Fulfilling Life's Purpose

By Lama Zopa Rinpoche


How can we make best use of this perfect human rebirth, the precious human body that we have received just this once? How can we make it most beneficial, not only for ourselves but also for those other, most precious, extremely important living beings? Just like us, numberless other living beings, each of whom is as equally precious as we feel ourselves to be, seek only happiness and dislike any suffering. How can we make our lives productive for their sake? This is the main thing we should be asking ourselves.

If we take care of others, work for their happiness, we are automatically taking care of ourselves. Trying to make others happy is the best way of loving ourselves. Similarly, if we harm others, we harm ourselves. Harming others does not bring us peace and happiness, only misery and grief, now and in the future. Bringing happiness to others is the best way of bringing happiness to ourselves; it follows naturally. It happens by the way. Things we do that bring happiness to others have a beneficial effect on our own minds.

Conversely, if we act toward others with negative motivation and give them harm, such actions leave negative imprints on our mental continuum. These imprints later manifest as undesirable appearances. When our senses come into contact with these, unpleasant feelings arise. This is the evolution of our life's problems; this is how they start. Their origin is in our own minds, with our negative thoughts. The end result is the suffering we experience, in this life or in future ones.

Healthy actions - positive actions, actions that benefit others, actions done with compassion, with sincerity, which bring happiness to others - leave positive imprints on our mental continuum. These manifest as desirable appearances. When our senses contact these, pleasant feelings, comfort, success - all the enjoyable experiences we wish for and desire - result. This is the evolution of happiness, all the way up to enlightenment. Happy daily lives, pleasure and enjoyment - from now until enlightenment - result from positive thinking, positive intention, and positive actions.

That's why the Buddha of Compassion, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, often says that cherishing others is the best way of cherishing ourselves. His Holiness calls this wise, or intelligent selfishness because, as I mentioned above, by cherishing others, refraining from giving them harm, offering them all benefit, all our wishes for happiness, both now and in the future, will be fulfilled. Experience has proven that not only temporary happiness, but even enlightenment, the ultimate state of everlasting happiness, the highest, complete attainment of peace and bliss, results from serving others. In fact the more we dedicate ourselves to others, the quicker and easier our own happiness arises.

This means living a life of compassion. Therefore, the answer to the question of how to make best use of our life is by living with compassion and wisdom. Compassion alone is not enough. We also need to develop wisdom. How do we develop wisdom? We don't get wisdom from pills or a special diet or by transplanting somebody else's brain into our head or someone's heart into our chest. We can develop wisdom only through our own effort, our own meditation practice. Wisdom comes from listening to the right teachings and reflecting and meditating on them.

Now, take a break from reading and meditate on the meaning of life, the purpose of being alive.

Think, "The purpose of my life is not simply to get happiness for myself, not just to solve my own problems. The meaning of my life is to free all sentient beings from suffering and lead them to all happiness because it is from the numberless, precious sentient beings that I receive all my past, present and future happiness, temporary and ultimate, from each everyday comfort and pleasure up to the highest enlightenment". Feel this in your heart. From Virtue and Reality, Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.


This teaching is an excerpt from Virtue and Reality by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, drawn from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.
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