Meditation and the Age Old Question:Why do we Exist?
A Weed grows in the Arctic
Years ago, Scientists stumbled across and discovered a weed growing in the Arctic. It grew in a vast, uninhabited, remote region where there was no vegetation, no animals, no fauna, no trees. There was nothing. A huge empty area. The only things that existed there were permafrost and ice.
At first, the scientists were baffled by just how the weed grew.
What did it eat? Again, only permafrost and ice. Hard to find soil to nourish itself.
How did it grow and thrive? The sun did not shine there for the better part of the year. It was a dark and frozen world.
While they were trying to answer the question of “How”, another, perhaps trickier, question arose.
Why did this ugly weed exist? For what Purpose? To what end?
The weed was not part of the ecosystem’s food chain because there was no food chain for hundreds of miles around.
The weed was ugly. No aesthetic value at all. No one to admire it anyway.
Scientists studied the weed to see if it had any medicinal properties. Perhaps it was the miracle plant that we all hoped to find that would cure cancer or ensure longevity. None at all. A simple biological and chemical composition. Absolutely nothing special.
And so Philosophers weighed in.
They quoted Existentialist and Nihilist works emphasizing the Absurdity and ultimate Nothingness of Life.
Stoic and Hedonistic literature was read to see if perhaps they held an answer.
At this time, I was travelling through the Far East studying Meditation at different Ashrams and Monasteries. I read about this weed and pondered it for days.
Why did this weed stubbornly persist in Living? Why did it fight it’s way up through thick permafrost and ice just to exist for a few months in the sun, only to die soon after the struggle to exist?
No one saw it, needed it or appreciated it.
It existed for no other reason then to exist because that's what it was created and meant to do.
What was the damn point?
After one Meditation session, the Yogi leading the Meditation asked if anyone had a question or a comment. I raised my hand and recounted the story of the weed and my sheer bafflement. I also admitted that the whole story weirdly depressed me a bit.
To my gratification, I noticed that many heads were nodding in agreement with me. I was relieved to see that others felt as I did.
The Yogi was silent for a while. He had a strange look on his face.
And then, he said:
“Ah. Such perfection is seldom heard of. Thank you for telling me this story. I am very happy.”
To my utter astonishment, he began to cry. I saw tears on his face. I realized that the “strange look” on his face was the glow of joy. I was stumped.
There was silence. A long silence. He did not say another word. After a few moments he got up and left.
We all just sat there.
After some time, I began to see some people nod and smile. One by one, they also got up and left the room. Soon there were only 3 of us left.
I closed my eyes and tried to think. Nothing. Blank. What the hell?
And then, I stopped.
I stopped thinking and pondering and agonizing and rationalizing and labeling and seeking answers.
I went back to practicing what the Yogi had just taught us.
I felt my existence.
I experienced living just in this moment.
No one in the world (except the other 2 people in the room) knew where I was in this moment. No one was looking at me or for me. No one needed me. I had no role to fill. I was of “no use” to anyone. I was not curing cancer or saving lives. I was selfishly and aimlessly wandering through the world learning and experiencing my life. Alone.
There it was.
If I stripped away my privilege, my personality, my history, my goals,my dreams, my desire for more, my need to achieve and create and do, if ALL I had was my existence, would it be enough? Would just my being Alive with Nothing to show for it be worth it? The Yogi believed it was. He believed in Human Beings not Human Doings.
I got it.
I got up and left the room.
In this very moment, ALL that exists is my existence. No reason why, no need to prove myself, no need to do anything, nothing deeper.
Just like the weed.