Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Dalai Lama: Compassion as Life's Purpose

What is it that gives life meaning? How do we find our purpose in life or, even life's purpose? These existential questions, even if they ultimately remain unvoiced, are questions that we face virtually every day of our waking lives.
"For nearly everyone it is important to think that his or her life has a purpose," notes the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. "But these purposes may be various: the purpose of one person's life may be to achieve one kind of goal, that of another person may be to achieve a very different kind of goal. There need be no one thing that forms the purpose of every life. . . . Similarly, for many people it will be enough if at each moment there is a purpose to what they are doing, without every moment being devoted to the same purpose, and without the overall pattern itself having a purpose. The view that we are put here for a purpose, rather like being in the army, is characteristic of many religious frames of mind. It leads to bad faith when apparent certainty about what the purpose is blinds people to other possibilities and opportunities."
With this in mind, it is edifying to note that the Dalai Lama, a religious leader admired and followed by millions of Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, explicitly disclaims the need for the individual to look any further than to his or her own existence in order to find meaning in life. Below the highest metaphysical levels, he notes, it is sufficient merely to acknowledge one's own existence and then to develop an unbiased compassion for others, including all sentient beings.

"(That) our existence 'is,' no one would argue," says the Dalai Lama, in the following brief video clip. "Also the feeling (and) experience, (there is) no need to explain or prove. But then," he asks, "what is the purpose of this life? What is the purpose of this existence?"

"At deeper levels, I don't know," he admits. "Up to the metaphysical level, (however), in a general way it is not necessary to do too much," he points out. "The immediate purpose of our life is existence."

"Affection, or compassionate attitude, warmheartedness," the Dalai Lama notes, "is very, very important for one's own well-being, one's own happiness.

"So don't consider the practice of compassion (as) something of a religious matter, or (the) practice of compassion as something that is good for others, (and) not necessarily to one's self," he emphatically notes. "That is a total mistake."

The "seed compassion" one is born with, says the Dalai Lama, "can develop, (and) can further develop (into) unbiased compassion. (A compassion) not based on (and) not depend(ent) on others' attitudes, but rather (on) others' 'being' itself. "That kind of compassion," he notes, "can reach your enemies, or (all) sentient beings."

H.H XIV Dalai Lama
"That compassion," he observes, "is infinite compassion, unbiased compassion, (and) real compassion."

"If (you) become (a) compassionate person," he notes, "then your life becomes meaningful because you yourself (are) happy, calm, (and) peaceful. Your friends, (which) also includ(es) animals, (will) also . . .  get peace. So that (on) the last day of your life you feel happy. . . . Otherwise at that moment, even your belongings, your money, nothing can be used, no matter how . . . good."

"So, in order to make (a) meaningful life, he concludes, "ultimately warmheartedness is the key factor."

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