Reviewed by Qalamdar
Name of the Book: Talaash: A Search for the True Meaning of Life
Author: AiR (Atman in Ravi)
Published by AiR, Bangalore (for details, see www.air.ind.in)
Possibly the most basic existential question that we could ask is, “What is the purpose of human life?” Since we are all destined to die one day or the other and leave this earthly realm, what is the ultimate meaning of our temporary stay on this planet?
Even though this is such a vital issue, our response to which can determine how we choose to spend our limited time on Earth, how many of us do actually seriously reflect on it? Relatively few. Many of us simply plod through life without reflecting on this most basic question. Or, we blindly follow the herd, having been brainwashed into believing that the purpose of life is to become ‘rich and famous’, to ‘enjoy’ and maximise ‘pleasure’ and to fill the vacuum deep inside us with non-stop consumption of things and stimuli.
This beautiful book relates the story of one man’s search for the true meaning and purpose of life. He recently assumed the name of Atman in Ravi (or AiR, for short) and is presently engaged in seeking to help people grow spiritually, but when he was known as Ravi V. Melwani, he was one of Bangalore’s biggest businessmen. In this book, he highlights his reflections about the purpose of life, drawing, among other sources, on his own experiences.
Despite all the material wealth that he accumulated as a businessman, his many ‘achievements’ and ‘fame’, AiR found that he wasn’t a happy man. Suddenly, one day, he asked himself if this was all that life was about. Was life simply about making money, or was there more to it? He concluded that happiness doesn’t come from making money but by spending it. So, instead of making more money, he shut down his business and decided to serve the poor, to lead, he says, a life of fulfilment, rather than achievement. For eight years he led a hectic life, travelling to various countries and doing humanitarian, inspirational and spiritual work. This gave him great peace and joy, we learn.
But then, after eight years, AiR witnessed another turning point in his life. After his spiritual master, the late Dada JP Vaswani, inspired him to reflect on the purpose of life, he went on a talaash, a search. Before this, AiR had believed like many other people that the purpose of life was attaining happiness, and this was something he thought he had already achieved. Yet, he felt something was missing in his life and that his life had no purpose. Now, following his spiritual teacher’s question, AiR went, he tells us, into deep introspection. He sought answers to basic questions of life that all of us really need to ask, such as: What is life? Where do we come from? What is death? Where will we go after death? Who is God, where is God, and what is God? Is there life after death? Is there a soul? If so, what is it?
These are questions that are central to the issue of the purpose and meaning of human life, and in this book AiR shares with us his answers to them. Proceeding through his spiritual journey, AiR concluded that there was a third peak of happiness what he terms Enlightenment (the first two being Achievement and Fulfilment, respectively). Attaining Enlightenment, he believed, was the purpose of life.
From these reflections of someone who has transformed himself from a well-known businessman to an inspirational spiritual author and guide we learn that assuming the purpose of life to be the pursuit of happiness through material ‘success’, as many people do, can only ultimately result in the loss of one’s soul. While one certainly needs enough material wealth to meet one’s needs, true happiness cannot be had without bringing in the God dimension, serving those in need and realising who we are at the level of the soul.
This book is a delightful treat. Even if your views on some theological matters might differ from the author’s, there is much of value here that you may greatly benefit from if you are truly seeking to understand what the meaning and purpose of this life are actually all about.