|Two of my favorite cards in the Kaladesh block of Magic the Gathering.|
A lot of people I have met over the years have expressed the view that life only lasts once, and that they intend to just enjoy life until then end. I admit I often feel this way too.
But I also know that Buddhism tends to think big. Very big.
Consider the Assu Sutta (SN 15.003), an old Buddhist sutra in the Pali Canon:
“This is the greater: the tears you have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — not the water in the four great oceans….”
In one sense, from the Buddhist standpoint, this is the only life you have. You will never have a life quite like it so focus on the here and now. On the other hand, all living beings have been born and reborn countless, countless times experiencing the same basic frustrations and separations. Each time one is reborn, it is contingent on other causes and conditions, and so no two lives are alike. But the very fact that one is reborn over and over again with no end is kind of a double-edged sword.
Further, the Buddha hinted at a sense of “wandering”. This is called samsara elsewhere, but basically means “aimless wandering”. In spite of the countless rebirths, most beings are sort of wandering from one birth to another with no long-term direction. Sometimes they get good, fortunate rebirths, sometimes not.
Thus, while it is perfectly reasonable to enjoy this life for as long as it lasts, it is also good to have some kind of long-term goal as well. Buddhism’s goal is no less than full awakening and liberation of all beings. This is described in the sutras as taking many, many eons, but a long-term goal is better than not having one at all. 🙂