The Meaning of Life

13 April 2014

On 4 May 2014, I viewed an interesting video about the meaning of life. Watch it here:

Brief summary of the video

The author explained some philosopher’s view and argument about the definition of life, such as:

  1. life is time
  2. life is choice
  3. life is memory
  4. life is learning

and the author mentioned some other definition, until he mentioned about his experience in learning Chinese character, where he inferred that every character must have a meaning in the pictograph, but after his search at dictionaries, he concludes that some of the characters have no meaning in the pictograph and just chosen because of how it sounds. He states that human are very fond of pattern finding that they just cannot accept things that are random. Hence, he concludes that life has no meaning at all in the first place. It’s just random. Accept it. End of story.

Life is Suffering?

Disclaimer: all the statement written here is not yet confirmed to be true; I just voiced out my opinion based on what I’ve already known (mainly from attending many sessions of NTUBS Dhamma Classes, and BF Sunday Services)

The author also mentions about meaning of life, according to Buddhism:

Should we look at the Buddhist idea that life is SUFFERING? Nah, that’s no fun.

Well, I laughed at the author’s joke of life being “no fun”, although I know that he misinterpret the first noble truth of The Four Noble Truths. Simply put, if “life is suffering” is true, do you feel like suffering right now?

In Buddhism, the Buddha gave the first sermon about The Four Noble Truths at Deer Park around 3 months after his enlightenment. He taught about the Four Noble Truths to his first five disciples. This Four Noble Truths consists of:

  • the truth of suffering
  • the truth of the cause of suffering
  • the truth of the cessation of suffering
  • the truth of the ways leading to the cessation of suffering

This first noble truth, as quoted from the sutta (scriptures), is this:

Suffering, as a noble truth, is this: Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; association with the loathed is suffering, dissociation from the loved is suffering, not to get what one wants is suffering — in short, suffering is the five categories of clinging objects.

From the quote, we can infer that those 8 conditions are called suffering, but those 8 conditions did not make up “life is suffering”.

Suffering, is part of human’s life, but unnecessarily is the human’s life. Rather than stating that life is suffering, for me, it really means that the thing called suffering exists in this life, and identifying it is important in Buddhism.

Why Buddhism is all about suffering?

Instead of that, what is true happiness?

To answer this question, the Buddha’s approach to see the other side first, suffering. Because not suffering is true happiness, and true happiness is indescribable. Hence, he taught the four noble truth: the description of suffering; the cause of suffering; the end of suffering; and the ways to the end of suffering. Hence, those thinking about everything about Buddhism is about suffering is false, Buddhism is about happiness, but to achieve it, the Buddha do it this way:

  • identifying the opposite of happiness;
  • knowing the cause of the opposite of happiness;
  • knowing that there is happiness;
  • practicing the way leading to happiness.

Finally, back to meaning of life:

Well, I couldn’t agree more with the author’s view that life, like many other things, have no real meaning from its first creation. Everyone can put their own meaning to life and hence there is no correct answer to “what is the meaning of life”.

Happy Vesak Day. May all the beings be well and happy. :)


See also

My blog post on Vesak Day of 2012, and Vesak Day of 2013.

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