Vanity Karma: Ecclesiastes, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Meaning of Life by Jayadvaita Swami
“Seek and ye shall find” is an important statement that sets the tone for this knowledgeable book. Despite strong religious overtones and a few unbiased preferences it manages to override this by bringing overall enlightenment. Those coming to this book in general will be seekers. They are either somewhere between the scale of looking for meaning in life and being disillusioned by the world.
Using the Ecclesiastes from the Hebrew bible as the subject this is reflected upon by the Bhagavad-Gita a Hindu scripture. The title suggests vanity is the meaning of life, where we foolishly follow the materialistic society in vain. The saying “too much of good thing” comes to mind, as we work, eat, drink, sleep and have love as an endless circle. Why do we do this and is it something worth seeking? This question is dissected using both ancient texts with the author’s beliefs.
A frame of mind and openness by the reader will allow you to contemplate and reflect on your path in life. The beginning chapters are very bleak and feel like a midlife crisis. There is a strong sense of frustration with life and the world. Despite the ages our general life path has remained the same and we continue in this circle regardless of modern innovation. Our seeking of happiness continues to be momentary rather than permanent are the conclusions drawn from reading.
There is a sense of loss and hopeless in maintaining life in the Ecclesiastes. Which takes a slight reluctant stance in requesting we simply enjoy the pleasures that we can in life despite its vanity. I believe sensing this issue the author utilises the Bhagavad-Gita’s more optimistic outlook and focus on serving a Supreme Being.
Considering this is religious text the lack of faith is quite interesting even though the Ecclesiastes refers to being mindful of a fearful God. However the author brings the text round from such bleakness to again refer to serving a Supreme Being. Therefore one could conclude that we should seek God or a Supreme Being to be fully satisfied in life. This may seem a rather obvious conclusion from a religious stance and is often the goal of most religions. A non-religious background may merely require being good and enjoying ones pleasures.
Whether you serve God or your own self this appears to be an endless circle of life that the Ecclesiastes refers to in its text. The context we place on this can be a sense of vanity or not. An important word I have left to the end is karma, which is a form of judgement that we have no saying on. However it is clear from both of the ancient texts will play a part outside of this life. Making our actions in this life taking on a greater meaning. This book is extremely deep and forms many internal discussion for reflection on your own life. This achieves its overall goal and it is very much up to the reader to draw conclusions on the meaning of life.