During our brief time, spinning on this ball of rock, dust and water, there are questions that haunt almost every person on Earth. Why are we here? What is our purpose? And, what is the meaning of our life? These questions have been rattling around in great minds since the beginning of history, and will continue on until mankind’s eventual extinction. Many people have pondered the relevance of their lives, but finding the true meaning is knowledge that is reserved only for God. Though these questions may never truly be answered, many philosophers, authors, academics and holy men have given this question their full attention.
I will explore two of these great minds, compare their philosophies, and try my best to explain my own life’s philosophy. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama The first man we will discuss is a world-renowned lover of peace and happiness; he has had a major motion picture made his life and its exploits, and is actually still alive to this day. His name is Tenzin Gyatso, otherwise known as His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The reason I chose the Dalai Lama, is because of the trials and difficulties he has endured. The Chinese forced him into exile from his home in Tibet to India because of his beliefs about peace.
His strengths are admirable and he won the Nobel Peace Prize for attempting to free the Tibetan people from Chinese rule without violence (The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, n. d. ). The Dalai Lama’s theory on the meaning of life stems from Buddhist religion and I will do my best to convey this wisdom in my own words. According to the Dalai Lama’s philosophy on the purpose of life (n. d. ) “the purpose of life is to be happy” (The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama). That seems simple enough, right? That statement is essentially the very beginning of his writings on the meaning of life.
He continues on to elaborate on how this seemingly easy task can be accomplished, and how one can attain a life of meaning through happiness. The way that I interpreted his teachings is that, at every human being’s core, we are all after one thing, and that is love. Love is something we crave from a very young age and that life’s meaning is derived from love and the acts of love that we all give and receive in our day-to-day lives. I also believe that the Dalai Lama’ s meaning of life teaches individuals to be dependent by nature, and that our relationships with those whom we associate ourselves are generally based on love (The Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama, n. d. ).
His Holiness believes that we gain our life’s purpose from our interpersonal relationships. These relationships can be our colleagues at work, teachers and fellow students at school. The Dalai Lama believes that our primary ambition in all of these relationships is to earn love. For example, at work we all strive to do our best in order to earn more money. However, for many of us, it is not the money we are after, but the esteem from our superiors and subordinates for a job well done.
We want to feel valuable to that company, feel an importance, a cog within the great machine. I believe that deep down these feelings stem from our inborn need to be loved. While love is a fundamental part of the Dalai Lama’s philosophy, he also speaks of the role compassion plays in our lives. The Dalai Lama teaches that life’s meaning can be attained through true compassion, which should be derived from reason, not emotions, and that it should never waiver; regardless of whether a person is being negative or positive toward you (The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, n. d).
Aristotle The second philosopher we will discuss is one of the most notable to come out of the Ancient Greek Empire, Aristotle. Aristotle is to the day one of the most globally recognized philosophers, and was a student of Plato and teacher to Alexander the Great. I chose the philosopher Aristotle because his ethical beliefs are good ones to live by in order to obtain the meaning of life. His studies give off the impression that he knows the answer to the question, why? I was unfamiliar with his direct philosophies, but my research allowed the ability to understand his point of view.
Aristotle’s works focus primarily on theoretical, practical and productive sciences. He “identifies the highest good with intellectual virtue; that is, a moral person is one who cultivates certain virtues based on reasoning” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2005). He was extremely knowledgeable and able to absorb enough of an understanding of these sciences to be able to interpret how life worked in a way to achieve happiness. Using his theories of practical science, Aristotle was able to establish explanations relating to the actions and conducts of individuals within society (Cohen, 2008).
He could easily comprehend how society clicked and how the individuals within society adapted. Productive sciences are those relating to the crafts of individuals, what they produce, and how they have evolved. By using the basis of these three sciences, Aristotle was able to establish a sense of ethics and rules of logic. He educated individuals throughout society to spread his beliefs and his understandings of the way of life. Aristotle used many factors when coming to an understanding about the philosophy of life.
His main philosophy pertains to living one with nature and relating to society by simply being happy. He compares being happy to being Godlike; however, happiness is not just being happy, but instead living a life that teaches you to be happy by living virtuously (Aristotle, 350 B. C. E). Aristotle understood the meaning of life and would live and teach with that understanding. The choices individuals would make pertain to the ultimate goal of achieving actual happiness. This happiness triggers an unknown pleasure within an individual and essentially becomes a desire and drives one to maintain that happiness.
With his education of theoretical, practical and physical sciences, Aristotle was able to make sense of it all. His beliefs of obtaining happiness were collected together by using knowledge and pure goodness. He felt as if knowledge, like happiness, needed to be learned through education and life experience. Aristotle believed that, “there is nothing in the intellect that was not first in the senses,” meaning that our knowledge is mainly absorbed through our experiences (Turner, 1907).
To Aristotle, happiness cannot just be found; one has to be able to live their lives in a virtuous way to obtain honor and the greater good. Individuals need to understand what the reality of what happiness is and how to be a rational being in order to obtain it (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2005). His meanings and interpretations have made a significant influence to many and still continue to influence and educate. Both, the Dalai Lama and Aristotle share similar feelings relating to their philosophies of life.
The main objective for the both of them is essentially to obtain pure happiness through compassion and pleasure. The Dalai Lama strives to use love and peace to reach this goal, where on the other hand, Aristotle uses virtue and knowledge. They imply to live a life that one would be proud of, taking the trials that life gives to you and turning them into an experience and strive towards happiness and love. My Philosophy My own life’s philosophy is probably pretty cliche, but I firmly believe that if something makes you happy, do more of it, and that one must work to live and not live to work.
I believe that if all you do is work then you miss out on all of the things the world has to offer outside of whatever structured work environment you may be a part of. That is not to say that some people do not love their work and that for them their work is their purpose. I think that is what everyone should strive for, but I believe that once work takes precedence over your family, your friends, and most of all your happiness, then it threatens all you’re working for. I have seen this in too many career soldiers, and unfortunately, myself.
I can admit that my steadfast attention on work during my last deployment was without a doubt, a contributing factor in a failed relationship. Since that time in my life, I have become determined not to let that happen again, and to let happiness be my purpose in life. Earlier I said that if something makes you happy, do more of it. This means that if you love to sing, but can’t carry a tune, then sing. If you love to work on cars, but can’t find the time, make time. For me, it is making people laugh, I love to do it, and so I will! Life is cruelly short, so let’s all find just a little time to do what makes us happy.
In comparison with the Dalai Lama, I feel that my philosophy is quite similar. We both feel that life’s meaning is directly derived from happiness. He feels that we gain this happiness from love and those that surround us, while I feel that we have additional happiness to gain in life if we could just find the time to do the things that make us happy. I feel that my philosophy differs from his in the area of work. I believe that you must work to live and that your work should not come before those you love, yourself or whatever it is you work for.
As for Aristotle’s philosophy and my own, I believe that his theory on using virtue and honor to obtain happiness is very accurate. I too believe that living a life filled with honor can lead to a sense of pride that is able to coincide with being happy. I also support his opinion on happiness leading to pleasure. Being happy is like an addiction and the more happiness that you attain, the more that you strive for. However, Aristotle also believes that happiness corresponds to making decisions backed by knowledge and experience.
I somewhat disagree and believe that life experience does not necessarily have to be a main factor pertained to happiness. If you want to be happy, then just be, and live your life honestly and virtuously. The main things that I have learned from the teachings of the Dalai Lama that I would like to apply to my own life, is that happiness is the meaning of our life’s and that we should show patience and compassion towards everyone no matter what. If even 25% of the world could manage that, we would not be in the state of constant war we’ve been in for the past decade.
I would also like to take away his capacity for love, I think his philosophy of life involving love is inspiring and makes me want to live a more peaceful, loving life. Aristotle on the other hand, has taught me to be more open-minded to knowledge and experience. To take in an experience as a lesson learned instead of just another day on the calendar and to just appreciate every moment, good or bad, and use it to the best of your advantage. References Aristotle. (350 B. C. E). Nicomachean ethics. Trans. W. D. Ross. Retrieved from: http://classics. mit. edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen. 1. i. html Cohen, M.
(2008). Aristotle. Retrieved from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/aristotle/ Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2005). Aristotle (384—322 BCE). Retrieved from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://www. iep. utm. edu/aristotl/ The Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama (n. d. ). A brief biography. Retrieved from: http://www. dalailama. com/biography/a-brief-biography Turner, W. (1907). Aristotle. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved April 17, 2012 from New Advent: http://www. newadvent. org/cathen/01713a. htm.
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