Friday, November 7, 2008

Philosophical Musings - Part XVI


A Prison without Walls

As I continue my journey in life, I feel ill at ease. Through good times or bad, I cannot shake off a sensation of discomfort in life. There are flashes of insight and understanding, that fade away all too quickly. To alleviate this uneasiness, I continue to seek answers to the meaning of life. Yet, it has all come to naught. It is today that I finally realize the why my sojourn is unfruitful. I am shackled in a prison without walls. Without true freedom, one cannot journey to find the Truth. Yet, to achieve true freedom requires me to open the door to my prison. How can something be so simple, yet so difficult? Why indeed?

To tame the most Powerful Animal
Consider how humans have devised a way to tame the most powerful land animal on the planet - the elephant. They start by securing a baby elephant firmly with a strong rope and a sturdy stake driven deep into the ground. The baby elephant struggles to break free, but struggle as it will, it cannot escape its bonds. The young elephant eventually tires and gives up trying. Thereafter, as soon as it reaches the end of its rope, it goes no further. It has been trained always to think that it cannot break free of its bounds; its spirit has been broken.

As elephant grows it becomes stronger, while the rope becomes thinner and the stake smaller. Yet every time the elephant meets resistance from the end of the rope, it stops. It thinks it can go no further because it has been trained not to try to break free. Eventually the elephant reaches full size and, having learned the behavioral lessons of infancy so well; it can be easily restrained by only a thin rope and a tiny stake. It has long given up trying to break free of its bonds of captivity.

Societal Conditioning
Dismay dawns upon me when I realize that I share the same fate as the elephant restrained the thin rope and tiny stake. Having been conditioned by society, I cannot break free. Superficially, I understand that my sense of self-worth should not be dependent on my wealth, influence or position in society. And yet … why is it, I find that I cannot let it go? Who am I really, if I were to give up my qualifications, wealth and possessions? Would I cease to exist without these societal trappings?

When the Water Vessel is full
‘You’re just so full of yourself!’

Pride, ego, conceit – I have been guilty of all these unskillful thoughts and much more. If I cannot empty my vessel of all these pre-conceived notions and dogmas, how can I find the Truth? I strive to do so, in vain. For I cherish my past accomplishments too much, I am too infatuated with possessions and value the opinions of others too greatly.

The Ultimate Teacher
And yet … the specter of Death looms in front of me. It makes a mockery of my life and struggle to find meaning. For a sage once uttered to me this:

‘Ripples on the water like the passing of years. Man enters life and there is a splash. His life sends out ripples—small ripples for a little man, huge waves for a great man—waves that overwhelmed the tiny ripples, wash them away or remold them. But in the end it is all the same, for the ripples go out into the lake of life and soon die away, to leave the lake smooth for new lives or stones.’

An Unknown Sojourn
I ponder…
I hesitate …
I deliberate …
Minutes passes into hours, days, weeks, months, years and decades …

Conclusion:
For over four millennia, the game of Go has been played, yet Kami no Itte has yet to be revealed. What more of Life? There can be no conclusion as to the meaning of life. Perhaps, it is the journey I take through life that will define the meaning of MY life.

If I may be so bold to ask: What is the purpose of your life?

13 comments:

Damien Tan

"As I continue my journey in life, I feel ill at ease. Through good times or bad, I cannot shake off a sensation of discomfort in life."

You're probably experiencing the same thought process Gotama went thru when he saw the young man, sick man, old man and dead man that led him to realize the unsatisfactoriness of life, what he termed as samsara. In Buddhist tradition that realization marks the point of a stream enterer. It gives you a sustainable reason to move towards the jhanas, as opposed to reaching there by study (if its ever possible) because your parents asked you to.

Someone once told me as long as you still have lessons to learn, you'll continue to come back to existence. In other words we're here because we haven't learnt our lesson. Our ego likes existence because it thinks it can find meaning there. And people do find this "meaning," except it evaporates very quickly. So they wander thru life looking for one meaning after another, forever desperate and thirsty like a hungry ghost, unable to quench that thirst permanently.

If we don't know (= ignorant of) the link between the desire to exist and samsara, then we will keep coming back until we learn our lesson. It may take countless lives depending on the strength of our egos and thickness of our delusions.

I am spiritual by nature so the purpose of life is an easy one to answer. Every lifetime presents a unique opportunity to hit the rocket boosters and leave orbit permanently. I'm thankful I have a little bit of realization to know that the bond can be broken. And that is my challenge in this lifetime.

(Sorry for the length of my response but your last 2 topics hit a note in me).

Avatar

Dear Damien,

I appreciate your comments and insight. That's why I started this blog in the first place.

There are times when I ponder deeply about the vastness of the universe and how truly fleeting and fragile life really is... And it scares me. One fine day, everything that I have ever seen, every person I have ever met, every thoughts or emotions will be as dust...

The Truth to be very depressing. And to consciously decide on the very meaning of one's life... well, I look at it as the Ultimate Gamble.

Unlike many things in life, refusal to choose is not an option. The clock is ticking and who knows when the batteries will run out?

I am both glad and sad to be given the free will to choose. Glad - because it presupposes that I have the wisdom to make the right choice. Sad - as this question will continue to be asked of me until the end of my existence in life.

Even worst, is the Buddhist view that it will continue to be asked of me in my future life-time(s).

Rgds

Avatar

Dear Damien,

BTW - It appears you have strong sense of conviction about the purpose of your life. Thanks for sharing your philosophy here.

Rgds

amethyst213

hmmm...it seems avatar had gone to the "way of liberation"..

when you get through, do tell me what you found..

oh lets hope we do not become an elephant but rather a thinking human..

Avatar

Dear Amethyst213,

I don't think I'll ever get 'through'. Just mulling things through.

A thinking human, eh... Strange you should mention that. How much of our identity is tied up with what we do and how we are perceived by society? Sometimes, I feel I am more like that elephant than I would like to admit.

Rgds

Yours Truly

Why so much analysis? Eat when ya wanna, sleep when ya haveta, go to the gents when the need arises. Hell, fornicate when you have the desire. Damn.

Imagine not bein' able to perform any of the above. I can' t do the last 'coz I'm wifeless. Real mental.

Avatar

Dear Yours Truly,

Living in the present moment is good. Yet, sometimes I ask myself this question:

Is this all there is to life?

That's where the analysis comes from.

Rgds

Yours Truly

Avatar : dude, you're doin' more good than ever with your blog. Maybe that's all there is to livin'. Enjoy! Every moment of it.

MHO.

Avatar

Dear Yours Truly,

Thanks for the encouragement.

Rgds

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Anonymous

I stumbled across this blog while trying to find information for standing strong in the midst of adversity. Thank you for your thoughts and insight. I don't know if I'll ever return here again as I am not a frequenter on the web.
But, I just feel as though I need to leave you a comment.

I believe anyone who thinks there is no purpose in life is selling themselves so short. I believe we are here on earth to #1 gain a body to house our precious and imutable spirits, and #2 to exercise our free agency while in posessions of the precious gift of our bodies. I'm certain we will all be accountable and have to answer to our creator one day for our actions here on earth. I want my life to be the best possible influence in the world for good. Maybe that one little splash will make a difference and create an even further reaching effect than one can imagine. I guess the better question is, will your ripple effect those around you for good? or ill?

I know you will find the answers you seek when the time is right. Keep Searching... you will know the truth when you hear it.

wonder

Thanks Anonymous for your advice. We're all muddling our way through life.

You've a positive attitude... Can't say I agree with you (yet!) but I do understand what you're saying.

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