“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Looking at the lives of gurus, both sadgurus and junior gurus, it is clear that they are great examples of Emerson’s principles. Namadeva Acharya’s motivations in all his endeavors in life, both spiritual and mundane, were based on these principles.
I was born in the 1940s. We were raised in the Forties and Fifties in a culture that was based on the principles in the Emerson quote. Those principles are are very grounding and were part of our generational impetus to rebel against the obvious abuse of a war with no purpose and an effort to make the USA live up to its claimed purpose in the Pledge of Allegiance, etc. This led to our response to injustice and participation in the Civil Rights movement, supporting Cesar Chavez and Delores Huerta in the farm workers union, and later the Second Wave of Feminism. During that time, I never heard people question why they were on the planet in the way younger people do. The Sixties and Seventies were also a time of spiritual questing, and many explored different ways of life and beliefs to satisfy the perennial inner spiritual drive of all humans.
One of the major reasons that younger people think differently is that major media, particularly television, deliberately in the late Seventies morphed into All Propaganda All The Time. I was working at WCBS-TV in NYC in 1977 and saw a huge change at that station, which got rid of all the investigative journalists and those who would not read exactly what was on the prompter and also changed their public service programs to be less inclusive of non establishment ideas and people. Later, stations dropped those programs entirely. The principles of advertising were used to persuade viewers that protesting, resisting were useless. Newscasters did not chit-chat but read the prompters, which said literally, “Oh, you can’t fight city hall” and other phrases to discourage protest and create the impression that resisters are wierdos. Shortly afterward in the Reagan era, the intensive propaganda plus advertising urged everyone to find their happiness in stuff. Everyone was urged to become Yuppies. Kids who saw this in nearly every tv show, grew up not with Emerson but with extreme materialism.
I am very happy as an old activist to see the engagement and activity of the Millennials and others more recently to make positive changes in America and the world.
I hope lots of people see this essay and re-think why they are so unhappy, then reject the pop culture all around us.
A good life is a life in balance. If we nurture our souls and have devotion to the Divine, seek knowledge, and serve others, which is Raja Yoga, the highest path to mukti (liberation from the rounds of rebirth) then we will be fulfilled and know we have lived life to the best of our abilities.