Our life loses its meaning and becomes increasingly depressing to the extent that we are always looking backwards at what happened before, good or bad. We cannot drive a car by looking only in the rearview mirror! Of course we need to learn from our past, but if we have nothing we are looking forward to, no destination we are heading towards, our life becomes one empty of meaning. We can liken it to old people who feel as if they have nothing left to look forward to, who feel their best times are all behind them. How sad.
In contrast, the more we are forward looking in our outlook, the more our life has meaning and purpose. We become more willing to accept difficulties and hardships because we see how overcoming them serves a larger purpose and they are simply the mountains we must climb to reach our final destination. Being forward looking gives us something we are working towards, it gives our life direction. We feel like we are building towards something great. We feel forever young. We can let go of worrying about the past or being nostalgic for it, but rather use it as the foundation for where we are going. When we have a future we are building towards, we know how to use whatever life throws at us. When you have direction in your life, you know clearly in which way you need to pivot when life’s curve balls come our way. Gen Lekma once said, “Dorje Shugden wastes nothing of our life,” in other words, he knows how to use everything that happens to us as building towards the final goal.
The most valuable side effect of realizing the truth of countless future lives is we are able to always be forward looking in our thinking, no matter what our age. The more forward looking we are, the younger we feel. The paradox of old age then becomes the older we get, the more we look forward to our future lives, the more pure our intentions become, the happier we become, the younger we feel. We feel like we are on the cusp of our next great adventure, like setting off for college for the first time. We take stock of what we have learned from our past to prepare ourselves for the adventures to come.
One of the central differences between the way economists and politicians look at problems is how they reason. An economist thinks things through to their logical end conclusion, and then works backwards to figure out how to get there. A politician is always just focused on putting our fires and uses short-term ad hoc solutions which enables them to live another day. But if we are always pursuing short-term solutions to everything, we are in reality just deferring our biggest challenges to later. At some point, these challenges catch up to us and overwhelm us. When we know our final destination, we know what we need to do and we stop sacrificing the long-term on the alter of short-term crisis management. The more far forward we can see, the more effective we are at understanding what needs to be done and what direction we need to go.
Along the same lines, the difference in the different scopes of being, initial, intermediate and great, is how far forward they think. An ordinary small scope being can’t see beyond this life. A special small scope being sees beyond this life but can’t see beyond samsara. An intermediate scope being sees beyond samsara, but can’t see beyond themselves. A great scope being sees beyond themselves to the final result of full enlightenment for all.
The tantric practitioner goes one step further by envisioning not only what the final result looks like but how we practically get everyone there. We must first build our pure land so that beings may take rebirth there and complete the path. We then extend the limits of the pure land until it encompasses the entire universe and all living beings. This is a cosmic project which will take lifetimes to accomplish, but adopting it as our purpose enables us to be as far forward thinking as possible, and therefore it gives us the greatest meaning and joy throughout our life.
Your turn: Describe a situation where because you were looking backwards, you got stuck; but when you started looking forward, you became free.