This article was originally written on May 9, 2006 and posted by Michael Bowes on the old HS blog.
One weekend in the early 1990s, my friend Narayan and I went to Saint Louis, Missouri to visit with Swami Chetanananda. Narayan and I have known Swami since the late 1980s. On Sunday morning of that weekend we were eating breakfast with Swami and the other residents of the temple, and according to the custom there, we were all reading a portion of the newspaper.
When reading the paper, Narayan nearly always goes straight to the “funnies”.
We were all reading and eating. Swami was at the head of the table, I was to his left, and Narayan was to my left. At some point Narayan nudges me and hands me the funnies. He pointed to the “Donald Duck” comic strip.
Donald Duck was in the Himalayas searching for his guru. And there were signs posted in the mountains that said “Guru”, and then an arrow would be pointing to a certain direction. And Donald followed the signs and arrows until finally, at the top of a mountain peak sat the guru with a personal computer in front of him.
Donald Duck asked the guru, “What is the meaning of life?”
The guru didn’t answer; but the computer started printing out something that couldn’t be read on the comic strip.
The gag was that personal computers were becoming the rage, and now even the guru was using one to divine the mystic truths.
But another peculiar thing was that Narayan and I were searching for a guru and a spiritual home; and now, thanks to Donald Duck, the stage was set for that possibility.
I nudged Swami and handed him the funnies while pointing to the Donald Duck comic strip. He read it and handed it back without saying a word, and continued to eat breakfast. After breakfast Swami went to prepare for his weekly public talk. The rest of us cleaned up after the meal and relaxed until the beginning of the service.
Swami began his Sunday morning talk and I really don’t remember the topic; but near the end he announced that he was going to reveal the “Meaning of Life”. He was going to reply to the question in the funnies.
Swami started by saying, “The meaning of life is bliss.”; and the following is a very loose paraphrase of what he said to explain that statement:
There is an “ocean of bliss” that is the source, the cause and support of all that we see; And in its manifest forms that bliss is experienced as amrita, rasa, love, joy, happiness, fun, hope, peace and even as pain and suffering. Pain and suffering serve as motivation for us to find a way to return to our original state of bliss.
We were all born from bliss. We arrive in this world because one day or one night our parents engaged in a blissful activity, and as a result we were born. From that day on, all of our conscious and even subconscious activities are meant to help us either directly or indirectly to achieve bliss and happiness.
As children all we really wanted to do was play. Our true unconditioned nature is playful. But, as we start to get a little older, we are forced to go to school and we are conditioned by society to perform certain useful functions.
But bliss, happiness, satisfaction, etc. are still the primary objective of all of our behaviors. Our parents and our society force us to go to school so that we can get a job, so that we can earn money, so that we can be happy.
We marry because we believe that another person will fulfill us and make us happy. We have children because we think that will make us happy. Everything that we do is ultimately for happiness and bliss. Even so called, “selfless love” only serves to satisfy ourselves. We believe that by performing our self-ordained duties that we will be satisfied.
A short time after I heard these words from Swami, I directly experienced that “ocean of bliss”. Our own true nature is something that cannot be imagined, and it is truly inexpressible. Since then, even though I have gone through some dark times, it isn’t possible for me to worry or lose my connection to that blissful being, the “ocean of bliss” that is our own true nature. And I have a lot of fun. I can’t seem to avoid it.
I began to experience this truth because of an encounter with the “funny paper”.
Love and peace to all,