What is the purpose of existence?
Many people often talk about following the Buddha. But why should we follow the Buddha? What is its basic purpose? This is something that a Buddhist should understand. The significance and purpose of following the Buddha is to attain perfection. If we can understand thoroughly our purpose in following the Buddha and feel confident that it is essential to follow the Buddha’s teaching, then we will tread a true path and learn the essence of Buddhism rather than being side-tracked or practising incorrectly.
What is the purpose of human existence in this world? What is its meaning? We have to begin by observing ourselves to find an answer for this question. This is the only way to grasp the purpose of following the Buddha because Buddhism aims at resolving the problem of human existence. This aim may be common to all higher religions, but Buddhism gives a more complete view to the purpose of life and its meaning.
Veiled in mystery, no one understands what birth and death is.
From the moment we were born to the day of our old age and death, several decades of our life seem to have gone in a split second. Most of us live in ignorance. Where did we come from? Where does death take us to? Nobody can answer these questions. Hence, we can only say that befuddled, we come into being, and befuddled we depart. In confusion we pass our life. More often than not, even our marriage seems a union of accident. Our life career, too, seems often a matter of muddling chance. Seldom is it the result of the execution of a plan carefully designed from the very beginning.
A Western philosopher once drew a very good simile for this existence veiled in mystery. He said, “There is somewhere two steep mountains with a deep and wide gorge between them. The gorge is spanned by a long, narrow bridge. On this bridge humans move forward. Ahead of them, they see a mountain shrouded in dense fog, presenting only a picture of blank confusion. Looking backwards, the scene is no less misty. Down below is an unfathomable abyss. Some people walk only a few paces and then they fall into the abyss. Others have gone even as far as halfway, but to their misfortune, they too, slip and fall. Even those who have drawn near to the mountain on the opposite side, they are still not secure against falling into the bottomless canyon below. Where do they fall, no one knows.” This is an excellent depiction of the precarious nature of human existence. To follow the Buddha is to gain a clear and thorough understanding of this precarious human existence. Without this understanding, we will be like a ship sailing at random in a vast ocean from this shore towards a distant destination and such reckless sailing is extremely dangerous. Buddhism explains where life comes from, and where death leads to. It shows us what we are supposed to do now, in order to land safely on the other shore of light.