The Self Proclaimed Solitary Buddhist: Leading A Buddhist Life


What is the purpose of life?

Man is the highest fruit on the tree of evolution. It is for man to realize his position in
nature and understand the true meaning of his life.
To know the purpose of life, you will first have to study the subject through your
experience and insight. Then, you will discover for yourself the true meaning of life.
Guidelines can be given. but you must create the necessary conditions for the arising of
realization yourself.
There are several prerequisites to the discovery of the purpose of life;

  1. First, you must
    understand the nature of man and the nature of life. 
  2. Keep your mind calm and
    peaceful through the adoption of a religion. 
  3. Lastly, when these conditions are met, the answer
    you seek will come like the gentle rain from the sky. 

Understanding the nature of man 

Man may be clever enough to land on the moon and discover wondrous things in the
universe, but we has yet to come to a full understanding into the inner workings of our own minds. We have yet to
learn how our minds can be developed to its fullest potential so that its true nature can be
As yet, we are still wrapped in ignorance. We struggle to know who we really are or what is
expected of us. As a result, we misinterpret everything and act on that
misinterpretation. This failure to understand our existence leads us to assume a false
identity of a bloated, self-seeking ego, and to pretend to be what we are not or is unable
to be. We must make an effort to overcome ignorance to arrive at a realization and
Enlightenment. All great men are born as human beings from the womb, but they worked
their way up to greatness. Realization and Enlightenment cannot be poured into the
human heart like water into a tank. Even the Buddha had to cultivate his mind to realize
the real nature of man. We can be enlightened if we wake up from the ‘dream’ that is created by our own ignorant mind, and become fully awakened. We must realize that what we are today is the result of an untold number of repetitions in thoughts and actions. We are not
ready-made: we are continually in the process of becoming, always changing. It is in
this characteristic of change that our future lies, because it means that it is possible for us to mould our character and destiny through the choice of our actions, speech and
thoughts. We become the thoughts and actions that we chooses to perform. We are the highest fruit on the tree of evolution. It is for us to realize this position in nature and
to understand the true meaning of this life.

Understanding the nature of life 

Most people dislike facing the true facts of life and prefer to propel themselves into a false
sense of security. We fail to realize that life is uncertain, and death is unavoidable. One way of
understanding life, is to face and understand death which is nothing more than a
temporary end to a temporary existence. But many people do not like even to hear of the
word ‘ death’. They forget that death will come, whether they like it or not. Facing the reality of  death with the right mental attitude can give a person courage and calmness as well as
an insight into the nature of existence.
Besides understanding death, we need a better understanding of our life. We are living a
life that does not always proceed as smoothly as we would like it to. Very often we all face
problems and difficulties in our life. We should not be afraid of these problems because exploration into
the very nature of these problems and difficulties can provide us with a deeper insight
into life. The worldly happiness in wealth, luxury, respectable positions in life which
most people seek are an illusion. The fact that admissions to mental hospitals and suicide rates increases in relation to modern
material progress is enough testimony that we have to go beyond worldly materialistic pleasures in search of real happiness.

Is there need for a religion? 

To understand the real purpose of life, it is advisable for a person to choose and follow an
ethical-moral system that restrains a person from evil deeds, and encourages him to do good. For simplicity, we shall call this system ‘religion’. Religion has the power to transform one with negative characteristics
into someone with positive qualities. It turns the non-noble, noble; the selfish, unselfish; the
proud, humble; the greedy, charitable; the cruel, kind. Every religion, represents, however imperfectly, a reaching
upwards to a higher level of being. From the earliest times many forms of religion have come into
being in the course of history, only to pass away and be forgotten, each one in its time
had contributed something towards the sum of human progress. Christianity helped to
civilize the West, and the weakening of its influence has marked a downward trend of the human spirit. Buddhism, which civilized the greater part of the East long before Christianity, is
still a vital force, and in this age of scientific knowledge is likely to extend and to
strengthen its influence. It does not, at any point, come into conflict with modern
knowledge, but embraces and transcends all of it in a way that no other system of thought
has ever done before or is ever likely to do. Buddhism and Eastern philosophy strive to attain harmony with nature
or spiritual satisfaction.
Religion teaches a person how to calm down the senses and make the heart and mind

The secret of calming down the senses is to eliminate desire which is the root of
our disturbances “suffering”. It is very important for us to have contentment. The more people crave
for material things, the more they have to suffer. Material things do not give us permanent happiness.
Most of the rich people in the world today are suffering from numerous physical and
mental problems. With all the money they have, they cannot buy a solution to their
problems. Yet, the poorest people who have learnt to have contentment may enjoy their
lives far more than the richest people do.

Searching for a purpose in life 

The aim in life varies among individuals. An artist may aim to paint masterpieces that
will live long after he is gone. A scientist may want to discover some law of the universe, put together a
new theory, or invent a new machine. A politician may wish to become prime minister or
president. A young executive may aim to be a managing director of a multinational
company. However, when you ask the artist, scientist, politician and the young executive
why they have such goals, they will reply that these achievements will give them a purpose in
life and make them happy, Everyone sets their sights for happiness in life, yet experience shows
time and again that its attainment is so elusive.


Once we realize the nature of life (characterised by unsatisfactoriness, change, and
egolessness) as well as the nature of man’s greed and the means of getting them satisfied,
we can then understand the reason why happiness so desperately sought by many
people is so elusive like catching a ray of light in their hands. We try to gain happiness
through accumulation. When we are not successful in accumulating wealth, gaining
position, power and honour, and deriving pleasure from sensual satisfaction, we complain and
suffer, envying others who are more successful than us. However, even if we are successful in getting these things, we also suffer because we now fear losing what we have gained, or we are not satisfied and want more wealth, higher position,
more power, and greater pleasure. Their desires can never seem to be completely satiated. This is why an understanding of life is important so that we do not waste too much time
doing the impossible.

Here the adoption of a religion becomes important, since it encourages
contentment and urges a person to look beyond the demands of his flesh and ego. In a
religion like Buddhism, we are reminded that we are the heir of our karma and the
master of our destiny. In order to gain greater happiness, we must be prepared to forego
short-term pleasures. If a person does not believe in life after death or a heaven after death, it is
enough for him to lead a good, noble life on earth, enjoying a life of peace and happiness
here and now, as well as performing actions which are for the benefit and happiness of

Leading such a positive and wholesome life on earth and creating happiness for
oneself and others is much better than a selfish life of trying to satisfy one’s ego and
If, however, a person believes in life after death, then according to the Law of Karma,
rebirth will take place according to the quality of his deeds. A person who has done many
good deeds may be born in favorable conditions where he enjoys wealth and success,
beauty and strength, good health, and meet good spiritual friends and teachers.
Wholesome deeds can also lead to rebirth in other sublime states, while
unwholesome deeds lead to rebirth in suffering states. When we understand the
Laws of Karma, we will then make the effort to refrain from performing bad actions, and try to cultivate good actions. By doing so, we gain benefits not only in this life, but in
many other lives to come.

When a person understands the nature of man, then some important realizations arise. We
realize that unlike a rock or stone, a human being possesses the innate potential to grow
in wisdom, compassion, and awareness and be transformed by this self-development and
growth. We also understand that it is not easy to be born as a human being, especially
one who has the chance to hear the Dharma. In addition, we are fully aware that this
life is impermanent, and we should, therefore, strive to practice the Dhamma while we are still in a position to do so. The practice of Dharma is a lifelong learning process which enables us to realize our true potential trapped within our minds by ignorance and greed.
Based on these realizations and understanding, we will then try to be more aware of what
and how we think, speak and act. One must consider if our thoughts, speech and actions
are beneficial, done out of compassion and have good effects for ourselves as well as
others. We begin to realize the true value of walking the path that leads to complete self
transformation, which is known to Buddhists as the Noble Eightfold Path.

This Path can
help us to develop moral strengths (sila) through the restraint of negative actions
and the cultivation of positive qualities helpful for personal, mental and spiritual
growth. In addition, it contains many techniques which we can apply to purify our thoughts, expand the possibilities of the mind, and bring about a complete change
towards a wholesome personality. This practice (bhavana) can widen
and deepen the mind towards all human experience, as well as the nature and
characteristics of phenomena, life and the universe. In short, this leads to the cultivation
of wisdom (Panna). As our wisdom grows, so will love, compassion, kindness, and
joy. We will have greater awareness to all forms of life and better understanding of our own thoughts, feelings, and motivations.
In the process of self-transformation, we will no longer aspire for a divine birth as our ultimate goal in life. We will then set our goal much higher, and model ourselves after
the Buddha who has reached the peak of human perfection and attained the transcendent state we call Enlightenment or Nirvana. It is here that we develop a deep confidence
in the Triple Gem and adopt the Buddha as our spiritual ideal. We will strive to eradicate
greed, develop wisdom and compassion, and to be completely liberated from the bounds
of Samsara.

Buddhism for Man in Society 

This religion can be practiced either in society or in seclusion.
We don’t have to retire to a monastery or a far off cave if we desire to be a true
Buddhist. Some people jump to such conclusions after casually reading or hearing something about
Buddhism. Some people form their impression of Buddhism after reading articles or
books that give only a partial or lopsided view of Buddhism. In my opinion I believe this comes from a limited understanding of the Buddha’s Teaching. His Teaching is
not meant only for monks in monasteries. The Teaching is also for ordinary men and
women living at home with their families. The Noble Eightfold Path is the Buddhist way
of life that is intended for all people. This way of life is offered to all mankind without
any discrimination.
The vast majority of people in the world cannot become monks or retire into caves or
forests. Buddhism would be useless to the masses if
they could not follow it in their daily life in the modern world. But if you understand the
spirit of Buddhism correctly, you can surely follow and practice it while living the life of
an ordinary man. There may be some who find it easier and more convenient to accept
Buddhism by living in a remote place; by cutting themselves off from the
society of others. Yet, other people may find that this kind of life dulls and
depresses their whole being both physically and mentally, and that it may therefore not be beneficial to the development of their spiritual and intellectual life.
True renunciation does not mean running away physically from the world.

The Buddhist Way of Life for Householders 

A man named Dighajanu once visited the Buddha and said, “Venerable Sir, we are
ordinary layman, leading a family life with wife and children. Would be so kind to teach us some doctrines which will be helpful to our happiness in this world and
hereafter?” The Buddha told him;

  • First: He should be skilled, efficient, earnest, and energetic in whatever
    profession he is engaged, and he should know it well (utthana-sampada)
  • Second: He
    should protect his income, which he has thus earned righteously, with the sweat of his
    brow (arakkha-sampada)
  • Third: He should have good friends (kalyana-mitta) who are
    faithful, learned, virtuous, liberal and intelligent, who will help him along the right path
    away from evil
  • Fourth: He should spend reasonably, in proportion to his income, neither
    too much nor too little, i.e., he should not hoard wealth nor should he be
    extravagant- in other words he should live within his means (sama-jivikata) 

Then the Buddha expounds the four virtues helpful to a layman’s happiness;

  1. (Saddha): He should have faith and confidence in moral, spiritual and intellectual
  2. (Sila): He should abstain from destroying and harming life, from stealing and
    cheating, from adultery, from falsehood, and from intoxicating drinks.
  3. (Caga): He
    should practise charity, generosity, without attachment and craving for his wealth. 
  4. (Panna): He should develop wisdom which leads to the complete destruction of suffering, to
    the realization of Nirvana. 

Sometimes the Buddha even went into details about saving money and spending it, as,
for instances, when he told the young man Sigala that he should spend one fourth of his
income on his daily expenses, invest half in his business and put aside one fourth for any
emergency. Once the Buddha told Anathapindika, the great banker, one of His most
devoted lay disciples who found for Him the Jetavana Monastery at Savatthi,
that a layman who leads an ordinary family life has four kinds of happiness;

  • The first
    happiness is to enjoy economic security or sufficient wealth acquired by just and
    righteous means (atthi-sukha) 
  • The second is spending that wealth liberally on himself, his
    family, his friends and relatives, and on meritorious deeds (bhoga-sukha) 
  • The third to be
    free from debts (anana-sukha)
  • The fourth happiness is to live a faultless, and a pure life
    without committing evil in thought, word or deed. (anavajja – sukha) *(It must be noted here that first three are economic and material happiness which is ‘not
    worth part’ of the spiritual happiness arising out of a faultless and good life.) 

From the few examples given above, one can see that the Buddha considered economic
welfare essential for human happiness, but he did not recognize progress as real
and true if it was only material, devoid of a spiritual and moral foundation. While
encouraging material progress, Buddhism always lays great stress on the development of
the moral and spiritual character for a happy, peaceful and contented society.
Many people think that to be a good Buddhist one must have absolutely nothing to do
with the materialistic life. What the Buddha teaches is that while we
can enjoy material comforts without going to extremes, we must also conscientiously
develop the spiritual aspects of our lives. While we can enjoy sensual pleasures as
laymen, we should never be attached to them to the extent that they hinder our
spiritual progress. Buddhism emphasizes the need for man to follow the Middle Path.


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