish. There should be no earthly motive behind love for God. There is no selfish expectation in Bhakti. The devotee wants God and God alone.

Bhakti is the direct approach to the Ideal through the heart. Love is natural to everybody. Bhakti can be practised under all conditions and by all alike. It is available for everyone. Bhakti is easier than any other way of approach to God.

Bhakti Yoga is a method to kill the sense of separateness or egoism. It annihilates the modifications of mind and fills it with universal consciousness. The ego cannot assert now, for God alone is everywhere.

How does love for God give us Liberation from samsara? Man is an egoistic entity. His only enemy is ego. It is difficult to separate the 'I' notion from the body. Bhakti Yoga is the method to kill the sense of separateness or egoism. It annihilates modifications of the mind and fills the individual with Universal Consciousness. Objective consciousness is dead when the presence of God is felt everywhere.

Bhakti is the passport to the Kingdom of the Lord. Practise sadachara (right conduct), ahimsa, satyam (truth) and brahmacharya (celibacy). Destroy worldly passions and cravings. Then alone Bhakti will grow.

A real devotee says: "Let me be endowed with purity, spiritual strength, spirit of selfless service and divine virtues." A devotee should become an embodiment of goodness. He must be ever ready to do good to all living beings. He who rejoices in the welfare of all beings obtains the peace of the Eternal, (and) develops Advaitic (non-dual) Consciousness eventually.

Righteousness will become svabhava (nature) of the Lord's bhakta. He is not bound by any rules; but his conduct will be beyond reproach - pure and sublime. Dharma is made by him. He will possess all experiences- success and failure, censure and praise, pleasure and pain - as His blessings, and will ever be happy in His remembrance, in His service.

All is God and nothing but God. When the presence of God is felt everywhere, objective consciousness is dead - there is no object except God. Who is there to be loved or hated? The bhakta (devotee) is, therefore, blissful at all times.

God is always with you. He will protect and deliver you. Take refuge in Him. His blessings will overflow in your life and transform your mind and your body. Feel His presence everywhere.

The child thinks of the mother and mother alone. Even so, the devotee should entertain in his heart the picture of his Ishtam (chosen Deity) and Ishtam alone.

The whole world is Vrindavan (the holy place of Lord Krishna) for a devotee. He beholds the Lord everywhere. He says: "Sarvam Vishnumayam jagat- the whole world is Lord Vishnu only."

children of Divinity! Wake up. Open your eyes. Remember God, the imperishable, the only source of everlasting Happiness. Do not waste your time. Strive ceaselessly. Feel His indwelling presence everywhere. God is full of mercy, love and compassion.

Bhakti transmutes man into divinity. It makes him perfect. It gives him eternal satisfaction. It weans the mind from the sensual objects. It makes him rejoice in God. It blossoms afterwards into Jnana (Knowledge). It leads to Immortality or God-realisation.

Pray to Him like a child. Be frank and confess all your troubles before Him. If you take one step nearer to the Divine Being, He will come a hundred by leaps and bounds to you.

Surrender everything to Him. Let Him mould you in any way He likes. He will remove all defects and weaknesses.

Give up all selfish efforts and free yourself from the wild unrest of life. Be in tune with Divine Will. Cross the wide ocean of strife by calming the mind through ceaseless meditation and reach the other shore of peace, fearlessness and Immortality.

The devotee, who has no will of his own, says unto the Lord: "O Lord! I am Thine. All is Thine. I am not a separate entity. You are doing everything taking myself as instrument. I am doing nothing. You are the doer. Thy Will be done. Thou art just. Thou dost everything for me"

The greater the intensity of surrender, the more the descent of the Lord's grace. The descent of grace is in direct proportion to the degree of self-surrender. Obtain the grace of the Lord through self-surrender. You will be able to cross Maya.

In surrendering one's will to the Lord's, his will becomes one with the Cosmic Will. He becomes one with the Lord.

God is full of mercy, love and compassion. He has been described as 'Ocean of mercy.' If you pray to Him from the bottom of your heart, He will purify your thoughts, speech and actions in the fire of Divine Love. Kindle the flame of Divine Love in your heart.

Lord Krishna says: "I am under complete control of My bhaktas. They have taken entire possession of My heart. How can I leave them when they have renounced everything for My sake?" The Lord is really devotee's own. He is depicted as having sold Himself to His devotees, so to say. He becomes a slave of His Devotees.

Have full trust in Him. Rest in peace. All cares, worries, anxieties, tribulations and egoistic efforts will terminate now.

Devotion and earthly desire cannot exist side by side. They are like light and darkness.

Para Bhakti, the supreme devotion, and jnana are one. The devotee of Para Bhakti does not perform any rituals. He beholds his Lord everywhere. The whole world is the svarupa (form) of the Lord.

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