Different traditions seem to have different answers. Different individuals have different answers. Presumably, they are really all the same answer.
- To wake up. (I thought Suzuki Roshi might say this.)
- To develop Compassion. (I thought the Dalai Lama might say this.)
- To grasp ultimate reality. (Robert Thurman?)
- To live with ease. (Sharon Salzberg?)
- To become enlightened. (Whatever that means.)
- To become lighter.
- To be reborn in a happier form.
- To cease to be reborn.
- To suffer less from the slings and arrows of one's own arsenal.
- To suffer less from slings and arrows period.
- To be directed.
- To be free.
- To escape.
- To return.
- To crave less.
- To crave but react less.
- To relax.
- To sleep better.
- To sleep when one is asleep, to be awake when one is awake.
- To become a buddha.
- To be a buddha.
- To become a bodhisatva.
- To be a bodhisatva.
And why do I practice? All of the above.
But that answer is too easy. Sometimes I don't really know why I practice. But I think that Thay is on to something when he says, "Because I like it." Because it brings well-being. And that is the sum of the Buddha's way: if something increases well-being in you, keep doing it. If it increases ill-being in you, stop doing it (or at least do it less).
From a dharma talk given on June 11, 2009:
Why [do] you practice sitting meditation? The best answer is: Because I like it. Why do you practice walking meditation? Because I like it. . . . The practices of mindful walking, mindful breathing, smiling, bring well-being, happiness.I like this. (Tee hee.) I guess in this instance, it is okay to have a preference. But this would be a deeply considered preference, not a conditioned preference. I guess.
Fodder for a future post ...