Meaning of Life by Swami Nikhilananda - Book Review

As with all reviews on this website, our goal is not to provide a complete overview of the book; rather, it is to examine how the book relates to the meaning of life.

Meaning of Life is a short book with a total of 23 pages written by Swami Nikhilananda, the spiritual leader of the Chinmaya Mission. The book revolves around the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu practices.

The book opens with the idea that being reincarnated as a human is very rare, and that it may take millions of lifespans to get to this form. Furthermore, each human is also on a different plane of spiritual evolution. That is, some humans are less spiritually awake than others. An example of a person on a lower plane of spirituality may include an individual that blames everyone else for any troubles that may befall him or her; as opposed to an individual who accepts this troubles and makes the best of what he or she has. To people who are less evolved, he states, the meaning of life is ‘khāo, piyo aura majā karo – eat, drink and be merry’. Swami Nikhilananda does state that despite our differences, the one thing we have in common is our search for happiness, peace and contentment.

The next tier of understanding and meaning according to Swami Nikhilananda is love; or in his words When we evolve to understand the meaning of life as love – unconditional love – a love so subtle that by itself it gives joy; such a love gives a great sense of peace.

The third tier of meaning is when we express that love for God, to give us the ultimate meaning of life. Or as the author puts it, through meditation, one experiences the self as God. One experiences oneself as ‘divine’. One experiences oneself as one with the Totality. This gives ultimate meaning to our life. One who has experienced this deepest state of meditation has found the ultimate meaning of life. This is very similar to the philosophy in the book The Meaning of Life by Vimal Sehgal which was previously reviewed on this site. However, unlike Vimal Sehgal's book, this one doesn't attempt to justify the caste system. This book is very focused, and to the point of meaning, and steps one should take to evolve spiritually.

Overall, Swami Nikhilananda makes a lot of good points in the book, about the right knowledge and practices being able to bring more significant meaning to one's life. Despite all of our biological and technological advances, people still end up committing suicide — the ultimate rebellion against our genetic coding. Clearly, there is something has gone awry here.

The book ends with the following quote:

The meaning of life is the meaning we give to it. We give meaning to our own lives. We cannot find its meaning in a dictionary, despite this, all of us have a different view of the meaning of life. If we do a survey, everyone will have a different theory about the meaning of life. The greatest meaning we will be able to give is when we go into a state of meditation and experience ourselves as divine. Great are the enlightened beings who have experienced this, for they have found the ultimate meaning of life!

We rate the book the following:

Overall - 7

Meaning of Life Relevance - 9

Uniqueness – 7

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