The Meaning of Life

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From the biological perspective the purpose of life is to acquire the necessities for continued existence, to reproduce and to survive. But what about the purpose of life from the religious point of view?

If life has a single and specific purpose, as certain religions and philosophies claim, then one would expect everybody, sooner or later, to naturally discover and then strive to achieve it. In actual fact, we see that the various religions posit quite different and sometimes contradictory purposes of life. We also notice that many people manage to get through life all right without ever asking or thinking about whether or not life has a meaning. This suggests very strongly that beyond the biological, life does not have a purpose or meaning.

From the Buddhist point of view, this is a good thing - it means that we have the freedom and the possibility to give our life the meaning that we want. If we decide to make the accumulation of wealth or power the purpose of our life, then it will become so. If we decide to make the pursuit of pleasure, dedication to our family or the contemplation of the divine the purpose of our life, then it will become so. Whenever one of his disciples attained enlightenment and became an arahat, the Buddha would always say that he or she had ‘done what has had to be done’ (S.III,68). From this we can deduce that for the Buddha, the meaning, the purpose and the fulfilment of life is to attain the joy and freedom of enlightenment.

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