Saturday, September 29, 2012

Life and its purpose

“...Nothing comes from nothing, 
Nothing ever could. 
But somewhere in my youth or childhood, 
I must have done something good.”

The above words are taken from a song in the motion film, ‘The Sound of Music’ a musical extravaganza. The composer of the song has given credence to the Buddhist theory of cause and effect which in the realm of ethics is known as Kamma. Kamma means action and Vipaka its effect, result or return. An explanation of Kamma taken from ‘The Path to Purity’, a commentary on the teaching of the Buddha runs as follows -

“According to the seed that is sown,
So is the fruit you reap therefrom. 
Doer of good will gather good, 
Doer of evil, evil reaps. 
Sown is the seed and planted well, 
Thou shalt enjoy the fruit thereof.”

Kamma is a law in itself which operates in its own field without the intervention of any external agency. Taking as a fact that nothing comes from nothing, let us go into the origination of man and man’s purpose.

Christianity admitting the possibility of an ultimate origin attributes everything to the fiat of the Almighty God. Should that be the case, then man’s consciousness and life-force are endowments from the same source. It then follows that the whole of mankind should think alike, act alike, experience alike, grow alike, decay and die alike. However, the reality is that no two persons are identically alike physically and mentally, with each one working out one’s own destiny.

According to the science of physics nothing is created. Things arise out of causes and conditions. Consciousness and life-force being energies they cannot be created.

Matter, consciousness and life-force are the three distinct factors that go to constitute man. With their combination a powerful force known as man comes into being. He becomes his own creator or destroyer.

According to the Buddha’s ‘Law of Dependent/Origination’ ignorance (avijja) of the truth of sorrow, its cause, its ending and the path to its elimination is the chief cause that sets man’s wheel of life in motion. In other words it is not knowing of things as they truly are or of oneself as one realizes. It clouds real understanding.

Ignorance brings forth craving and grasping which bind one to existence. Craving and grasping lead to actions which generate kammic energy that conditions consciousness which becomes the re-linking consciousness for rebirth to take place. When mother and father get together at a time when it is the mother’s fertile period, and the being-to-be-born is present, then by the conjunction of these three factors, the germ of life is planted in the mother’s womb.

The being-to-be-born is the re-linking consciousness of a dying person. This re-linking consciousness has the entire history of its past.

According to science, man is absolutely parent-born. As such life precedes life. With regard to the first protoplasm of life scientists plead ignorance.

However, when a patient is hypnotized for diagnostic purposes it has been the experience of the hypnotist that the patient could speak of his previous births which when investigated into were found to be unbelievably accurate. That is proof that consciousness does not cease with death but continues to manifest itself.

To nullify the theory that chemical changes in the brain produce consciousness, philosopher David H Lund raises the question, “How can the brain a material substance produce something as radically different from it as consciousness? How can the brain create out of its own substance a reality that has no mass, no shape, no size and is not seen in space?”

Edgar Cayce the great American physicist who in a hypnotic trance gave thousands of readings to those who appeared before him or sent names and addresses spoke of Kamma as a debit and credit ledger of life that carries over from one life to the next and must be dealt with if the individual is to develop.

In one of Cayce’s readings he revealed that the identity was in the fair country of Alta or Poseida in that force that brought the highest civilization and knowledge that has been known in the earth’s plain.

This we find was about 10,000 BC when Ra Ta fled Atlantis to build new cultures in Egypt, Middle East etc. Cayce fixes Amilius’ reign in Atlantis to around 103,000 BC.

Materialists attribute everything to the natural order of things making them believe life’s purpose is to - “Eat, drink and be merry for death comes to all as an end to life. Virtue is a delusion and enjoyment is the only reality. Religion is a foolish abberation, a mental disease.

There is no need to control passion and instinct since they are nature’s legacy to man.” According to Buddhism, the chief cause that set man’s wheel of life in motion is ignorance. Hence ignorance has to be overcome with wisdom.

The path one has to follow is very clear, i.e. Developing mental discipline, concentration of mind, wisdom and intuition. What then takes place is that the mind is cleansed of all the defilements arising from greed, hatred and delusion awakens to see things in their true nature.

Ouspensky reminds us that instead of speculating about the purpose of life, if we simply look within ourselves, then we would see that in reality the meaning of life is not after all so obscure but it consists in knowledge.

What have the scientists to offer? Their view is expressed thus - 
“Has life a purpose? What or where or when? 
Out of space came universe, came sun, 
Came earth, came life, came man and more must come, 
But as to purpose, whose or whence? Why? None.”

The Bodhisattva (Buddha-to-be) summoning all his courage, will and determination at his command sat under the Bo tree at Gaya, never to rise therefrom until he discovered the cause of sorrow and its elimination.

His approach was through meditation which brings about self-discipline, self-control, self-purification and self-enlightenment. Thus developing wisdom and insight he flushed the defilements of his mind arising from craving, hatred and delusion.

Then the kammic energy that flowed for one, runs its course to a finish, ending re-birth producing consciousness. His search was complete knowing that re-birth it is that causes sorrow, grief and lamentation. The rapture he experienced made him say, “Of things unheard before there arose in me the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the insight and the light.” Reaching that unconditioned state of mind he became an Awakened Buddha. The Buddha’s ministry lasted forty five years. His teaching which brought an intellectual awakening is based on self-experience and is open for verification. Those who followed His Eightfold Path of right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration reached their goal of Nibbana as Arahants.
Daily News - M B Werapitiya