How do I find my purpose in life?

(Photo above by Khoa Vo / Pexels)

“How do you find your purpose in life? What’s the point? What are you thinking of doing after college? What kind of career do you want to pursue?”

Scientific studies suggest that certain basic attitudes can greatly enhance our quality of life. A Harvard study explains that “young adults in the U.S. reported twice the rates of anxiety and depression as teens. They identified several drivers of these emotional challenges, including a lack of meaning and purpose.”

While purposes come in many shapes and sizes, Buddhism teaches the power of having a noble purpose in life. In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha, or Siddhartha as he is sometimes known, says that Buddhas “appear in the world for one great reason alone” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 64): to teach that everyone possesses the Buddha wisdom and to show them how to cultivate it. He goes on to say, “At the start I took a vow, hoping to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us” (LSOC, p. 70).

He affirms that this effort to realize ultimate equality and happiness for all people will continue into the future by people who share the same purpose and take the same actions as the Buddha.

Although this could sound like a nice ideal, Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda describes how living with this noble purpose can look like for us:

And what is the purpose of study? It’s to enable us to gain practical ability and knowledge so that we can contribute to society and to the happiness and welfare of many people. What’s the purpose of faith? It’s so that each of us can become truly happy and enable others to do the same. Faith is the driving force that lets us apply what we gain from our studies to serving people genuinely. Simply becoming university professors or lawyers does not automatically make people great or worthy of respect. The question is, what have they done since acquiring that position; how much have they helped others? A great person is someone who encourages many people and helps them become happy.

Discussions on Youth, p. 251

Our Buddhist practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and sharing it with others for them to experience the same happiness is the most honorable purpose in life. This spirit from Shakyamuni was understood by Nichiren Daishonin who made it his ultimate purpose to provide a way all people can bring out the qualities of a Buddha.

This led Nichiren to discover the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the source of Buddhahood for all people and to inscribe the Gohonzon as the object of respect that is a graphical depiction of this Law.

He taught that by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon with a sense of purpose for our own and others’ happiness, we can bring forth our inner Buddha nature to shine forth. And he worked to ensure that this practice would spread far into the future, for eternity. He considered this to be the reason for his appearance in this world.

Today there are millions of SGI members around the world, making it their life’s purpose to bring about the happiness of humanity, while deepening their own humanity at the same time. This community of ordinary people was brought worldwide by Daisaku Ikeda, who also dedicated his life to the happiness of all people.

To pursue our dream career or have the family of our dreams is wonderful. If we make the central purpose of our lives the happiness of ourselves and others, our lives can go beyond ourselves.

As Hunter shared in our recent video, “If I want my sound and art to inspire others, am I living a life to inspire others?”

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