Read "Embracing Duality - I"
After many iterations (from here to here), I landed in what I called "Rational Empiricism". What was important to me in a religion was that it was rational (makes sense) and experiential (tangible). You shouldn't have to follow a religion because you don't have a choice but to believe in a person or thing (although you could), you should follow a religion because you experience and internalize its truth every moment. Of course, I belong to the path of Jnana yoga (path of knowledge/reason), it is very hard for me to empathize with a Bhakti Yogi (path of faith). Another criteria I debated was meaningful vs pleasurable life. I concluded that pleasure within boundaries of meaning was ideal. The reason this is critical is that, if a person were to just pursue pleasure, he/she could cause a lot of damage to self or others. What we really want is a balanced and harmonious life. As a side note: Once in a while you are going to commit a sinful act (all for pleasure and devoid of meaning), but it is the pursuit of the ideal that makes life challenging, interesting and human. The ideal is the north star to turn to when you are lost. Humans are not machines in that machines perform a preprogrammed actions over and over again. If we were, it would be easy to stay the course. Because we aren't we have to internalize the fact that we will falter and we need to get back up on our feet and keep going. This is where man-made tools can help us stay the course.
Rational Empiricism is grounded in a model of Universe/Existence. It defines Universe to be "an interconnection of infinite, unique things". This definition should be experiential and reasonable to every human at some level. Once I defined Universe, I started inferring from its attributes. From "interconnectedness", I inferred that Science is important, we should keep at learning more about the Universe and we should try to understand the nature and interconnectedness of things and be very wary of the repercussions of our manipulation of nature. From "infiniteness", I inferred that every human is an infinitesimal part of the Universe in the vast spectrum of space and time, but to lead a happy life that infinitesimality should be overlooked and that could happen only by close relationships (family and/or friends). From "uniqueness", I inferred that every part of this Existence has a role to play; small/large, good/bad is a subjective judgment. Nevertheless, it has a role to play by virtue of its existence. Consequently, every human has the opportunity to contribute and give back in the form of his/her career at work.
In addition to the three ideas laid out in the paragraph above, there is one other key principle that I realized assists in having a meaningful and pleasurable life. It has to do with health. Ones physical and mental health is a prerequisite for leading a meaningful life within context of Rational Empiricism. As the old saying goes, when health is lost, everything is lost.
So in the end, my pathless path led to this clarity:
1. Assumption #1: It is easier to practice religion if you understand it and feel it your bones.
2. Assumption #2: Pleasure within boundaries of Meaning is better than pleasure without meaning.
3. Assumption #3: A religion grounded in Universe/Existence (Duality) is well-grounded.
What is meaningful? :
4. Rational Empiricism #0: Take care of Body (Survival of the fittest in the Universe)
5. Rational Empiricism #1: Take care of the Planet (Interconnectedness of Universe)
6. Rational Empiricism #2: Take care of the Home (Infiniteness of Universe)
7. Rational Empiricism #3: Take care of Work (Uniqueness of every object in Universe)
8. Be Holistic: Try to make holistic decisions after considering all the four objectives (4 to 7 above).
9. Be Resilient: In case you fail in executing your decision, learn from it and move on.
I recently found this comic strip that aptly describes what I felt after defining Rational Empiricism.
"To invent your own life's meaning is not easy... but it's still allowed."
Personally, I have reached a major milestone after traveling the 'pathless path' and now have a great degree of clarity going about life. They say "Change is the only constant". I will rephrase it this way: "Change is the only constant, except Religion'. If Religion also changes or is on shaky ground, whats the point? I think Rational Empiricism will be the constant that I can always turn to, to guide me at crossroads of life. It will give me great pleasure and satisfaction if it helps you as well.