Can Humans Find a Greater Purpose?

Jõhvnööbikud“Why am I here?”  “What is my purpose?”  “What is God’s will for my life?”  “Am I making a difference?”  “How will I be remembered?”

I have often asked myself these, and many similar questions.  We as humans seem to be programed with an insatiable interest in purpose.  We want to accomplish something, we want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and we want to know why.  We often imagine purpose as something that we must find, discover, or create.  Or something that must be bestowed, or given to us by some other entity.  But purpose is something that is always with us.  It is an integral part of who we are, and we cannot be separated from it.

Consider Water

Water does not strive, it does not desire, and it has no goals.  It does not search out its purpose.  Simply by behaving according to its own properties, it fulfills its purpose.  As a result clouds are formed, canyons are carved, and life is sustained (The water does not aim to accomplish these things, yet they are still accomplished).  The purpose of water is to be water.

Consider A Tree

What is the purpose of a tree?  Other than to grow and to become a perfect manifestation of itself?  There is none.  A tree does not desire to make a name for itself.  It does not try to make the world a better place.  A tree is a tree, and that is its purpose.

Can we live like the tree, or the snail, or the bird?  With no purpose other than to be ourselves?  Is it possible to stop striving, planning, searching and asking?  Or is longing for a greater purpose simply part of our nature?

“The Master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and he has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions in his mind,
no resistances in his body.
He doesn’t think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death,
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day’s work.”  ~Lao Tzu

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Remembering To Wash Your Bowl

bowl

I recently stumbled upon this Zen story:

A monk told Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”

Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?

The monk replied, “I have eaten.”

Joshu said, “Then you had better wash your bowl.”

At that moment the monk was enlightened.

For some reason, this story really resonated with me.  I, like the monk, was enlightened.  But why?  It seems so simple, after you eat, wash your bowl.  Focus on the task in front of you and carry it on to completion.  Its what Grandma would tell you if she wasn’t holed up in her room surfing the web on her smart phone, and trolling random blogs (Hi Grandma!).

But in today’s always-moving-on-to-the-next-thing society, this is not a truth you can take for granted.  And its not just dishes.  I have so many incomplete tasks floating around out there, I have not only filled my mental sink with dishes, but they have spilled out to cover the counter, and I have started stacking them on the floor.  Honestly, I hardly even cook anymore, I just go out to eat.  Spending my time on tasks that just give the illusion of completeness, like social media, checking my blog’s stats, watching movies, et cetera.

So, from this point forward, until I get tired of it, and decide to quit mid-stream, I am going to finish what I start, and I am going to start less.  I will take it one task at a time, and wash my dish slowly.  Not only that, I’ll do you one better, and dry it.  No.  I will go all out, and put it away.

So, if you are asking yourself, what should I be doing?  How do I find enlightenment?  What is my purpose in life?  Wash your bowl, son.  Wash your bowl.

(If this sounds familiar, it may be because it is a post from my blogger blog, which is no longer active.  If you followed me on blogger, you may have read it there)