One Life, One Task (Part 1)

I have always loved listening to music. When I was in my early twenties, and going to college, I would often listen to music from the Irish rock band U2. I remember one time being with friends and listening to the song “One” from their album 'Actung Baby'. The lyrics caught my attention, “one life you got to do what you should…”. I said to myself, “this is what life is about. All people have one life, and we have to do what we have to do.” I felt in my heart I had heard something deep, but I didn't know at the time what that One thing was that I was supposed to do. This was a few years before I met the true Buddhist teaching.

If everyone realized what they need to do in this life, they would realize that life would be directed towards finding and attaining the purpose of human life. This is the bravest thing to do in this life, in my opinion. It is like a warrior going on a quest, knowing that he has a mission to accomplish and must devote his life to that come what may.

Seeking the meaning of life is a goal that goes against our comfort. To seek a spiritual goal is to take a risk. It is to be brave. Some might say, “what if you never reach your goal?” No one who ever achieved something never listened to the ?what if's' that surely came their way. To attain the goal that one is born for means that there are no “what if's”. You are born to accomplish this task. Seeking the reason we live is a journey one needs take before it is too late. The wonderful thing about seeking the journey of the purpose of life is that once the destination is reached the burden of uncertainty and anxiety about why we live is put down for the very first and final time.

People want a secure life, and want to feel secure, and this is why we work even though most dread their day to day routine. But thanks to our jobs we can pay for a place to live, raise a family, have health insurance, and maybe save for the future. The more security we have the better we feel. But the reality is that no matter how much we have we still don't feel secure or have peace of mind. In fact the more we have the more we feel we want, and never have peace of mind or a true feeling of security. If we have $10,000 saved, we want $50,000. If we have $50,000, we want six figures. But the reality is that materials don't give us the security we are seeking. Real feelings of security come from within.

When the future is dark, the present is dark. If we have an operation in a few weeks that we are not sure we will survive, our mood right now will be anxious and serious. On the other hand, if we are going on a vacation to a place we love in a few weeks our mood right now will be upbeat and excited. What determines these two vastly different states is the looming future. Buddhism teaches that the root cause of our suffering is because we are dark about our afterlife, and our afterlife is our 100% assured future. From this point of view it is a paradox that people who commit suicide are actually running into the darkness that has been the cause of their suffering all along. We all want a bright future, and a happy life and we have but one life to do what needs to be done.

What is that One thing we need to do? Master Shinran said it plainly in these words: “Accomplish the great task while alive.” Heizei gojo. To accomplish that task is the meaning of life. It is to have the darkness of mind eliminated that has been the source of all suffering since the beginning of our time. It is the mind that lives in darkness about the world to come. Once the darkness is eliminated by the power of Amida Buddha it is gone, never to return, and our lives turn into a vast ocean of brightness, said Master Shinran. We are embraced, never to be abandoned, as it says in Tannisho. This is the real meaning of feeling secure.

I wish all people would think that their life has One thing to accomplish and they will seek for the guidance of Master Shinran's teachings and accomplish the great task that they have the opportunity to do so now as a human being.

Frank Costelloe, U.S.A

(To be Continued...)

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #21 | 2012, One Life, One Task

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