Open Thread 1

I'm trying something new. This is not the usual post/email where I assault you with my thoughts. This is a discussion thread where I solicit your thoughts on something. Substack tells me I should keep my initiating comments "tweet-length." I will work on that. My first attempt is a bit longer, though. I invite and encourage you to reply.

The description under a 5-minute BBC Reel video I came across yesterday begins: "We journey into Eastern philosophy and ask one of life's biggest questions: What is the meaning and purpose of existence?"

Clearly, if this is a question you're actually asking, you won't find your answer in a 5-minute video. For most of us, the answer probably won't come in a lifetime. (Although I have heard a few compelling stories about people on their deathbeds seeming to encounter answers.)

Some will say there is no meaning or purpose of existence. Some will say it's different for all of us and we need to find or make our own. Some will say God something something. And others will say don't talk to me; I'm watching Squid Game.

But no one actually knows.

A few points from the BBC video stood out to me, however. They're from a man named Tsultrim Gyurmey, who's a lecturer of Buddhist philosophy. I'm an atheist by default. But I'm very drawn to Buddhist philosophy and have been for many years now. I've transcribed Gyurmey's thoughts from the video below.

There is no greater happiness than being useful to others. If you practice altruism, you will find happiness. Your worries will disappear gradually. Selfishness is the biggest hindrance to altruism. The idea of "I and mine" should be uprooted from the inner mind. Help others without expectations, let it come from a place of purity and selflessness. Practice giving without expecting any returns.

The word “practice” in that last sentence, in my opinion, is crucial. Everything we do in life is practice for something. Who we are and what we’re good at shouldn’t block us from who we want to be and what we want to be better at. And whatever those things are, the path to them is practice.

We base our truth on our perception of what is true. This is the source of all problems. We must understand the non-existence of a common truth, through the view of emptiness. When we understand that existence is merely an attachment, that everything we see is merely an illusion, one would think: "Why should I worry about this?"

There's more I'd like to write about this. But I'm more interested in reading your thoughts, about Gyurmey's comments, about Buddhist or Eastern philosophy more generally, about whatever comes to mind when you consider the question: What is the meaning and purpose of existence?