The Return To The Real Life

The Return To The Real Life

Life blooms in every corner our eyes fall on, which invigorates the world and enables human beings to live and thrive.

Broadly speaking, the power of life not only lies in every organism in the nature, but is also represented by the stars and galaxies in the cycle of their formation, development and perishing.

Of all phenomena of life, human life is certainly the most vital and immediate concern to everyone of us. 

In simple terms,  human life is the course of experiences from birth to death, and it has three essential facets, namely, living, birth and death, and life.

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Usually, what people care about most is living, which includes two levels – survival and living quality.

The first question facing a human is survival. As the saying goes, food is the first necessity of a man. Our body cannot function properly without the energy provided by food.

Besides, family expenditure is another issue we need to solve every day. With blessings, some people are born rich.

Especially in China, parents tend to accumulate wealth for their offspring in order to lift them from the toil of making a living.

In developed countries, survival does not seem to be a difficulty due to the comparatively sound social security system.

However, there are still many people in the world who bustle about for survival for their whole life, working hard every day just for bread and for covering their family expenses.

For them, the purpose of living is so simple that nothing goes beyond survival.

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In fact, animals such as birds in the sky, fish in the ocean and beasts on the earth do the same thing as humans do, all foraging for food to survive and satisfy hunge.

If humans also survive only for survival's sake, what is the difference between humans and animals then?

For every organism, survival is the indispensable foundation, but only humans pursue a higher quality of living beyond that.

Today, with the prevalence of hedonism, almost everyone is focusing his mind on improving the material conditions.

As a matter of fact, the help provided by the material improvement is far less effective than we thought.

For this reason, the more introspective people turn to spiritual pursuit and are particular about improvement in taste of life, i.e. artistic life and religious life.

In other words, the spiritual life, by which humans transcends themselves, is a phenomenon unique to humans and thus distinguishes them from other creatures in the nature.

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Apart from the topic of living that concerns everyone of us, for thousands of years, generations of philosophers and religious scholars have been devoting themselves to investigating the issue of birth-and-death.

Birth and death, as two basic attributes of human life, are incompatible with, but inseparable from each other.

If birth is regarded as the beginning of one’s life journey, he is getting closer to the end of the journey every second since he comes to this world.

It is birth that brings the inevitable death. As a philosopher pointed out, death is the direction of every being’s life experience, and this is the reality of life experience.

Where dose life come from and where does it go after death?

In the view of materialism, life comes from parents – “I come into being after mom gave birth to me, since this physical body was received from parents”.

And the end of life means the end of everything – one dies like a light out. Death, as the termination of an individual’s life, fully demonstrates the limitedness of human life.

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In other religions than Buddhism, it is generally believed that a person has a soul that is independent of his physical body.

According to them, the physical body will decay after dozens of years, but the soul which is detached from the body is immortal and will continue in another world.

The doctrine of Christianity is established on this expectation of immortality: A mortal life may gain immortality with the rescue by the God and the sharing of the God’s life.

Through reverent praying, a believer may at death enter through the gates of paradise for eternity.

Materialists believe that life comes from materials, and thus the decomposition of the physical body means the end of life. This is a view of Annihilationism or the theory of one period of time (i.e. there is only the present life, no past or future).

We need to realize that science, which is advocated by the materialists, is only a tool to explore and change the external world, but not so effective in helping us to understand human itself.

The theory of one period of time held by materialists does not reveal the ultimate truth, nor does the two period of time theory advocated by the religionists mentioned above, i.e. the theory that there is an independent and unchanging soul, get any closer to it, because such a theory falls into eternalism.

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Buddhism, however, investigates the phenomenon of life with the wisdom of dependent co-arising.

And on this basis brings forward the theory of three periods of time (past, present and future), which holds that life is changing and at the same time continuous, neither eternal nor nihilistic.

Life is comprised of not only the present, but also the beginningless past and the endless future, and our present life is only an episode of life in its continuity.

Life is like running water, flowing from the beginningless past to the endless future; and life is also like an iron chain with each link closely connected to one another.

Our life in its present form is just a spray in the running water or a link of the iron chain.

Life is indeed short from the materialist point of view.

However, through learning and practicing the Buddhist teachings, we will realize that we do not really die.

And what we call death is just the end of one episode of life, and the beginning of another—with merely the change of life form.

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For this reason, a Buddhist should care not only about happiness in the present life, but also that in the future lives.

On the basis of caring for life in its entirety, the Buddha, after attaining the ultimate enlightenment. Preached for all sentient beings of this Saha world the teachings on happiness of present life, happiness of future lives and the ultimate happiness of nirvana.

Living is the manifestation of life, while birth and death represent the beginning and ending of an episode of life.

The most essential for humans is life rather than living, or birth and death. To change our fate, we must understand life: what exactly is life?

Life is a sacred mystery and a secret rule, a poet would say. Life is protein and amino acid, a biologist would say.

These statements, however, are not complete definition of life according to the Buddhadharma.

Humans, as the wisest being in the world, need to employ wisdom to decipher the secret codes of life. Only in this way can we better understand and make use of this present life,rather than adopt an evasive attitude in awe of life.

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Our life is composed of two systems.

One material and the other spiritual.

The material system refers to our physical body which is described by the biologists as components that form this soma.

Our physical body comes from our parents and carries the genes from them.

Our spiritual system is independent in that it has its own gene information which is the seeds of Karma stored in the Alaya Consciousness since the beginningless time.

In our daily life, we can observe that children from the same family may have totally different characters and gifts.

Why is it so? The answer is that every life comes to this world with unique life information and thus with different starting point.

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I usually say that learning and practicing the Buddhist teachings is the genuine life project.

The course of learning and practicing the Buddhist teachings is a course of overcoming the defects of our life and achieving perfection.

A course of relieving our life of afflictions and sufferings and attaining liberation and freedom, and a course of understanding and ultimately improving our life.

Now that we have realized what life is and how important it is to understand and improve life, we can formally begin our discussion on the topic of the return to the real life.

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