The True Meaning of Life 人生真諦 (英文講稿)
Speaking of this topic, I'm sure many of you may have asked yourself this question, "What can I expect of my life?" Some even go further, "What SHOULD I expect of my life?"
Before we explore this issue, I'd like to share with you a story.
There is a short play named "Typists," in which there are only two characters, one man and one woman; both are typists in the same company. It has been twenty years since the very first day when they started working in the company, that they simply work on their typewriters, same office, same furniture, same setting, they even wear the same clothes doing the same job. However, they become
older and their movements slower while the spotlight on the stage slowly fades to darkness. Period! The one-hour short play covered twenty years for the man and the woman. During that hour, or I should say twenty years, both of them do nothing but occasional disputes and reconciliation. They eventually leave the world quietly without accomplishing any meaningful feats.
Isn't it the same with us? Most of us are simply common and ordinary. We routinely get up in the morning, clean up, get stuck in the traffic, and rush to the office and then work for the whole day. After work we just go home exhausted and sit in the couch watching TV till it's time to sleep. Then we call it a day! And the next day it starts all over again. Day after day, this cycle repeats itself.
Is this your life? Is this all you expect with your life? What is life all about? What is the real purpose of life?
Before you come up with an answer, here is another story.
There was a highly educated scholar who wanted to ferry across a wide river for a meeting, so he boarded a small boat rowed by an old boatman. On the river, the scholar asked the boatman: "Do you know about literature?" "No! I know nothing about literature," answered the boatman. "How can you not know the beauty of literature? 30% of your life is dark and meaningless already," said the scholar.
Few minutes later, the scholar asked the boatman
again: "Do you know anything about science?" "No, never heard of it," the boatman said quietly. "Well then, another 30% of your life becomes meaningless! Dear, you are so pathetic," sighed the scholar.
There was a long silence until the boat reached the middle of the river when a sudden storm came with strong wind and heavy rain. It capsized the boat and both the scholar and the boatman fell to the water. Right then, the boatman yelled to the scholar: "Mr. Know-it-all, do you know how to swim?" "1...I...I can't swim!" The scholar screamed while forced with a big gulp of water. "Then...your life is now 100% dark and meaningless!" said the boatman.
The story may sound like a joke, but it does provide some inspiration. The meaning of life does not lie in vast knowledge, or in social status or material wealth, but it consists in whether we truly, practically, and meaningfully live our lives, whether we really let our inherent wisdom show in our daily lives.
In Ecclesiastes 1:18, Old Testament of the Bible, "For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow." Here we are advised not to attach to the phenomenal world, for it is actually illusory and impermanent; rather we should make the best of our lives to pursue the Truth and to realize it to the fullest. Now we have this golden opportunity to have received Dao and to restore our inherent Buddha-Nature, which is the Truth in us. It is the ultimate way back to heaven. We should all be wise enough to recognize it as a task worthy of our lifelong commitment.
Buddha Sakyamuni once said: "All sentient beings inherently possess Buddha-Nature (True-Nature), and they will achieve Buddhahood eventually." We all have Buddha-Nature, but now as humans our Buddha-Nature is polluted by our bad habits and temper, so we need to introspect ourselves everyday deeply and thoroughly, constantly purify our mind by cultivating and practicing Dao. This way, not only can we achieve our goal to create a meaningful life, but we can also help others to do so. It is the preciousness of cultivation. So affirm ourselves and never lose our faith, for we are all potential Buddhas.
Unfortunately, however, quite a few people neglect this effort and keep pursuing insatiable material pleasures, which hopelessly trap them in the cycle of birth and death. So it is urgent for us to seriously reflect on the meaning of life, the real purpose of life. Just as the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) once said: "Once comprehending the whys in mind, we may accept all the exceptions in life." So now let's first look at some facts of life and see how they help us find the best answers.
Ⅱ. Facts of Life
1. Life Is Transient And Unpredictable.
As the Chinese saying goes, "Where there is birth, there is death." But who can really control
birth and death? And who can really escape the cycle of birth and death?
According to the Ecclesiastes 8:8, Old Testament of the Bible, "There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it." With science and | technology, we can almost control the birth rates, but we cannot create life, nor can we choose our family. Even cloning requires the first cell to be cloned. Death is the same. When we fall sick, doctors and medical treatment may possibly prolong our lives for some more days, weeks, or years. But the inevitable comes. When "the time" comes, everyone must say good-bye to the world; nobody | can escape.
About 2200 years ago, a Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zi composed the following poem: "I did not wish to be born, yet I was suddenly born. I do not wish to die, yet death suddenly arrives." See how unpredictable life is! We humans are so helpless that we cannot control our life and death, but it is the fact of life!
Here is a story that I think is very inspiring. Three old men, who had been good friends since they were young, had not seen each other for a long
time. One day, they met again and had a pleasant talk. They drank some wine to celebrate their reunion. Before their departure, one of the old men said, "How I wish next year the same time same place we could meet again, just as happy as today!"
Then another old man smiled and said, "You expect too much! Now after going home, taking off my shoes, and falling asleep tonight, I don't even know if I could wake up tomorrow morning to put on the same shoes again!"
Then the last man burst into laughter and said, "My dear friends, you both are thinking too far ahead! Right at this moment, I do not even know after I let out this breath can I breathe in again!"
These old men are making a point here: Life is uncontrollable and full of uncertainty. No one knows what will happen next second or how long we can live. Despite all that, there is one thing we can surely control, the way to live our lives. We can make the most of our lives. We can choose to live a valuable and meaningful life.
2. Life is Short
According to the official statistics, the average life span in Taiwan is 66.1. Compared with the infinitude of universe, this life span is petty, much like comparing a water droplet to the vast ocean,
but if compared with the ephemeras, it seems long as a century! While some may say 66 years is long enough, some exclaim it's too short. It all depends on one's attitude. "When you hold the fire in your hand for just one second, it seems as long as one hour; but when you hold the hands and kiss goodbye to your beloved, an hour seems shorter than a second!" These are memorable words from the movie " Deep Blue Sea ." A good reflection of our life, isn't it? The physical length of life is far beyond our control, but the value of it is in our hand. The point is; are we cherishing every moment and make the most of it?
Jesus Christ, as we all know, is a very good role model. Sent by God to deliver the heavenly gospel, he was criticized and slandered. But in order to redeem people's sins, he willingly sacrificed himself and was crucified. His faith in God resurrected him, so that he could continue his unfinished mission to salvage people back to heaven. It only took him about three years to propagate the heavenly gospel to create the glory of eternity. Now his flesh and blood has vanished, but
he has left an everlasting memory in the world.
We often hear people say they are still young and have plenty of time to go. They think it will not be too late if they wait until they are old to do good deeds. However, who has the "authority" to grant them long lives? Coffins are made for the dead, not for the old.
Speaking of life, how much time do we have after deducting all the everyday routines, namely, eating, sleeping, showering, spending time in the bathroom, working, entertaining, etc? Take a 30-year-old person for example. Suppose he dies at age 66, then he will only have 9 years at his disposal. Only 9 years! Either young or old, we really must not waste our life.
3. Life is a Mixture of Pain And joy.
What do you think of your life, are there more | pain or more joy? When you relish in joy you are | like in heaven, and when enduring pain you are like | in hell. Heaven and hell exist within every one of | us.
A story goes like this: There was an old lady | who had two sons and both had their shops in the market. The older one sold ice cream and the
younger one sold umbrellas. This old lady always looked sad and unhappy. Her friend was curious and asked her why.
She replied: "On rainy days I worry about my older son because I think his ice cream business will be slack. On sunny days I also worry, for I think nobody will come to buy my younger son's umbrellas. That is why I am always sad and unhappy."
Hearing that, her friend smiled and said, "Why? All you have to do is change your attitude. On sunny days, just think that there will be lots of people buying ice cream from your older son. And on rainy days, people will come to buy your younger son's umbrellas. Then you can always feel happy!"
"Oh, yes! How foolish I was! I should have thought so!"
Indeed the difference of heaven and hell lies in your attitude. No wonder our Holy Teacher Ji-Gong Living Buddha said: "Heaven and hell are in one's heart and mind."
Looking at a glass half-full of water, some people may be pessimistic, "Only half-full of water!" Some may be happy, "Thank God, I have half-full of water!" Same thing has caused different reactions. So ladies and gentlemen, what would you think of your life? Pain or joy? Heaven or hell?
Allow me to cite another example. Long time ago, there was a monk who cultivated very hard in order to attain perfect enlightenment. At first he lived in the downtown area, which was so crowded and noisy that he couldn't calm down to cultivate. So he moved to the remote quiet mountains free from interruptions. There he did enjoy peace and was quite content with his progress.
One day, he routinely fetched the bucket to the river for water. After he got the water, however, it was strange that he kept stumbling and turned the bucket up side down. The first time when this happened, the monk was calm and just turned back to get another bucket of water. But when the same thing happened second time, he had to convince himself that he had been cultivating for long and shouldn't be losing his cool for clumsiness. Time after time, the bucket kept falling. With the water splashing all over him and getting him all wet, he couldn't control himself and became outright enraged. Right at this moment he suddenly become aware of his ignorance and impatience that had been stopping him from the ultimate enlightenment!
When we encounter difficulties, we always blame others first; we even complain to God or Buddhas before we reflect on our own errors. Such ignorance traps us in the cycle of life and death.
Buddha Sakyamuni told us the world we are living in is the Saha Loka, a Sanskrit word meaning the enduring world of suffering; the world that is subject to rebirth; the place of good and evil. It's a world mixed with the Eight Major Sufferings no one can escape: birth, old age, disease, death, failure in obtaining wants, separation from beloved ones, continual contacts with those we dislike, and five illusions (form, sensation, thought, action, and conscious attachment). On top of these there are natural and man-made disasters: earthquake, typhoon, flood, fire, financial problems, political crisis, wars, and crimes, etc. However, the world is a great classroom. It provides us with lessons to strengthen our faith and to be awakened.
As the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng said, "Klesa is Bodhi." Klesa is also a Sanskrit word, which means passions and delusion. Bodhi means enlightenment. Passions and delusion lead to enlightenment. A rock may be an obstacle that
makes people stumble and fall, but it can also serve as a stepping stone to help us climb higher. Experiencing troubles and frustrations presented by life makes us stronger. Gold is tempered through the burning fire. When we experience troubles and frustrations, we identify with the pain of others. It helps us learn about compassion, charity, mercy, and sympathy. All the Buddhas, Saints, and Sages have this experience, so they willingly devote their lives to helping and saving people, which in turn inspires their wisdom and eventually renders their immortality.
People tend to pursue pleasure and avoid pain, and that is nature. But learning to look on the bright side of pains in life is a compulsory course to take. As our Holy Teacher Ji-Gong Living Buddha said, "Constant tests and disciplines make a true hero."
4. The "Real" And "unReal" in Life.
Since life is transient, unpredictable, limited, and impermanent, we must understand what is real and what is unreal. The "real" means something that never changes, it lasts forever, whereas the "unreal" refer to things that are changing, impermanent, mortal, transient, and temporary. We often say to see is to believe, but sometimes seeing can also be misleading. As mentioned in 2
Corinthians 4:18, Holy Bible, "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
True, people need to work hard and earn money to support their everyday needs, but we should keep in mind that physical materials are just a tool for living; it's not the ultimate goal of life. Take Alexander the Great for example. He was a former Macedonian emperor enjoying all the material wealth that people craved for. Before he died, he realized he could not take anything with him and that he had to leave the world empty-handed like an ordinary person. So he ordered his ministers to prepare a special coffin with four holes where he could show his empty hands and feet. After he died, he wanted his ministers to put him in this specially made coffin and exhibit it. He showed to the world that, even if he took over many countries and wielded absolute power and wealth in his life, when he had to say good-bye to the world, he could take nothing with him at all!
All the wealth and fame are just like the "reflection of the moon in the river or the flowers in the mirror." The seemingly "real" is actually "unreal," for all things are destined to destruction.
Do you still remember the devastating earthquake in Taiwan on September 21, 2000, which caused thousands of people dead and tons of buildings collapsed in just few seconds? It is proven fact that something we pursue for life could suddenly disappear. However, something invisible and untouchable like the air is true and ever existing.
So what is real? The True-Nature is inherent in everybody. All virtues lie in here, including the Five Constant Virtues of Mercy, Justice, Courtesy, Wisdom and Faith. Buddhas and Saints were once humans; they see through the vanity of the world and free themselves from attachments. They hold on to the vision and do their best to manifest the inherent True-Nature. They are honored not only by perfecting themselves, but also mercifully guiding others to this golden path of cultivation. Eventually they attain enlightenment and ultimate realization of immortality. Their physical bodies may have vanished, but their spirits live on in the world. Physically they are dead, but spiritually they are forever alive.
Ⅲ. True Meaning of Life
I'm sure everybody wants to live a valuable and meaningful life, but how? Holy Teacher assures us that we all have received Dao and that we are all like seeds that are
ready to sprout. The seeds are to grow into big trees, but before that, all the weeds around them must be removed. These weeds are our bad habits and ill temper. Then we have to carefully nourish the seeds, fertilize them until they're strong enough to brave the storms and rains. Until then, don't let the temptations, fame, wealth, compliments and criticisms shake our faith. The seeds will grow to be huge trees, not only strong in themselves but also providing shades for the lost souls. This is the true meaning of life.
Right now, let's all make a good plan, hold on to the right direction and do not be lost. Always march ahead, step by step like we are climbing a ladder. Learn, cultivate, practice, and preach Dao. Let the wonderful message of Dao propagated all over the world. If we persist and do not give up halfway, we can soon reap what we sow. You never know what you can do till you try. But if you try, the future is in your hands, and the world can be different because of you!
1. Receiving Dao Provides an Insight Into Life.
After receiving Dao, we understand everyone has the inherent Buddha-Nature, or "True-Nature". All men are equal, so everyone can learn to be awakened to this golden path to heaven. By receiving Dao we have a right direction to follow. We also acquire an insight into life and are not likely to be lost again.
2. Learning About Dao Helps us to Brave the Uncertainty of Life.
By learning about Dao, step by step, we recover our inherent wisdom and virtues. We understand our life and therefore transcend the life and death cycle. With this understanding, we can see through all illusions, face and deal with the uncertainties of life casually and easily.
3. Cultivating Ourselves and Practicing Dao Helps us to Turn Pain Into joy.
While cultivating, we are always nurturing a heart of joy and thankfulness. We understand all sufferings result from ignorance. This ignorance makes us unable to realize the real meaning of life. So by cultivating Dao, our wisdom is inspired and we are cultivating a positive attitude toward life. Implicitly or explicitly, many disasters can also be avoided.
4. Preaching and Propagating Dao can Gain us an Infinite Value of Life.
Thanks to God and our Holy Teachers, we are given this golden opportunity to receive Dao, learn Dao, and cultivate Dao. We realize that everyone has exactly the same Nature as the Buddhas have and that all can achieve perfection. Were it not for
the mercy of God, how could we have this wonderful chance? So we should follow the saints and sages in their footsteps, preaching and propagating this heavenly gospel to the whole world, sincerely hope and act upon so that all mankind may also have this golden opportunity to attain enlightenment. Not only can we gain an infinite value of life, we can also help others do so. Let's join hands in contributing our effort in repaying the Grace of God and virtue of our Holy Teachers!
Ⅳ. Four Values of Life.
What you do determines what you achieve in life. Generally speaking, there are four kinds of life: notorious, unknown, remembered, and everlasting.
Some people are notorious in history. These are selfish people who harm the righteous people with trumped-up charges and they jeopardize the entire nation. These people are despised even long after they have died.
Some people remain unknown because they make no contribution in their lives. They make no contribution to the world and yet no specific harm is made either. Their life or death makes no difference to the world. Only their descendants may remember or worship them after their death.
Some people are locally remembered and respected. They make great contributions to the society or the whole
So, ladies and gentlemen, what do you expect from your lives? What would you expect yourselves to be? People call you farmer if you do farming for life. They call you teacher if you teach for life and businessman if you do business. What if you do what a Buddha or a Saint does? People will also call you Buddha, call you Saint.
How can we successfully establish and reach our goal? Ji-Gong Living Buddha reminds us that our future lies in our hand. Seize the moment and keep it up. Never give up. Help and encourage others when they withdraw. Fulfill the holy vows and make the most of life. Life is meaningful in this sense.
To conclude, I'd like to share with you a holy song composed by the Venerable Sariputra, one of the ten great disciples of Sakyamuni Buddha. He is best known for wisdom.
(Dedication: A world will be whatever will be.)
When you have the divine guidance,
You can develop your potentials.
May you be firm, brave and faithful,
Your mind becomes clearer.
All good deeds, good deeds,
Look forward and widen vision.
Perform well, keep devoting,
Life is meaningful.We are so fortunate that we all have received Dao and | bask in the divine guidance of Almighty God, all Buddhas.1 and especially our Holy Teacher, Ji-Gong Living Buddha;! we can develop our inherent wisdom and potentials. Inevitably we'll encounter difficulties and frustrations, but we 1 must be firm, be brave, and be faithful. Perform deeds of goodness, always look forward and keep a wide vision. If we keep cultivating with continuity and consistency, our heart and mind will be clearer; we'll achieve and perfect a meaningful life. Let's all keep these words in mind and put them into action. I sincerely wish you a meaningful and successful life! For all the mistakes I made, I hope the Buddhas can forgive me; all the Transmitting Masters and lecturers can give me suggestions. Thank you for your listening.
Thanks to the effort of seniors: http://tw.myblog.yahoo.com/kuoleang/article?mid=7422&next=7421&l=f&fid=28&sc=1