Making sense of life
THE unexamined life is really not worth living, says Socrates, the wisest man in ancient Greece. His credo has become the basic tenet of the philosophical quest.
At his trial in 399BC by the citizens of Athens, Socrates declared that from his incessant questioning, he found his contemporaries spend their lives pursuing various goals – money, ambition, pleasure, physical security – without asking themselves if these were important. Unless they raised such a question and seriously sought the answer – through mindful reflection, alert observation and critical reasoning – they would not know if they were doing the right thing.
They might be wasting their energy, time and money in useless or even dangerous pursuits.
How do we believe what we believe? How do we arrive at our underlying set of beliefs (which includes assumptions, prejudices and convictions)? It is important that we examine the process to determine if we have acquired the correct set of beliefs because they influence our thinking and motivate our action.
Lord Buddha says:
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts from an evil thought, suffering follows him as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts from a pure thought, joy follows him as his own shadow that never leaves him.”
Consider this: Suppose what the Buddha had said is true, then what we think and believe mould our conduct and action, which in turn determine our future and our next life. How awful it would be to be reborn as a cockroach or a demon in hell, all because of absurd, dangerous beliefs and an evil lifestyle right now.
Time out: So, instead of merely possessing an unorganised mass (and mess) of opinions and assumptions and information, we take time out to scrutinise, re-formulate and organise them into a coherent, meaningful and practical system of right views. In the process, we discard those that are patently false, immoral and dangerous. From such a deliberate process we frame our world view, set our goals, and conduct our lives.