We have been celebrating Buddhas Enlightenment Day (April 15th) all weekend with a special practice of Compassion called Drop of Essential Nectar (Tib. Nyungne). This practice involves a beautiful fasting and purification retreat to help us develop our compassionate minds, and become more and more like Buddha!
After the first session on Sunday and during our Meditations for a Happy Life class, Kadam Lucy James, the resident teacher of Kadampa Meditation Center Colorado, gave an inspiring talk about ‘the ultimate goal of our human life’. What is our ultimate goal in life she asked? No one commented, possibly because we already have some wisdom understanding that the things we normally chase don’t actually bring us happiness (or possibly because we are just shy).
This made me think of a recent minor obsession of mine. I read a lot of novels, and had the inspiration that I might want to write a book myself. This lead me a 1 day obsession of thinking about how amazing it would be, how my life would be complete, how I could buy a cabin in the woods and have a writing retreat, I could combine the best qualities of the stories I’ve read and add in the qualities that I always felt were missing, and on and on….. I even looked into joining writing classes and looking up writing competitions before the steam I had for this petered out and I realized that I have so little time, and have to choose wisely what I spend my time doing. Would striving to become a writer actually make me happy? Maybe, but also (and more likely) maybe not? It completely depends upon my mind.
“What is the ultimate, supreme goal of human life? We should ask ourselves what we consider to be most important – what do we wish for, strive for or daydream about? For some people it is material possessions, such as a large house with all the latest luxuries, a fast car or a well-paid job. For others it is reputation, good looks, power, excitement or adventure. Many try to find the meaning of their life in relationships with their family and circle of friends. All these things can make us superficially happy for a short while, but they can also cause us much worry and suffering. They can never give us the pure and everlasting happiness that all of us, in our heart of hearts, long for. Since we cannot take them with us when we die, if we have made them the principal meaning of our life they will eventually let us down. As an end in themselves worldly attainments are hollow; they are not the real meaning of human life.” (From Transform Your Life by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso)
Our life narrative (as Kadam Lucy put it) is driven forward by our motivation. The Latin root of motivation, moti, (I had to look this up) means to move. Our motivation, literally moves us in a direction. With what motivates us, we write the story of our life. If we think that our life can’t be complete without (insert here), then that’s the direction our life will move.
But will that perfect job, house, partner, or (insert here) ever really make us happy? Maybe, or maybe not. It completely depends upon our mental state at any given time. These things can brings us happiness only if we have a peaceful mind. The source of a peaceful mind comes from within. Minds of love, compassion, wisdom, patience, humility and so forth are real causes of happiness and worth striving after. They will never let us down or cause us suffering.
The ultimate goal of human life (if we so choose) is enlightenment. Enlightenment is not something only others can have. We have the seed of enlightenment in all of us, it is our natural peace and compassion, our Buddha nature. The mind of enlightenment is a mind that has abandoned all negative delusions, such as anger, jealousy, attachment and ignorance, and cultivated all good qualities, such as love, compassion and wisdom, to perfection. The first step towards enlightenment, is to learn to love others more, and more, and more!
Until now we have cherished ourself above all others, and for as long as we continue to do this our suffering will never end. However, if we learn to cherish all beings more than ourself we will soon enjoy the bliss of enlightenment. The path to enlightenment is really very simple – all we need to do is stop cherishing ourself and learn to cherish others. All other spiritual realizations will naturally follow from this. (From Transform Your Life by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso)
If what we strive for, what motivates us, is to attain enlightenment, then we will definitely move in that direction. Our life narrative will be full of spiritual growth, kindness, overcoming our (perceived) limitations and finding the ultimate meaning of our life.
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