By Sravani Bhattacharjee

However engrossed with this world we might be, a time comes when we begin to question its very subsistence.  We rush to grab enjoyment and pleasures, fame and fortune, acquire as many physical objects as possible . . . but with the passing of time those very objects lose their luster, they fail to give us happiness anymore.

And then we confront death. A near and dear one in our lives passes away to the other shore, leaving all belongings (even the body) behind. And that makes us ask – what happens after death? Is that “the end” or one continues to exist after death? It also makes us “see” the impermanence of things, of this world, and of life itself, as we had perceived it till then.

That’s when religion truly finds a place in our lives.

In religion begins our quest for the Eternal . . . something above and beyond our sense limits. We start seeking goodness, justice, righteousness, well-being, and bliss. The concept of heaven takes shape in our awareness – an “other world” where everything is better than our present experience. We dream of a life after death in heaven where all our longings are satiated. We worship a greater being or God who can grant our wishes.

This dissatisfaction with our present condition is rooted in the concept of our degeneration from a higher state of existence, which is a central theme found in all religions.

Religion assures that although we degenerated from our pure, perfect state, becoming perfect is our goal and can be attained. 

Our inner longing for perfection finds expression in all our desires, pursuits, as we strive to evolve and reclaim our lost glory. 

Evolution happens only in the material plane. The amoeba as matter evolves to a Buddha over the ages.

We are identified to our material existence – consisting of body, mind (thoughts, memory) and intellect, whose contents just like in a flowing river, are constantly changing.

Then how do we get the continuity or permanence of our individuality?

Vedanta gave that answer ages ago. 

Our changeful existence and experiences subsist on an unchanging substratum, which is the “real individual.” Much like a screen on which a movie is projected. We perceive both as “one,” though the screen alone is unchanging.

There is no evolution of that real “I,” also known as the Self or the Atman. 

Mind is where time, space, causation and thence the entire creation emerges from and subsists.

Even the gross universe is a condensed form of subtler thoughts and we are caught in this apparent world of names and forms, trying desperately to live happily forever, but never succeed.

Is there a way out? 

As the answer, Swami Vivekananda gives us a strong “call to action.”

Practice. Listen to the Truth repeatedly – that you are the Self – unchanging and beyond all bounds.

Meditate on that incessantly. And then a day will dawn when you realize who you REALLY are.