Joined: 04 Dec 2007
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|Posted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 11:46 am Post subject: The purpose of life - an Eastern perspective
|For systems that believe in enlightenment, the purpose of life is to reach that ultimate state of spiritual evolution, a state of neither existence nor non-existence and of becoming one with everything. The state of complete enlightenment.
It is not a god state. It is simply the exhaustion of all karmic energy that's responsible for making consciousness and sentience arise. Karma is neither good or bad. It is simply a state of potential energy built up by volitional action. Constructive karma is built by conscious action beneficial to self and others. Destructive karma is the the opposite. There are other types of karma that are not materially significant in this life and I will not discuss them here.
For an awakened individual, the purpose of life is to achieve this ultimate state by purifying the mind. This is achieved not by clinging to objects, rituals and concepts but by letting go. Things that cloud the mind are greed, hatred, ignorance, delusion and other sensory states that involve clinging. Even things that may be considered harmless such as the love for art is a form of sensual attachment that hinders the attention needed to bring one closer to the ultimate state. Neither will acts of extreme religious sacrifice such as self-immolation or abstaining from food for weeks.
A life of harmlessness, patience and moderation is the most conducive one to generate insights necessary for spiritual cleansing. This is done by stilling the mind through meditation, going to deep levels of awareness beyond the reach of the fickle mind. In this state, one sees "reality" as it is. Its something like taking the blue pill and going down the rabbit hole, if you've seen the movie the Matrix.
In this state, one detaches himself from the body and is able to see how feelings and attachment rise and fall, how thought processes rise and fall, why things happen, and past existences. One can identify specific mindstates that have become barriers to mental purity.
It is possible to purify the mind in one lifetime but apparently it is very, very rare, perhaps one in a thousand billions of trying individuals. For most its a process that will take many lifetimes due to the immense amount of karmic energy one has accumulated over countless lifetimes. This can be neutralized by awareness and hence avoidance of aggravating acts, by creating neutralizing karma, or by letting the destructive karma unwind and exhaust itself (i.e. biting the bullet).
Most of the unawakened go through life not knowing why we are born in a woeful state, why we are unsuccessful despite all the hard work we put in, or why we are born into a rich family or why we've enjoyed success without doing any work. These are the affects of unwinding karmic energy.
The desire to become propels the process on and on, lifetime after lifetime. We have apparently died and been reborn countless times, going through the same joys and pains or birth, decay and death in a never ending cycle. This was depicted rather humorously in the movie Groundhog Day.
But if one can rise above the trappings of existence, its possible to sum up life as a nothing more than a series of attachments from which suffering arise. Fear of loss, being with someone unpleasant, constant hunger, these are the persistent themes in life from birth till death. Happiness, no matter how euphoric or deep, is impermanent. Many spend their lives chasing after these transient mental states and most predictabily end in dissatisfaction on the deathbed (or worse, in some street). See the same show a million times and you begin to see its pointlessness.
The end goal of the awakened is the exhaustion of all karmic energy, both contructive and destructive, after which rebirth stops and one is said to have reached a full state of enlightenment. This is the state of non-becoming, one of perpetual peace.
That is the purpose of life for the awakened.
The decision to continue or stop existence is entirely in the individual's hands. There is no intervening god anywhere in the process, no deity to please or seek favors or forgiveness from. We reap what we sow. Where we go is completely our own responsibility.
P/s the above is a Buddhist view. Would love to hear views from other Eastern schools.