What is Life ?

Swami Vishnudevanand Saraswati

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Q.: What is life?

Though the answers are innumerable, here are a few:

> 1. Life is a play.

2. The Infinite, acting as the finite soul, is life.

3. Life is a search for Truth.

4. Life is evolution through millions of species.

5. Life is the accretion of experimentation's experience.

6. An Unseen Power, acting as the phenomenal universe, is life.

7. The interplay of substance and shadow, is life.

8. The dance of existence and nonexistence, is life.

9. The mysterious interconnection between the real and the unreal, is life.

10. Appearing and disappearing, is life.

11. Life is a struggle between external and internal forces.

12. Life is a mixture of enjoyment and punishment.

13. Life is a journey from Mineral Kingdom to Vegetable Kingdom; from Vegetable Kingdom to Animal Kingdom; from Animal Kingdom to Mankind.

14. Life is a combination of happiness and misery, pain and pleasure.

15. That which underlies motion and rest, action and inaction, is life.

16. The Unchanging playing as the changing, is life.

17. The cycle of birth and death, is life.

18. The confluence of the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, the unconscious mind and the superconscious mind, is life.

19. The transition from gross to subtle and from subtle to gross, is life.

20. That which exists in both dormant and active states, is life.

21. Life is a drama of creation, preservation and destruction.

22. Life is in light and sound, darkness and silence.

23. Power, or energy, is life.

24. A primordial urge for immortality, eternity, unlimited freedom and eternal wisdom, is life.

25. Something existing in rest and motion, light and darkness, is life.

26. That which passes through semen to body and from body to semen, is life.

27. The cycle of seed to tree and tree to seed, of egg to bird and bird to egg, is life.

28. That which acts in the waking, dream and sound sleep states, and in the superconscious state, is life.

29. Life comes from life and, as such, is life.

30. The transformation from known to unknown, and unknown to known, is life.

31. That which exists before the beginning, during the middle and after the end, is life.

32. The taste of, and distaste for, all happiness and misery in dearth and abundance, is life.

33. The alteration of mood in successes and failures, rises and falls, ups and downs, is life.

34. That which acts through thought and language, but exists beyond mind and speech, is life.

35. That which is in earth, water, fire, air and ether, is life.

36. Life is everywhere, ubiquitous.

37. That which is in laughing and weeping, lamentation and consolation, is life.

38. That which is latent in perception, cognition and meditation, is life.

39. That which takes form and becomes formless, is life.

40. That which underlies the concrete and the abstract, is life.

41. The procession of enthusiasm, hope, aspiration and desperation, is life.

42. The states of impulse, desire, desirelessness, and transcendence of desire, is life.

43. A drama of anger, jealousy, falsehood, honesty, love, hate, cruelty, is life.

44. The changing of mood among passion, dispassion and compassion, is life.

45. Life is a ceaseless effort to solve the problems of perception and cognition.

46. Life is an unending attempt to resolve itself through Self-Realization.

47. Life is a continual struggle to attain immutable happiness and perpetual peace.

48. Life is a performance of spirit, revealing its glory through matter.

49. Life is a duet of matter and spirit.

50. Life is a search to find life's very own source and the cause of its misery.

51. Life is the pursuit of happiness and the avoidance of pain.

52. That which transcends both matter and nothingness, is life.

53. Life is a pageant of mind and intellect, reason and the transcendence of reason.

54. Life is a search for permanent freedom, beyond sensual slavery.

55. Life is a ceaseless quest for divine delight and self-illumination.

56. In all expansion and beyond all contraction, is life.

57. Life is an expression of, and a reflection of, the Supreme Reality, which will return to its source.

58. Activity through the physical senses is material life; activity through the individual soul, identical with the spirit, is spiritual life.

59. Though the truth of life is incomparable, we may still compare it to the radiation of the sun, the gravitation of the earth or the field of a magnet, and may call it cosmic energy.

60. That which acts as the tangible and the intangible, is life.

61. Life is an attempt to attain permanent peace, perennial joy, unchanging wisdom and everlasting freedom through prayer, meditation, spiritual study and metaphysical dialectic.

62. Composition, disintegration, unity, diversity and multiplicity, is life.

63. In the world, people may discern life and lifelessness, birth and death, but in the spiritual sense, life is eternal and everywhere.

64. Though the physical body may be destroyed, no one can destroy the spiritual personality; thus life is eternal.

65. The play of the One in many and the many in One, is life.

66. The amphitheatre of healing and killing, is life.

67. Life is in both visible and invisible, acceptance and rejection.

68. Perception and cognition through the senses, is empirical life.

69. Sensual life is both a farce and a mysterious tragedy.

70. Family life is a mixture of pleasure and pain, a hilarious comedy.

71. The life of husband and wife is a sweet and simple, curious riddle but a ridiculous dilemma.

72. Corporeal life is perishable, subject to ruin in many ways, but spiritual life is imperishable.

73. The combination of comedy and tragedy, is life.

74. Though life has qualities, it is beyond qualification.

75. Cohabitation with the restless, peaceless mind, is life.

76. The quest for nirvana, is life.

77. The struggle to reach the Ultimate Goal, is life.

78. Disciplined life is beneficial and elevating but undisciplined life is detrimental and degrading.

79. Living with the superconscious mind is life's divine apogee.

80. The power of Eternal Existence acting mysteriously in the phenomenal world, is life.

81. A search for self-contentment, self-reliance and self-confidence, is life.

82. "Eat, drink and be merry", is animalistic life.

83. Using the brain and reason to solve the problems of mankind, is human life.

84. Evolution of the soul through spiritual meditation, is transcendental life.

85. Love is life; beyond love is life.

86. The urge to live forever, is life.

87. The earnest desire for liberation, and struggle for it with heart and soul, spending all money, energy and time, in all conditions and in all places, is life.

88. Desirelessness is the life of liberation and emancipation.

89. In talking and acting, and beyond sound and silence, is life.

90. Eternal silence is eternal life, without quality or motion.

91. The interchanging of the changing and the unchanging, is life.

92. That which is with mind and beyond mind, with function and beyond function, is life.

93. Life is plenum without limitation of time and space.

94. We cannot get out of us what is not within us; something cannot come out of nothing; everywhere there is something in unseen condition which is better than the best, greater than the greatest, smaller than the smallest; this all-pervading, Unseen Power, is life.

95. Behind physical activity is a divine spiritual personality that is life.

96. Life is an endeavour to discover its source, the Infinite Eternal Existence, which is obscured by maya, insentient illusion.

97. Life is a battle to find the source of permanent happiness, immortality, perennial peace, unchanging wisdom and eternal freedom through experimentation in this laboratory of phenomena.

98. Life is a collision between the changing and the unchanging, the mortal and the immortal, the real and the unreal, the shadow and substance, and the insentient and the conscious.

99. Life is a mixture of tears of joy and tears of sorrow.

100. A search for Divinity beyond animality and humanity, is life.

101. A quest for unchanging freedom through eradication of misery, is life.

102. To walk the way to Heaven from hell, is life.

103. A search for the limitless from the limited, for the perfect from the imperfect, for certainty from uncertainty, for doubtlessness from doubt, is life.

104. The cycle of smiling to weeping and weeping to smiling, is life.

105. The desire for women and money, or men and money, is life.

106. The evolution of perception, concept, imagination and Realization, is life.

107. Life is deceptive, fanciful, hallucinatory.

108. Life is a span of rises and falls, ups and downs, advances and retreats.


1. God is life; God is Love.

2. Love is life; life is Love.

3. Life comes from life.

4. Life is a mixture of conscience, intelligence and insentience.

5. Life is love between husband and wife, male and female.

6. Life is divine; life is immortal.

7. Do not debate whether matter or spirit is first; the egg or the bird is first; the seed or the tree is first; day or night is first.

8. Life is a combination of bitterness and sweetness.

9. Life is beginningless and endless.

10. If you really wish to understand the world you should understand your own self first: What is your real mind? What is consciousness? What underlies your consciousness?

11. The drama of life is construction, preservation, destruction and re-creation.

12. God is the cause of creation, preservation and destruction.

13. God is Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient.

14. God is Blissful, Peaceful and Beautiful.

15. God is dwelling in the hearts of all creatures, secretly playing as the individual soul.

16. Life is within time and space, and beyond time and space.

17. Life is a mixture of anxiety, perplexity, tranquillity and equanimity.

18. Life is a combination of Heaven and hell, nectar and poison, misery and happiness.


1. The Goal of life is God.

2. The value of life is freedom.

3. The secret of life is time rightly used for elevation of the soul.

4. The Glory of life is balance in physical and spiritual, strength and knowledge.

5. Life without Self-knowledge is barren and bankrupt.

6. The perfection of life is emancipation.

7. A life of helping those in distress, is praiseworthy.

8. The pursuit of sensual enjoyment is animal life.

9. The quest for spiritual elevation is human life.

10. The signs of humane life are honesty, sincerity, love, affection and charity.

11. The greatness of life is service.

12. The aim of life is Self-realization.

13. The stupidity of life is absorption in sensuality.

14. The wisdom of life is following the paths of great souls.

15. The consummation of life is liberation.

16. Life is a mysterious opportunity to enter the burial ground.

17. Life is an exhibition of the illusory power of an infinite juggler.

18. Life is eternal hope with unlimited scope.


Life is a play. An Infinite Unseen Power is playing as the finite soul. The Unseen becomes manifest in atomic form. The Unseen projects the seen and the seen reflects the Unseen. Life appears and disappears, cycling from subtle to gross and gross to subtle; from seed to tree and from tree to seed; from egg to bird and from bird to egg. When the seed grows and takes the form of a plant or a tree, its potency remains throughout in subtle form, in the leaves, branches and flowers. As the fruit ripen, the seed appears once more. Nothing is destroyed through the annihilation of name and form. Appearance and disappearance is only the play of the Unseen Power, which sustains every atom in the universe.

Life begins its creation with the ether, followed in succession by air, fire, water and earth. It first creates the mineral kingdom, then the vegetable, the animal and ultimately man.

God is the reality behind all life. God or the Self is Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute and Bliss Absolute. It exists in Its glory throughout the past, the present and the future.

Man is not only a rational being in physical form; real man is immortal, eternal in his fundamental nature. Man is the ultimate creation of the universe. He is an intelligent animal who must try to solve the problem of life through reason, and thereby pass beyond reason.

While you are watching television, on millions of other receivers people are enjoying the same broadcast. Only a single person is dancing and singing at the station, though his image appears on numerous screens. In the sensory world, the one Unseen Power manifests in every name and form.

Life may be compared to water which circulates from sky to earth and earth to sky. Rain falling on the highest peaks is crystal clear, but as it flows downward it gathers pollutants and loses its transparence. Similarly, during life, the mind accumulates confusion and loses sight of its real nature, beauty and glory. Most rivers meander widely on their way to the sea; most lives are perturbed by multitudinous thoughts and activities in different times, places and circumstances. The mind is the cause of happiness and misery, birth and death, attachment and indifference, bondage and liberation.

Life subsists in the waking state with the gross body and the conscious mind, in the dream state with the subtle body and the subconscious mind, in dreamless sleep with the causal body and the unconscious mind, and in the transcendental state with the cosmic body and the superconscious mind. In this final state one becomes liberated and one's character becomes charged with divine realization.

A Self-realized soul lives in this changing, illusory world like a boat floating on the water. Though immersed in the world of phenomena, he does not allow this world to enter his heart. He remains detached like a skillful actor in the drama of the world.

The mind is the most mysterious power in the world. Its nature can be fathomed only through meditation, through devotion or through annihilation of the ego. Thereafter, one can realize the Inner Self, the Infinite Ultimate Reality of the universe. Anyone who has realized the Supreme Truth through spiritual practice is free of anxiety, tension and confusion.


There is an All-pervading, Infinite Power in this universe which is One, without a second. That One, Infinite Power, in the hearts of all creatures, acts as the individual soul. Thus reflected, It plays the part of the mind. The mind has no power of its own but acts through power borrowed from the soul. The mind is the agent of maya. It is neither real, nor unreal, nor a mixture of the two, but mysterious. When one perceives it, it appears real, but when it disappears, it seems unreal.

The Infinite Power may be conceived of as with quality or as without quality. The mind is the intermediary between body and soul. It creates, destroys, and creates once more. It is a most elusive power in the sensory world.

But one may penetrate the mystery of the mind by continuously thinking a single thought or by trying not to think at all. In this way, one becomes master of one's mind and becomes acquainted with the superconscious mind. One separates oneself from the physical body and enters samadhi, the transcendental state.

The practice of concentration requires great mental energy. Nobody who does not observe brahmacarya, sexual restraint, can attain knowledge of the Self, or God. Anyone attaining Self-knowledge is ever free from the lure of sensual pleasure, because Self-knowledge gives the highest happiness along with perpetual peace, immutable wisdom and eternal freedom. A Self-realized person is endowed with self-control, self-contentment, self-confidence and unbounded joy.