Hi Al, I`m not so sure everything has a purpose - at least in a Zen/Buddhist context. I think we sometimes give (empty) phenonema a sense of purpose to `explain` why something good/bad has happened. For example, if a boulder falls on a car full of family members and kills them all we would be tempted to give a `meaning` to this occurrence. This of course works well for theists (and 12 step adherents?), but misses the mark for Buddhists. The logical argument here would be to claim that the family`s karma has caught up with them - and thus there is a `purpose` to the boulder killing them. However, this is not strictly correct. The family`s past actions have merely put them in that place at that particular time and is NOT the result of some cosmic, justice dispenser. The idea of interdependent origination fits in well with this. It also explains the issue of cause and effect well. Someone has one too many drinks and drives home and crashes into another car. In simple cause and effect terms we would say that that one last drink was responsible (not in moral sense) for the crash. However, with interdependent origination we could say that the drinker`s sressful day was a cause of buying the extra drink. We could also include the fact that the driver of the other car was in a rush and so took a shortcut putting him in that place. Also, it was raining and... I think you get the idea! It is really impossible to say that just one situation is the cause of any one effect. As Carl Sagan would say, "To make an apple pie - first create the universe". Thus, to give any phenonema a sense of purpose would require giving that phenonema a sense of purpose right back to the Big Bang. So there. Mike.
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