Where Did I Come From?
Where Did I Come From?
Probably one of the fundamental existential questions we ask once we are conscious of our being is "Where did I come from?" Since it is a question, it is obvious that it arose out of ignorance. As I do not know where I came from, this very state of unknowing is my ignorance. If so, I came from "what I am ignorant of"; I came from "the lack of wisdom" (wisdom being the opposite of ignorance). In short, I came from "my ignorance". Though I do not know where I came from due to ignorance, I realise I can increase my wisdom, which will eventually peak and eradicate all my ignorance of the nature of reality, also answering the question of "Where did I come from?" Most of us are simply too ignorant at the moment to fathom our origin, and the Buddha probably sees this - which is why He simply taught that we arose from ignorance.
To dwell on the question of our origins from ignorance without wanting to increase wisdom is like trying to light a fire (symbolic of shedding light of wisdom on the darkness of ignorance) with a damp matchstick (symbolic of our ignorant mind). We should dry the match first first, or it wouldn't work. Interestingly, in the process of heating the match to dry it, it will burst into flames when it is hot enough, igniting itself. Likewise, just as darkness gives way in the presence of light, ignorance will progressively diminish via the presence and increase of wisdom. Ignorance and wisdom are mutually-exclusive in the same moment, just as light and darkness cannot share the same space.
Since nothing can arises out of nowhere without causes and conditions, I must have had a preceding existence in some form, or the above titled question would not make any sense. Ignorance must then be a quality carried over from a previous life. Even so, our truly fundamental ignorance is not "not knowing where we came form"; it is the assumption that there is an "I" who comes and goes, since there is no unchanging "self" (a fixed entity which can pointed to as "I"). There is instead a temporal "collection" of constantly changing physical and mental elements, which we mistakenly label together as our "selves". This misconception is sustained by our lack of clarity in perceiving the truth of impermanence of mind and matter.Perhaps then, the question of "Where am I going to?" is much more relevant than "Where did I come from". It sure beats the impossible tracing of our origins through countless past lives using an ignorant mind. "Where am I going to?" I am going to seek liberation from all ignorance (delusion), which is what gives rise to my attachment (greed/craving) and aversion (hatred/anger), which cause all my unhappiness in life, which gives others unhappiness too. This liberation, or Enlightenment, has to come from the attainment of wisdom. This is where I am going - to be free, to be truly happy, and to help others be the same. There is no worthier goal as the ultimate purpose will always be to seek True Happiness for all, which is possible only when we cultivate ultimate compassion and wisdom to help oneself and others - this is the noblest Buddhist path and purpose to Buddhahood.
Life is short - we have to ask the wise existential questions, because chances are, if we keep asking "Where did I come from?", we might still be asking it in our many future lives. But if we start asking "Where am I going to?", we would have just embarked on the journey to freedom. -Shen Shi'an