Q: So from my understanding, from the Buddhism’s point of view, the purpose of our existence is enlightenment, oneness, nirvana. And I want to ask why, why is that our purpose, why is the universe constructed so that our meaning, the meaning of life is in enlightenment?
P: what do you think is the goal that human beings pursue? For example, if I ask a student what is your greatest wish? He might say, to work. So what will you do with those grades? I want to go to a good university. Then after you enter a great university, what would you do? I want to get a good job. What do you want to do after? I want to earn a lot of money. What are you going to do with that money? So if we engage in that type of questioning exercise, ultimately the answer we all arrive to is freedom and happiness.
I guess there are some people who don’t want this, but the vast majority would say they want freedom and happiness. I think that is a unique nature of how we are made as human beings.
So how do you attain freedom and happiness? Most people think that money will buy them freedom and happiness. They say that high status will bring them freedom and happiness. And they think if you are more popular than you are freer and happier. That’s why people seek money, status and popularity. The question we have to ask is if that is really the answer.
I consult many wealthy people, but they don’t seem that happy to me. I also talk to many famous entertainers in Korea, they have a lot of issues. I talk to many politicians who have leadership positions, but they have a lot of issues as well.
So it seems money, high status, and popularity are really not efficient conditions to attain freedom and happiness.
So how can we really attain happiness and freedom? That is the teaching of Buddha. If people tell you that if you believe in Buddha pretty soon you will succeed and you will earn more money, that is not Buddhism. So Buddha actually shows the way towards attaining freedom and happiness and that is what we follow Buddha’s teachings.
We think that we define freedom as to be able to do whatever we want. But this world does not allow us to do that. So we go back and forth between freedom and a sense of imprisonment. But if you manage to achieve freedom from your own ambition and desires then you actually approach closer to the nature of lasting freedom. Enlightenment then is a precondition to your sense of lasting freedom and happiness.
So what is enlightenment? Enlightenment is basically defined as the way for you to break free from your preconceptions or conditioned perceptions of what the road to freedom and happiness is. It’s not a way of understanding. To understand something, we always understand something relative to the world view that we hold. But enlightenment is a matter of you breaking away from the ingrained preconception. So to start with that is for you to question anything. Whatever it may be you must not accept anything without you asking a question.