I have been reflecting on the meaning of life a lot recently. I read and thought about many possible answers from many different spiritual traditions. They all look at the meaning and purpose of life in different ways but there is a common theme that there is a deeper truth of existence and that the purpose of life is learning to understand and embodying that truth fully.
It is expressed in so many ways: To discover what is true about ourselves and the world. To develop wisdom, love and compassion. To make our heart and mind bigger. To learn, to love and to help others. To live in the eternal love of the universe. Enlightenment. Becoming one with God. Realizing our divine nature. Recognizing the essence of our being that is beyond birth and death e.t.c. .. it seems the list could go on forever!
There seems to be such an amazing variety of profound answers. However, I find that whenever someone unexpectedly springs the question on me, I am usually blank for a moment. Why? I am lost for words. Maybe I am hesitating because I am still trying to figure it out and don’t want to pretend I have fully understood it by giving a clear and confident sounding answer. Maybe because I feel there is no fully satisfactory answer that could fully expresses the meaning of life.
Sometimes I wonder whether “what is the meaning of life?” is actually a question that needs to be answered. I am not saying it is not important to ask the question. I myself reflect on it a lot. But maybe we shouldn’t try to answer it in words. Life just is … we are alive … we are aware .. we perceive phenomena … ourselves and the world we live in it ….. it is mysterious and amazing that we and the universe exist ….
I think if we are in harmony with existence then there naturally is a sense of the meaning of life. The meaning of life needs to be experienced. Words can point to it but they are only like the finger pointing towards the moon and not the moon itself.
I have come to the conclusion that whenever this question becomes a burning personal question and an issue it shows that something has gone wrong. When it is a burning question then no intellectual answer will help. If it is not a burning question then having an answer is not so important. So I think that more than coming up with a good sounding answer , when this question troubles me is to figure out why it is haunting me. It is about finding and solving the problem that gave rise to the question.
I believe the meaning of life has to be felt deep inside. How? By being in touch with ourselves and feeling connected with the world around us. Whenever I have a moment of experiencing this, I find there is a sense of fulfillment and inner peace and happiness.
From the point of view of the Buddhist teachings the problem could be described as not being in touch with our true selves and not seeing the world as it is. The root cause of our problems is not understanding who or what we truly are. The term that is used is ignorance. When we are in touch with our true being then wisdom, love, compassion, and an amazing capacity to live and act naturally rise.
Recently I came across this quote by the Dalai Lama who said: “Personally, I believe that the purpose of our existence is to seek happiness, to seek a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.”
I believe we can find this sense of fulfillment by using our life to discover who we truly are. It sounds simple but it not easy. It is a life long journey of discovery and takes effort working with ourselves, training our minds. we have to reflect, search, take to heart and integrate the answers we come up with into our being. It takes work and we have to do it. Only we can do it!
Maybe instead of asking “What is the meaning of life” it would be better to ask “What does it mean to live a meaningful life?” For me it means that the moment I wake up in the morning I begin the day by being grateful that I have spiritual teachings that are guiding me. Then I resolve to use the day to discovering this meaning and living it. During the day I try to make an effort to bring it into my life. At the end of the day I take a moment to review. I look back how I did. And I dedicate my efforts to the benefit of all beings in the Universe, that my efforts may contribute to them all finding this sacred meaning.
This is part 2 of a series of three posts on this topic:
Part 1: The Meaning of Life