Eastern Philosophy and the Meaning of Life
The Purpose of Life
When a person thinks about the purpose of life, some questions may come to mind. First, how exactly should each individual go about living their lives? Also, what will happen to us, after we die, and is their even any purpose to life? Finally the question, some may argue, is the Most important, is there even a God? This article is going to attempt to answer some of these questions from the perspective of four eastern philosophers.
Is There a Right or Wrong Way to Live?
This is a question people have struggled with, since the beginning of time. Some may say, people must be out for their own selves, and no one else. These people believe, it is the only way to get ahead. Others believe, it is a must, to be peaceful, and let the world just unfold, around them. They have faith, this is the only way, to become a good person.
Let us briefly speak about the word, good.The first question, which springs to mind would be, What is the definition, of the word good? According to Merriam Webster. the definition of good is, "Of a favorable character or tendency." It is hard not to notice, this definition is rather ambiguous. Who is the one whose responsibility it is to decide what us favorable or not?
With that in mind, Is it possible, since what is considered good or bad is subjective, there really is no way, to be a good person? Is this world so chaotic, and crazy, good actions are not favorable anymore? Is it a “good” idea to sit in constant worry; always in fear of the next great havoc, which is bound to, rain on your life? Should people stand up, and fight for their own selves, and for others? In this crazy world, we live in, is this the only way to survive?
Eastern philosophy claims life is uncertain, yet it will unfold, as it will. When someone tries to change the way life is unfolding, it will only brings pain. Some other important rules that must ne followed are: Always look out for other. leave no footprints, and let go of all earthly desires. It is also important to note, it is a must, to only fight when there is no other choice. If it's possible to step back and talk it out, that is what should happen.
What Happens, After we Die?
Again, this is a question, has bewildered humanity, for countless years. It is a fact, people have a natural urge, to question the unknown. Some questions that are common are: Does the soul move on, or is death the bitter end? Are we reincarnated? If so, are we forced to live our lives, over and over, without the chance of escape? Is there an afterlife, or some sort of heavenly paradise, our souls move on too? If there is, do our souls go straight there when we die? If not, how do we get to the afterlife?
Eastern Philosophy, claims our souls may move on to Nirvana. It is also possible, the soul will be reincarnated, to live another lifetime. When someone is reincarnated, they have another chance, to choose the right path. Every lifetime, builds up Karma, both good and bad. The bad Karma, must be answered for. Also, the correct path needs to be walked, in the current lifetime, before Nirvana can be reached. Once Nirvana is reached, the soul transcends, into a blissful, and peaceful state. This completes the cycle of rebirth.
What is the Purpose of Life?
This is another question that has baffled society. Some obsess over it, especially in times of tradgedy. When the answers are not forthcoming, it is easy to lose faith in love, society, and your God.
Some important questions to consider, when taking on this question, are to follow.Why exactly are we here on earth? Why do people suffer, so much? Why is there so much injustice, so much pain in the world? Can people change their path in life? Should we fight against, What we seem to be destined, to become? When we die, will our whole lives be for nothing? Will we die in vain?
According to some Eastern philosophers, People have distinct paths, they are meant to take. If the correct path is not taken, there will be another chance, to try again, in the next life. It is a fact, the world is in chaos, and the uncertainty, causes people pain. If someone were to, just, let go of earthly desires, it woild help lead them, to the right path. With each life" lived, a soul becomes closer to its destiny. One must be self-sacrificing, build up good karma, and find their path, before they can find Nirvana and transcend.
Is there a God?
When speaking about any God, it is important to note, this can be a touchy subject. Everyone seems to have an opinion, and it useful to be able to, at least, consider the other point of view. Some questions people may ask are: Is there a God? Is this God, a vengeful God? Is it a God who is okay with all the hate, spread in his name? Is there an angry man in the sky, ready to smite all who disobey? Is this man responsible for making man, and then making the woman, from the man? Does it even matter, whether there is a God or not?
According to some Eastern Philosophers, the question, of whether there is a god, is answered with a yes. Moreover, this god is not a man, or a woman. This God (AKA Tao), is a cosmic energy, which is the beginning, and the end. Every action, has an opposite reaction. One needs to understand this, and build up good Karma, before they are able to transcend. Since the world is unpredictable, and everyone has to become, what they are meant to be, judgment is not necessary. If a person takes the wrong path, then the soul will be born again, so that it will have another chance, to do it right.
Siddhartha Gautama was the son of a wealthy king, and lived in luxury.
He was extremely sheltered, and did not have knowledge of the suffering, in the world. hIs family tried to shield him, from all human suffering. A Mystic made a prediction, about his fate early on, about the two paths he could take. He was either going to be a powerful leader, or a Buddha.
One day he went to the market in the town of, Kapilavastu. Gautama was profoundly affected, by the anguish he saw, on his trip. After that day, he made it his mission, to find the cause of human suffering. He came to the realization, humans suffering can be narrowed down, to two main causes.
First, the ambiguity of the world causes suffering, because nothing is predictable. In every single instance, there are always unseen variables at play. The. Second cause of suffering is Karma. As mentioned above, Karma has been building up, over many lifetimes. One may surmise, karma is probably has a major impact on the unseen variables.
The quote that best represents Siddhartha Gautama is: "attainment of nirvana, requires more than merely letting go of selfish desires. It requires zunderstanding, what is ordinarily thought of as one’s body and one’s consciousnesses is not real, are not the true Self” (Moore &Bruder, 2008 p. 530).
. This quote is a preview of Gautama’s four noble truths, which lead to his, eight fold path. The eight fold path, is Gautama’s approach, to ending an individual’s suffering. He believed people could only end the cycle of reincarnation, when they follow the four noble truths, and the eightfold path.
So, to sum up Sidartha's philosophy it is important to remember, the following concept. Suffering is due partly to the uncertain world, and partly to Karma. Karma means action or deed. it is the intent behind the action, which decides, whether the karma is good, or bad. Karma can last over several lifetimes, and determine where you are placed, in the next life. Human suffering is caused by selfishness, and ignorance. Through meditation and self-sacrifice, one can achieve enlightenment and find peace (nirvana) and end the cycle of life (Moore & Bruder, 2008 p.530-535).
According to John Makransky (2005), “Gautama was viewed as someone who became perfectly transparent to the unconditioned reality, nirvana, So as fully to embody its qualities of unconditioned freedom, all-inclusive love, and penetrating insight to disclose the means for many others to realize them” (Para. 2). This coupled with the quote from Gautama sums of Gautama’s ideas perfectly.
Lao Tzu believed, one should not interfere with the world, because to do so, would be futile. He believed in an energy called Tao, which connects all things together. In his opinion, Tao was indescribable, and unchangeable. He believed if one freed oneself of selfish desires, they would achieve the ultimate goal, which is peace. He maintained, violence should be used, only as a last resort.
The quote, which best represents Lao Tzu is, “Can you understand all and penetrate all, without taking any action? To produce and to rear them, To produce, but not to take possession of them, to act, but not to rely on one’s own ability, To lead them, but not to master them—This is called profound and secret virtue” (Bruder & Moore, 2008, p. 536).
Lao Tzu, believed humans should not, force change on the world. If they try, they will be injured, in the process. He affirmed, the Tao is the natural order of things. This energy, yields the Chi, which is the vital energy, it is the beginning of everything. It gives rise to the opposing forces of yin and yang. It is hidden and indescribable so one should not even try. He believed that gentleness brings victory without effort, and one can win over their enemy by retreating instead of attacking. His way of life encourages open-mindedness, is simple, tranquil, unselfish, patient. One should sit back, and watch the world unfold, naturally (525-540).
Chuang Tzu had a lot of the same philosophies as Lao Tzu. He thought that people should accept their lot in life, without constant worrying. He had fairh in the Tao, and the fact, life was unchangeable. He did not place as much importance on political issues, as Lao Tzu. He believed in the equality of everything, through opposites.
The quote that best explains the philosophy ofChuang Tzu is,“Nature cannot be forced or hurried because, nature unfolds, according to the Tao: a tree’s fruit must be picked only when it is ripe, not before and not after. If people choose to impose their will on the world, the result is strife, disquietude, and disruption.”
The major difference between what Confucius believed, and what Chuang and Lao Tzu, believed is about change. Confucius believed, one could change their path, if they model themselves after great people, from the past. The quote that best describes Confucius’s philosophies is “A virtuous man wishing to establish himself seeks also to establish others, and wishing to enlighten himself, seeks also to enlighten others; just as nature is built on a principle of reciprocal cooperation rather than strife, so reciprocal cooperation must reign in human affairs” (Bruder & Moore, 2008, p. 546).
© 2012 Lisa Chronister