It seems to me that this is a question the ego asks out of a desire to affix a label upon and categorize existence. This desire is rooted in the survival instinct. That is, in order to survive in the material world the ego must make sense of it. It makes sense of the world in part, by overlaying it with a complex system of labels and categories. In a sense the ego is putting creation in its place in order to tame it and survive within it. When the ego asks the question “what is the meaning of life?” it is categorizing life as something that must have a meaning. It then seeks for this illusive meaning with the goal of slaying the dragon by definitively labeling and categorizing life once and for all. This of course is probably an unattainable goal but this goes unrecognized by the ego.
The ego is obviously not comfortable with the notion that life might have no meaning. The fact that a meaning is not immediately forthcoming from life suggests that this is a possibility. But the ego is unwilling to consider this and so it wants put life in its place rather than letting life abide in the place it is already in. In truth, the ego has no power to put life in its place. All labels and categorizations are illusions in this sense. Because the ego is largely ignorant and unaware of its own motivations these labels are illusions it uses to trick itself. This is the first way in which the ego folds in upon itself.
I suspect that to ask the question “What is the meaning of life?” is really to ask “Am I meaningful?” By recognizing this I can see the desperate yearning of the ego to survive and reach immortality. I further suspect the ego (on some level) knows that it is mortal but does not want to admit this. The ego wants to survive above all things. Ultimately this is irrational because nothing of the material world survives in the material world forever. And the prospect of mortality brings with it the possibility of meaninglessness. But irrationality and dishonesty are the essence of the ego and so the ego goes on denying its own mortality and inventing meaning.
When I think about it I see two sides to the ego. There is the self-serving side and there is the judgmental side. When self-serving side acts through greed and indulgence it will inevitably feel shame. This is the work of the judgmental side of the ego. The judgmental side judges the self-serving side causing the feeling of shame. This shame must be then passed onto another person by judging them. In this way I can see that the ego and shame are intimately intertwined. This act of self-judgment is second way the ego folds in on itself.
The only way past the ego is through non-judgmental awareness. When one becomes aware of the ego he can observe it, separate from it and by doing so stop unconsciously doing its bidding. In this way when one feels the need to ask the question, “What is the meaning of life?” he can be aware that it is really his ego who is asking this question. He can then separate from his ego and no longer require an answer to this question. In this sense when one stops looking for the meaning in life he becomes liberated because he is abiding in his true self or spirit which is intimately intertwined with God.
There is, however, a trap here. When one starts to become aware of the ego he may then praise himself for avoiding the ego or judge himself when acts unconsciously and does the ego’s bidding. Both this praise and judgment are also the work of the ego. It is ironic that it serves the ego’s purpose to punish the self for following the will of the ego. This is the third way in which the ego folds in on itself. It makes sense when viewed through the lens of survival. The ego wants to survive and be in control. It wants to steer the ship of self. One way it takes control is through shame. Shame is punishment and atonement for breaking the rules of life. These rules of life are created by the ego through all the labels and categories it affixes to life. In a sense they are the illusory meaning of life the ego has given to life and for which it unconsciously seeks.