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Though they all represent aspects of Buddhism, Buddhist teachings are actually about the purpose of life.
Did you know that???
So what is the "purpose of life?"
Well, first you have to know every human activity has a purpose behind it.
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To know all these answers, we must first learn what the real purpose is in living.
- In his On Genealogy of Morals, Friedrich Nietzsche effectively underscored the importance of meaning in life when he wrote that man desires suffering and "even seeks it out, provided that he has been shown a meaning for it, a reason for suffering."
- French writer Albert Camus said that deep in the human heart is a "wild longing" to know the meaning of life.
- The renowned American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (CHEEK-sent-mə-HY-ee) has stated that without a profound purpose in life, people cannot obtain true satisfaction, no matter what conveniences and entertainment may surround them.
Here's a citation from a Pure Land Buddhist perspective:
Today in countries around the world, people enjoy wealth and comfort unheard of in centuries past. Medical and scientific advances mean that we live longer and have greater ability to change and control our environment to suit our needs. But have these advances brought greater happiness? Modern society is plagued with ills such as violence in its many forms, including tyranny, terrorism, murder, and suicide. Real answers to these problems continue to elude us.
Our advances may have made us richer, but they have not done anything to ensure our happiness or provide us with a sense of abiding meaningfulness. In fact, modern life often seems only to bring more acute feelings of isolation, loneliness, and emptiness.
When our purpose is clear only then can we move into action with all our might for the first time.
But in the back of your mind you still might be thinking, "You know, not all activities in life have to have purpose..."
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When you live your whole life without knowing its purpose, it's like you're living for the sake of living. Without finding a true purpose, your whole life becomes wasted.
not knowing or not caring about their course
until it's too late
when they run out of fuel.
Lack of purpose in life is like flying without a place to land!
But an airplane flying for the sake of flying for as long as it can will just end up running out of fuel. Without notice, the plane will suddenly fall from the sky and plummet into the ground.
This means we must find a purpose that delivers us lasting satisfaction and consistent joy in our lives. If we don't, we can't truly enjoy our flight. Life is so full of suffering, because we can't see clearly where the runway is. At any minute, we could crash. And there's no fuel gauge that tells us how much longer we have left to live!
- Getting a steady, fulfilling job
- Winning a tennis tournament
- Having a successful romantic relationship
- Obtaining a Bachelor's degree
- Building your own house
- Getting rich and famous
- Starting a family
- Mastering a second language like Spanish
- Winning the Nobel Peace Prize
Yet for as long as we're alive, we chase temporary goals like these, one after another. We think that we will have lasting happiness once the next one is accomplished. But in this life as quickly as these pursuits are gained, they can be lost. And in the end, we must leave it all behind.
So managing your career, getting married, and running marathons are all wonderful parts of life, but...
In the short-term, they make us happy and keep us going, but they are not, however, the true purpose of life. This does not mean they are no longer important or not worth pursuing.
"Decisions about speed and altitude, route alterations based on changes in wind or air pressure, responses to engine trouble -- all these are choices that affect the 'how-to' of flight. What must be known before any of these decisions are made is the destination, since this will determine the direction, or the 'where-to,' of flight." (Reason, p. 16)
The real purpose of living is to arrive at absolute happiness, the happiness that is everlasting. This is the form of happiness that remains even in the face of death. We must continue to live on even though we may feel great pain so that we can get it for ourselves.
In the next post, we will learn about the differences between the two types of happiness experienced in life.
Ideas written on this blog come mostly from that book or Mr. Takamori's lectures. Other titles include Unlocking Tannisho, Something You Forgot Along the Way, Unshakable Spirit, and The Story of Buddha. I also use lectures notes I have taken down from various Buddhist teachers that I've had from around the world. In no way are these "my" ideas. The goal is to teach only what is taught in Buddhism accurately. I will do my best to cite, directly and indirectly, the ideas I've learned.