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Pema Rinchen

31 May 2022


When facing chaos, Venerable You Min explained that on top of having the correct mindset in responding to the dissonance and troubling experience, it is also important to have a sense of purpose to also provide an anchor in navigating the stormy seas.

Sense of Purpose

Having a sense purpose, can also be referred to as having the right aspiration (正思维) because it provides the basis for which why we continue to be motivated to tackle challenges, stay determined and undeterred when facing uncertainty, challenges and perhaps even disappointment. Venerable You Min used the anecdote of the “Dinosaur

Surgeon” to show the example of what it means to have a sense of purpose in doing the work we do. In other words, “What is our ‘Why?’”.

In the anecdote of “Dinosaur Surgeon”, the shop assistant who attended to the inconsolable young boy was certainly clear about his purpose – he wants to bring joy to

whoever steps onto the toy shop, he was not just selling toys!

This sense of purpose is similar to the sense of purpose companies have, articulated in their vision and mission, such as Apple Inc’s, “bringing the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services”. This clear sense of purpose has propelled them to the forefront of many technological breakthroughs.

In this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world that we are in, it is ever more important to have a sense of purpose to guide us. For example, Dharma Drum Mountain’s vision, “Uplifting the character of mankind and building a pure land on Earth”, has provided a clear purpose for the Buddha Dharma mission they are on. Likewise, it tells us the importance of having a very clear “why” they do what they do. And more often than not, people are not interested in what people (or companies and organisations) do, but why they do what they do.

This is similar to what a senior monk reiterated of the importance for monastics to have a clear purpose why they undertake ordination – the clarity on the intention and purpose, going back the monastic aspiration (初心).

In addition, having a purpose in what we do fuels us to persevere on when the going gets tough, and offers a different perspective to the work we undertake. For example,

when a builder was once asked what he was doing, he answered, “I am cutting stones”, another however said, “I am building the best temple in the word!”. So, while they are both carrying out the same work, the way they see what they are doing differs.

Helping Others

Venerable You Min explained how neuroscience findings have revealed that when we help others, our body produces the “Happiness Trifecta” – dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin – that brings on a boost in mood. And more than being mood-boosters,

dopamine is associated with motivation while serotonin is known to improve appetite, digestion, learning, memory and sleep; and oxytocin reduces blood pressure and social fears, enhances feelings of trust and empathy, thus increasing social bonding. Also, oxytocin is known to be anti-inflammatory and can reduce pain, and at the same time can promote wound healing.

Take for example, we hear many stories of how many soldiers choosing to stay in dangerous life-threatening situations to help their comrades in the field – facing imminent death rather than retreating to safety, because it is in doing what they feel serves a greater purpose in helping others and the country, the chaos, pain and fear becomes secondary. Likewise, we also hear many recounts of how seemingly small acts of gifting others, however “small” the gift seems – like an apple from a soldier’s ration to children in war-torn zones – this act in itself is empowering, giving the soldier an

uplifting moment to be able to bring a smile and a little comfort to the children.

On top of the benefits explained from the neuroscience and social psychology perspectives, helping others from a Buddhist perspective adds the additional dimension to how it brings about benefits to both the giver and the recipient, as helping others is one the four all-embracing virtues, and it becomes ever more

important during times of chaos and crisis.

When giving, practising encouraging speech, empathy and beneficial actions, we not only thrive as an individual, but as social group because we are all social creatures after all. It creates a positive environment and nurturing space for happiness to grow, and increase our sense of self-worth and fulfillment – creating a strong foundation and

crisis buffer that enables us to tackle issues and problems better.

While the benefits of helping others are tremendous, Venerable You Min reminded the importance of altruism – to help without having the expectations of any returns. So, when we help others, the first thing we need to be mindful and aware of our thoughts is, “Do not expect anything back from other people! Just do it from your heart and believe in the Dharma teachings of cause-and-effect. Sometimes, you will get a surprise!”

Thus, when navigating the winding,bumpy and treacherous roads during chaos, there is a real need to slow down, breathe, look within ourselves and around us – what is it we can do for ourselves using the correct mindset with a clear purpose, and if we have the capacity to extend a helping hand to others – and ride the challenges together. All in the spirit of humanity – not just as an individual but collectively as sentient beings!


This article was published in For You Information Issue 399 - July 2022.

Photo credits: ‘Why’ by Ann H and Soldier Gifting Apple to Two Children by Pixabay via Pexels

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