Podcast GS53 2021 1012 Purpose
There is a lot of suspicion these days, even rejection, of the notion of religion, but most of this negative feeling adheres not to the meaning of religion itself. It adheres to the institutions, the worldly forms that have developed around the notion of religion: those that have appropriated the idea of religion and in many cases turned it into a power structure, or a means of social coercion, or even simply a way of making money, and people are rightly suspicious of the hypocrisy that can easily grow up in this area.
But there is a great danger here of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. One has to enquire into what is the actual meaning, what is the central ‘nub’, as it were, of what is religion. The word religion comes from Latin and it essentially means to re-connect: "-legion", from legiō, is "to tie things together", and so re-legion is "to tie things together again", or to put together things that have come apart.
There is a real evidence, I think, that things have somewhat come apart, that people in the modern world have become disconnected from any real sense of ultimate purpose in their life.
So one way of looking at this is to look at the issue of purpose. One may have many purposes. At the moment I have a purpose of making a podcast. So I exert some effort and I muster my thoughts and I speak to the machine and, I hope, through the machine, to you.
So this pulls together my energy, my efforts, so you might think of that as a kind of self-power activity, but it does so towards something that is beyond myself, in the simple sense, ‘you’. I am reaching out to you through making this podcast.
Purposes are like that. They gather our energy and they direct it to something that we believe to be wholesome. Now we believe it to be wholesome because that fits into a bigger scheme of things.
I hope that in some small way this contributes to your well-being and, beyond your well-being, to the well-being of the world. I hope that I am conveying sacred truths which will ferment, which will assist, ultimately assist the universe, that what I offer is, as it were, just one of the grains of sand in the Ganges, but still it is directed towards something bigger.
And purposes are within other purposes. A small purpose fits within a bigger purpose and the bigger purpose within bigger ones still. And in this way you have an intuition of an ultimate purpose, the purpose of life, the purpose of existence, the purpose of meaning.
A purpose that transcends all the finite details of the universe and, in Buddhism, this ultimate something goes by many names. When we are talking about it abstractly, it is often called Tathatā, thatness or suchness or something of that kind.
It’s not something you can grasp. It’s the container within which all your purposes reside, and through a sense of immediate, and, therefore, implicitly ultimate purpose, we become reconnected, religio.
This is the meaning of religion, to connect with what is ultimately meaningful, what is ultimately true, with the whole meaning of life and we symbolise this with Namo Amida Bu. Thank you very much.