One late night, i was out having coffee with a dear friend Axel. And he said, “Have you ever thought of what is the purpose of life?” and he continued to explain that we all do, but that is infact the wrong question to ask. The right question to ask is actually, “What gives life meaning?” And the answer is Time. Because if we lived forever, we could pursue that goal or dream in another 100 years. There will be no urgency to achieve anything or to cherish anything. Today another dear friend, Maya (who also happens to be an amazing soul and jazz vocalist : www.mayanova.com) Posted a teaching by Ajahn Brahm (http://www.youtube.com/user/BuddhistSocietyWA#p/u/8/Kk49Udlvlbk) about natural disasters and what that has to do with life and karma in relation to the quality of intention in our everyday lives and practice on Facebook and i’d like to share it with you. Why do tragedies happen? Why do innocent people suffer these horrible natural disasters and die in such terrible ways? Are we being punished? PUNISHMENT Funnily enough he explained that it has nothing to do with karma for no spiritual being would be so cruel and be so harsh and lack of compassion. Natural disasters destroy indiscriminately and God or karma can be in no way indiscriminate. There is no concept of punishment in karma. The very idea of punishment is not the spiritual way. When he visits prisons, he sees people who have done bad things but not a bad person. As we have all made mistakes and we have all done bad things, but that doesn’t make us bad people. “Does anyone deserve to be crushed to death in an earthquake?” “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth just increases the blindness and lack of beautiful smiles in our world...revenge just makes people more stupid...” So why do people suffer from natural disasters? He explains, a buddhist disciple who got drafted into the army who got serious wounded and invalid after the army asked his master, what karma did he do to deserve this? His master said the reason he got shot is because he joined the army. You shoot at others and others will shoot at you. It is the nature of joining the army. Why do people die in a tsunami or car crash or cancer or all sorts of ways in which we may die. Because we joined the human race. All of us being born would be subjected to this. No one can escape death. Thus this is our nature, it isn’t caused by karma nor God but just part of nature. We can’t help it or change it. And what we can do is embrace this truth, do not dwell in the past or worry about the future, but make the best use of time you have. TIME Wasting time - The Emperor’s Ring. The Emperor who got really upset when things went wrong in his kingdoms and party when things went well. So spent half the time depressed and half his time partying and never really did his job. The ministers afraid of being beheaded by the King for telling him what to do made him a ring. The ring was engraved with the words “This too will pass.” And he had to wear at all occasions. Not just to use this saying for the bad times, but to remember this will happen also when things are going well. For who knows what’s coming next. Thus we come alive realizing we should not be wasting our life. How much of our lives have we wasted today? Wasted worrying about things which would never happen, wasted on dwelling about things which we can’t changed, wasted on being irritated minor things like name calling and other time stealers. Understanding that big and small disasters in our lives makes us more alive, when you realize now you have life, make the best use of it. Put all your effort into finding peace and happiness in your life for this too will pass. Just ask yourself, how much time do you waste? How do and should we use our time. Especially when we contemplate disaster. Using time - Adversity vs “Normality”. He begins to tell a story of a woman who volunteers to help in a major famine in Africa. And when she returned a monk said to her it must have been terrible there, having seen the photos of the situation there. She said she had a job in a barb wired camp that gave out food, water and medicines to the people daily, and the storage they had was no where near enough for everybody. And they knew if they spread it around thinly it would help no one at all, so they knew they could only allow a certain amount of people into the camp daily. And her job was to go outside every morning with a number given to her to allow the people in, knowing that those outside would likely die in the next 24 hours. And the monk said, “how horrible that job must have been!! To choose who would live or die.” She however said that would be the most inspiring moment of her life. For those people who arrive the night before, they never put themselves first, instead they would say “take this woman, she just had a young child, take her not me.” In the face of certain death, one can still show compassion and selflessness showed her what human beings are capable of even in a tragedy. And that truly inspired her. Then the monk asked, “so what are you doing now?” And she said she was back at work in a tax office. Now whats really is depressing, for she would rather be out there where she experienced so much kindness and compassion, than all the petty bickering and jealousies and all the terrible things we see in a comfortable office. Thus whenever we have been in a tragedy, its not the tragedy which is tragic, its how people deal with it that makes it tragic or a blessing.... That is what makes human beings beautiful. Life is not just about living and dying, its how we live life. The general law of karma is we cannot control what tragedy happens in life, but how we coped with life, how we do life. Intention. Why Buddhist monks don’t get upset about tragedies and adversities? Because they believe in reincarnation. When there is a tragedy buddhist don’t get so upset because they know that they can try again on the next life. The fear of death spurs people to think this is the only chance they have at life, breeds fear and selfishness. The fear of death upsets how people act in this world. He mentioned to a group of medical students that their job is not to cure people, but to care for people. You cure because you fear death, you care because you love life. The quality of intention in life is how much we care, how much compassion we have and how much kindness we show in face of tragedy and even in the face of everyday life. How we deal with problems and bad things that happens to us. Most people react with denial and anger. But we should accept these things with honesty and make use of tragedy (loss of a loved one) to realize that all of us can die at anytime. “all that is mine, beloved and pleasing can one day be separated from me.” So we cherish our time and our loved ones, for they will not always be there. Do not live our lives in denial for this too shall pass... the good times will pass too. Even approaching ourselves and our health, to the nature of life. Disaster can happen at anytime. Thus we should act kindly and compassionately and be mindful of the fragility of our lives and bodies. Key word being ACT. There are so many opportunities to practice compassion but we miss them. All the duties we think we have to do... how much does it help others? If we were going to die on Monday, how would we live today? How well would you want to live? We need to develop an urgency. An urgency for compassion, kindness and love. And it will transform our lives for the better. And why does it take a tragedy for us to develop the need to love? Unfortunately its human nature. But we should try with our best efforts to relate to our daily lives with peace and compassion. When we go to work, when we talk to people, when we make actions we need to carry intent in our lives.