Externals provide survival value, but internals provide value to survival

Struggle for survival is a fundamental characteristic of material existence. In this struggle, all living beings choose external things based on their survival value – on their utility in eating, sleeping, mating and defending.

As intelligent human beings, we too choose externals that provide maximum survival value. Yet we also want something more – we seek value to survival. We humans alone have the evolved consciousness to ask: “What is the purpose of survival? Why do I exist?” This question becomes all the more critical when we understand that the struggle for survival is ultimately doomed – nothing, no matter how much its survival value, can prevent death.

If we take this metaphysical quest for purpose seriously, we embark on an introspective journey wherein we explore the world within us. The Bhagavad-gita (05.16) indicates that just as the sun illumines the outer world, spiritual knowledge illumines our inner world. When spiritual knowledge illumines our inner quest, we gradually understand several life-transforming truths. Firstly, we are eternal spiritual beings. Secondly, as souls we are meant for eternal existence in loving service to the supreme eternal being, Krishna. Thirdly, our present existence is meant to be not a doomed arena for a futile struggle for survival, but a blessed arena for catapulting us from the temporary material level of reality to the eternal spiritual level.

Bhakti-yoga offers the smoothest and swiftest catapult, for it redirects the power of our emotions from the body and its survival-centered desires to Krishna and desires centered on loving service to him. When we become thus internally directed, we realize that life’s many struggles, irrespective of their external results, are opportunities – opportunities to go deeper within by taking shelter of Krishna and thereby progress towards life’s highest fulfillment. Thus does our inner devotion bring supreme value to survival.

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 05 Text 16

The determination to serve Krishna doesn’t just herald victory – it is victory
Contemplating the gravity of our purpose exposes the frivolity of our pride
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