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Is life really a reward?

Can one have a convincing answer to, “Is life a reward or a punishment?” This question has been perplexing me for a very long time, and continues to do so. While looking for harmony, peace and calm in life, I get uneasy and restless at times as I sees an apparent contradiction in the views and claims of religions and scholars on the subject.

india Updated: Dec 07, 2011 23:44 IST
Anil Mathur

Can one have a convincing answer to, “Is life a reward or a punishment?” This question has been perplexing me for a very long time, and continues to do so. While looking for harmony, peace and calm in life, I get uneasy and restless at times as I sees an apparent contradiction in the views and claims of religions and scholars on the subject.

If life, human life, is attained after many other lives, why do many, or most, spiritual gurus call for attaining salvation, or freedom from births? And, if life is a reward, why not stick to it, or rather hang on to it, with no desire to get to a higher plane?

Related to this is the question of what kinds of action will make us free from rebirths? Prayers, service to mankind, devotion and surrender to the Supreme, are some ways suggested by our scriptures and spiritual leaders; but wanting to look for a common thread in this, I find it is missing.

And, if life as such is a punishment, why is there so much celebration or joyous doings when a child is born?

Is salvation possible by leading a simple, normal life, doing routine work, rather than going in for long ‘tirth yatras’, meditation, yoga or prayers? Is there a contradiction in seeking salvation for self and in wanting the betterment of society as such through service?

I would like to believe that our rich heritage and dharma give a lot of stress on peace and prosperity for all and see harmony everywhere. But often, in day-to-day life, this confidence or belief is shaken; and only total surrender to Him seems to be the answer.

And yet another doubt arises: Do the past actions determine how much material comforts one would get in the present life; or is it that there is no link between the two? Is there any correlation between the size of the material cake and the spiritual one? Or, should one delink the two, as I have tried to do, but not with much success?