All religions and philosophies have their own way of looking at life and its purpose. Some believe that this is the only life we have and therefore must be enjoyed and everything that needs to be done must be done now, otherwise, it’s construed as a failure. Some believe there must be a higher purpose in life than merely going through life working to feed oneself and survive just as any other species in the world. Some others believe that, life is a gift of God and that the mission in life is to work for ones own God and so forth.
The Buddhists believe that human life is a great opportunity to advance ones own happiness. After all, all beings are searching for happiness, comfort, security, protection and longevity. Every thing we do is always with the purpose of making ourselves comfortable, easy and sanguine. As it were, the whole purpose of life seems to be to achieve maxim happiness by way of becoming rich, powerful, famous, respected and adored. Since, this is what we are in quest of, the human state does give us the highest order of achieving the supreme happiness. But there is a catch.
Being blessed with a human state is in itself a huge bonus but it must be lived with great sense of responsibility. Whenever, one owns something precious, it also entails taking great care otherwise one would lose it and gain nothing. Likewise, being a human is a great blessing but it must be also lived in such a way, so it’s not wasted. When we talk about being wasted, what it means is that the propensity that we possess as a human must be utilised to the fullest extent and not wasted for meaningless or unproductive pursuits such as money, fame and self-glory which most people see as the ultimate goal in life. It is too trivial a goal to devote such an incredibly precious and rare commodity to be spent in the pursuit of rather unworthy and fruitless human ambition. Because money and fame and glory may seem very fortuitous but they are equally susceptible to instant loss and reduced to penury. Every human achievement what ever the scale and magnitude is not immune to misfortune and instant loss. That is why, they are by nature unreliable and not worthy of spending precious time and energy.
Therefore one has to utilise the human life for a much more meaningful goal which would bring boundless joy and never diminishing dividend. Then comes the question, so then what is that which is enduring and immune to destruction and brings eternal happiness?
The answer is enlightenment. There are two types, nirvana and great nirvana or Buddhahood. Because, nirvana and Buddhahood are eternal bliss that whichever we achieve, it can never be taken away, diminished or erased by any force. This is worth pursuing and worth sacrificing the human existence because it gives the individual the ultimate joy and happiness that has no comparison to any of the worldly pleasures such as being rich, powerful and famous.
However, to achieve such a state, one must toil hard in this life by laying the ground work to reach the pinnacle of ones personal ambition. It can be summed up in two things. Create merit and purify the defilements.
Creating the merit entails, the practice of the six perfections such as generosity, pure morality, tolerance, joyful effort, single pointed concentration and wisdom mid. Among these six elements, the Buddha recommended the practice of generosity to the lay people. Everybody has to practice but it was especially recommended to the lay people because they have the wherewithal. We can see to this day, in Buddhist countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka and Burma, the monks go begging while the lay people wait to feed them. It’s also giving the lay people the opportunity to create merit by giving alms to the monks and nuns.
We can create merit by offering water bowls, flowers, fruits and so forth to the Buddha’s. This is also part of the generosity practice. We can give to the poor, clothes, food and shelter. All are generosity and part of creating merit. This part is easy and everybody can do it. We don’t have to confine to human beings alone. We can feed the birds, the hungry animals too.
The second one is pure morality. This is ethical behaviour. One should avoid killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, telling lies, causing schism, abusive words, idle talk, covetousness and harmful intention and erroneous views. Ethical behaviour is to protect oneself by protecting others. The ten negative actions listed above are all part of the moral obligation towards others. Bringing pain upon others ultimately brings pain upon oneself. That is why one should abstain from killing, stealing etc.
The third among the six perfection is tolerance. We should be tolerant towards others and also protect others whose lives may be in danger. When we are tired of listening to teachings or doing practise, we should be tolerant to the pain. All the pain we experience actually purifies our bad karma and also create merit by being resilient to pain.
The fourth among six perfaction is joyful effort. One should be joyful to do Dharma practice, saying prayers or listening to teachings. It also means one should have a resilience to do it for life without being disillusioned or tired, exhausted or burnt out.
The fifth is single pointed concentration, is doing things such as listening or saying prayers with full attention without being distracted.
The sixth is wisdom. This is the wisdom to realise the ultimate truth of the nature of things known as emptiness. If we put it in a it in a nut shell, everything exists only in name and nothing exists independently or truly as we perceive them.
So, in order to devote our precious life to something meaning, it should be devoted in the practices just mentioned above. If we do that, we will achieve the happiness we are seeking depending upon our effort in the time frame of one life for the most devoted practitioners like Milarepa. But the time will depend on the practitioner’s effort. Finally, this life must not be wasted since it can achieve so much and must be spent in achieving the ultimate happiness that is eternal bliss in Buddhahood.