Why are we?

A forum for beginners and members of other Buddhist traditions to ask questions about Theravāda (The Way of the Elders). Responses require moderator approval before they are visible.

Why are we?

Postby Tragition » Tue Jan 18, 2011 3:42 pm

Does Buddhism teach what the purpose of our existence is?

If I understand correctly, we are in a cycle of birth and death in samsara until we reach nibbana. But why? What is our purpose in being?
Tragition
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jan 18, 2011 3:37 pm
Location: Dayton, Ohio

Re: Why are we?

Postby plwk » Tue Jan 18, 2011 4:37 pm

Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

Anguttara-Nikaya: Ekanipata: Ekadhammapali: Pañhamavagga
VSM VMM WBB TBHT WTBT My Page
plwk
 
Posts: 1141
Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2010 5:14 am

Re: Why are we?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Jan 18, 2011 5:45 pm

Some questions have no direct answer. The root cause is ignorance and the proximate cause is craving. The Simile of the Poisoned Arrow is helpful here.

"It's just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends & companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a priest, a merchant, or a worker.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me... until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short... until I know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored... until I know his home village, town, or city... until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow... until I know whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or bark... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated... until I know whether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was bound with the sinew of an ox, a water buffalo, a langur, or a monkey.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was that of a common arrow, a curved arrow, a barbed, a calf-toothed, or an oleander arrow.' The man would die and those things would still remain unknown to him.
AIM WebsitePāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)
User avatar
Bhikkhu Pesala
 
Posts: 2009
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:17 pm

Re: Why are we?

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Jan 18, 2011 7:28 pm

Tragition wrote:Does Buddhism teach what the purpose of our existence is?

If I understand correctly, we are in a cycle of birth and death in samsara until we reach nibbana. But why? What is our purpose in being?


I don't think so.

Better to assume that life has no purpose, the search for a purpose is just a product of craving and creates suffering, acceptance that life is it's own purpose frees you to make the most of life.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
User avatar
Goofaholix
 
Posts: 1924
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Why are we?

Postby Kenshou » Tue Jan 18, 2011 7:55 pm

Why?

Damned if I know.

But what I do know, is that I'm subject to stress, dissatisfaction, and suffering. And if I could end that, I wouldn't really care one way or the other about those abstract questions. And apparently, there is a way to end it. So, guess I'll do that.
Kenshou
 
Posts: 1029
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 12:03 am
Location: Minneapolis, MN

Re: Why are we?

Postby Viscid » Tue Jan 18, 2011 8:11 pm

I think that it's because it's possible for us to. We can be, therefore we are.

Whatever's possible exists. My tentative position.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
User avatar
Viscid
 
Posts: 896
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 8:55 pm
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: Why are we?

Postby Individual » Tue Jan 18, 2011 10:01 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Some questions have no direct answer.

:thumbsup:
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
Individual
 
Posts: 1970
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:19 am

Re: Why are we?

Postby bodom » Wed Jan 19, 2011 1:42 am

We were born to do battle with the defilement's and to strengthen our mindfulness and discernment. - Upasaka Kee Nanayon


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
User avatar
bodom
 
Posts: 4604
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:18 pm
Location: San Antonio, Texas

Re: Why are we?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jan 19, 2011 2:07 am

Greetings,

Tragition wrote:Does Buddhism teach what the purpose of our existence is?

Who says there has to be one? Or is it simply that we want there to be some purpose?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14655
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Why are we?

Postby Vepacitta » Wed Jan 19, 2011 2:07 am

Ah, the eternal question ... porquoi? (sounds better in French don't it?)

I've been asking that question since I was 4 years old and I have no bloody clue. But when I find out who's responsible ...!

From snowy Mt. Meru,

V.
I'm your friendly, neighbourhood Asura
User avatar
Vepacitta
 
Posts: 299
Joined: Tue May 18, 2010 3:58 pm
Location: Somewhere on the slopes of Mt. Meru

Re: Why are we?

Postby alan » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:07 am

life wants to live. We evolved.
alan
 
Posts: 2542
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: Why are we?

Postby appicchato » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:11 am

bodom wrote:
We were born to do battle with the defilement's and to strengthen our mindfulness and discernment. - Upasaka Kee Nanayon


:anjali:

She's a pistol all right... :thumbsup:
User avatar
appicchato
 
Posts: 1586
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:47 am
Location: Bridge on the River Kwae

Re: Why are we?

Postby appicchato » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:14 am

We evolved.

Mmm...evolving?...
User avatar
appicchato
 
Posts: 1586
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:47 am
Location: Bridge on the River Kwae

Re: Why are we?

Postby alan » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:24 am

Unlikely. We'll kill ourselves, or the planet, before any significant new evolution happens.
alan
 
Posts: 2542
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: Why are we?

Postby budo » Wed Jan 19, 2011 5:26 am

Why do we need a reason for being? Why does their have to be meaning?

Is their meaning in a piece of dirt? a ball of dust? no it's just a clump of matter. Why would their be a purpose to life? Who says their has to be? The purpose of your life is just as much as purposeful as a clump of mud's life.

If you ask, why is their life then? Well, one could ask, why is their no-life then? You can ask "Why" at everything, but sometimes the answer is "there just is."
“An effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely.” - George Orwell
User avatar
budo
 
Posts: 50
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 12:16 am
Location: Canada

Re: Why are we?

Postby appicchato » Wed Jan 19, 2011 6:33 am

alan wrote:Unlikely. We'll kill ourselves, or the planet, before any significant new evolution happens.

Maybe, maybe not...the term significant is a relative one...your idea of significance, and what constitutes it, or by what measure, right, or wrong, does not necessarily conform to everyone's, nor anyone's...

One example (both physical and mental) might be that in a (paltry) span of sixty five years we went from being bound to the ground to walking on the moon...significant?...

Be well...
User avatar
appicchato
 
Posts: 1586
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:47 am
Location: Bridge on the River Kwae

Re: Why are we?

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Jan 19, 2011 9:23 am

The purpose of life is to find happiness. The only lasting happiness is nibbana.
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha
rowyourboat
 
Posts: 1949
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:29 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: Why are we?

Postby alan » Thu Jan 20, 2011 3:22 am

Hi Appicchato,
Let's not make the common mistake of confusing technological improvement with spiritual advancements.
We're just as greedy, hateful and ignorant as we were 100 years ago. But now we can blow up the world. And unless there is a concerted global effort to prevent it, climate change will do us in eventually.
I'd like to think humans are up to the task, but nothing out there is very convincing.
alan
 
Posts: 2542
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: Why are we?

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Jan 20, 2011 4:07 am

rowyourboat wrote:The purpose of life is to find happiness. The only lasting happiness is nibbana.


That's a bit redundant isn't it, if weren't alive we wouldn't need happiness. It's a bit like saying the purpose of having a car is to find the gas station.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
User avatar
Goofaholix
 
Posts: 1924
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Why are we?

Postby Sherab » Thu Jan 20, 2011 4:35 am

My view:
Life = samsara (cycling through one existence after another)
samsara = unsatisfactoriness/suffering
If so, what meaning has life? None.
Therefore the purpose of life is to generate renunciation, the commitment to free oneself from samsara.
If you feel that committing just to free yourself from samsara is not enough, you may want to extend your commitment to your family and friends or as wide as you like.
User avatar
Sherab
 
Posts: 163
Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2010 3:53 am

Next

Return to Discovering Theravāda

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests

cron