Adventures : Zeph Tales (22)

What’s the Meaning of Life?

Once upon a time, there was a very small boy called Zeph, who wondered much about the very large world he lived in. After his first day at a new school (which he didn’t like), being surrounded by strangers in a strange land, it struck him that life could be pretty unexpectedly unpleasant. When he reached home, he went straight to bed, pulling the blanket over his head. His Mum and Dad came in and asked lovingly, “What’s wrong boy?” Suddenly, it occured to Zeph to ask, “Ma, Pa… What’s the meaning of life?”

They were stunned for a while, before Dad answered a-matter-of-factly, “Well, in life – you eat, sleep, play, go to school, work, get married, have kids and live happily ever after!” Zeph listened silently, still with his blanket over him, wondering why Dad didn’t mention he had to die at the end. It disturbed him that death is inescapable and that it could strike any time. Secretly, he beared some resentment to his parents for having given birth to him. Yes, it felt much like the words of “Bohemian Rhapsody” – “Mama, I don’t want to die, I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.” He wondered why he should go through the tremendous efforts of staying alive (eg. go to school), since death’s eventual and any struggle to live forever in happiness seems ultimately futile.

One day, he chanced upon the religion and philosophy section of his school library. Astounded that there were many books on the meaning of life, he borrowed many, hungrily devouring the various schools of thought which evolved throughout history. It struck him that while there were many similarities, there were also many conflicting differences. But what impressed him most was that the Buddha was the only one who strongly encouraged everyone to intelligently “doubt the doubtful” (Kalama Sutta), including his own teachings. The Buddha’s open confidence gave him much personal confidence to further pursue the meaning of life through his teachings. The more he investigated them, the more things made sense, falling into place. So much so, that all his major questions were answered. He realised he had become a Buddhist at heart.

Zeph realised that the meaning of life was to make life meaningful, to help one and all attain True Happiness by increasing our compassion (to each other) and our wisdom (of the nature of life and death). There’s simply nothing else more worth doing. Exactly because life is transient, it should be treasured from moment to moment, but with less and less attachment. Because we were attached to life in our previous life, we were reborn in this life, pursuing the elusive True Happiness that we all seek, which is timeless, beyond our attachment to life and aversion to death – Nirvana! He realised that his parents didn’t exactly create him, they were karmically connected to be family, and his (re)birth was essentially caused by himself. In fact, he should be grateful for his parents’ love, and repay their kindness by sharing the Buddha’s teachings with them. Life became worthwhile, a golden opportunity to learn well the lessons unmastered in previous lives. Zeph didn’t hate school anymore. After all, life itself is a school. True graduation is to become fully enlightened like the Buddha. Learn well now! As in the last words of the Buddha, “Strive on with diligence!”

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