In the years since my ordination as a Zen Buddhist Priest and in the time I have been teaching Buddha Dharma, all forms of Zen Meditation and the Way of Zen at the “Zen Buddhist and Yoga Retreat” in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland in Queensland Australia, from the myriad of people that have passed through the centre I am asked the same question on a reasonably regular basis. “Fushin, what is the meaning of life?” I tell them with all humility that I do not know the meaning of life, however I believe I know the purpose of life and that is simply to be of benefit to others, do no harm and to be emotionally contented in this life.
To be of benefit to others is through the daily practice of compassion and generosity, compassion of the heart and generosity of the spirit, these are the corner stones of which Buddhism is built. Compassion of the heart is the understanding of others and their suffering, it is the giving of empathy, it is the giving of the warmth and understanding. Generosity of the spirit is not based in dollars but is based in the giving of yourself, of your time, of your effort, and truly being there when someone is talking to you, the giving of a warm smile, a caring thought or a gentle word.
Doing no harm, this means doing no harm to others as well as to ourselves or the environment around us, or to the creatures that live in the environment. The way to practice doing no harm, is the taking into our lives the first 5 precepts of the Buddha.
- Abstain from the taking of life
- Abstain from taking what is not ours or not given
- Abstain from inappropriate speech
- Abstain from immoral behaviour
- Abstain from the ingestion of intoxicants and mind altering substances
Of these, number 4 is the most important because the taking of life is immoral, the taking of what is not ours or not given is immoral, inappropriate speech is immoral, and damaging our minds and our body and encouraging others to do the same through mind altering substances is also immoral.
To be happy and contented. Happiness and contentment comes from our understanding of the law of moral causation (action and reaction), the law of karma and the understanding of the suffering and dissatisfaction that we feel in the world today. To have knowledge and understanding of the four noble truths.
The first noble truth, that in this life there is suffering and or dissatisfaction.
The second noble truth, that there is a cause to this suffering and dissatisfaction and that is our wanting, our lusting and our craving and our attachments. I find that the 2 most common attachments are firstly our attachment to the desire that others will think well of us, our friends, our family, our workmates, people we don’t know and quite possibly even people we don’t even like, we spend so much time, money, effort and heartache on this attachment. And secondly our attachments to outcomes “I won’t be happy until such and such occurs”. People go for many, many years of their life not allowing themselves happiness until some perpetrator who has caused a grevious offence against them is brought to what they consider to be justice, and they may never be, so emotional contentment and happiness never has the opportunity to arise.
The third noble truth is that to every question in the universe there is an answer, it just has to be found and in this case the answer to the fourth noble truth, known as the 8 Fold Path, the Middle Way or the Middle Path.
The 8 Fold Path consists of:
1 – Right Understanding and 2 – Right Mindfulness, which together are wisdom,
3 – Right Speech, 4 – Right Action and 5 – Right Living, which together are morality,
6 – Right Effort, 7 – Right Attentiveness and 8 – Right Concentration, which together are the right concentration.
This is known as the Middle Path.
All this combined, being of benefit to others, doing no harm and being happy and emotionally content, I believe is the purpose of life.
~Zen Master Fushin Daijo Yin Chao
My interest in Buddhism and meditation began in the late 1970’s but as it happens to so many people in western society, life gets in the way, carreer, marriage, mortgages, child raising etc.
A time in life of great effort and stress we say to ourselves “I’m too busy to pursue my spiritual side I am too stressed to do my meditation”. But this is the time of life that really requires, at the very least our regular practice of meditation.
20 years later my desire for the spiritual life and regular meditation practice reignited with a passion, so I pursued the gaining of knowledge and understanding of the Buddhist teachings and the peace and tranquility of regular meditation practice with a vengeance.
My serious sojourn into the depths of Buddhism began in the Tibetan system, but after several years I realised that I could not fully connect with it.
My western education, my western mind and my western interlect held me back from many of the ancient traditions associated with the Tibetan system, so I took the words of the Buddha seriously and began to “Investigate and see for myself”.
I ended up in the tradition of Zen, it was like coming home. Coming home to the ‘Simplicity of Practice of Zen’
The austerity of it, I felt the unclutteredness of Zen, the simplicity, the lack of a myriad ancient ceromonial practices and it was just simply being mindfully Zen.
Years later my Zen teacher offered me the opportunity in, ‘The Taking of the Robes’ in ordination, an opportunity that I jumped at to join the Zen priesthood.
Now years later and in conjunction with my wife Rose, who teaches not only Hatha Yoga but the philosophy behind the true practice of yoga and Raja Yoga (Yoga of the Mind) together in an effort to simply ‘be of benefit to others’ we founded the ‘Zen Buddhist and Yoga Retreat’ in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland in Queensland Australia.
In the short time that the Retreat Centre has been open we have had to expand the accommodation facilities twice, as we find it difficult to tell people who desperately want to attend the program that we offer, “Sorry we are full”.
Being a cancer survivor myself I understand the stress and the fear attached to even just the word cancer, not only for the patient but also for their family. For that reason we offer free retreat programs for all patients with cancer. We do this as a part of our ongoing program to simply be of benefit to others.
I am now in my 66th year and look forward with great enthusiasm to continue to be a benefit to others for at least another 20 years or so.
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