Thoughts from Dr. Joe: The Buddha is everywhere

February 09, 2011|By Joe Puglia

I often receive notes from readers asking for perspective regarding life’s perplexities. I’m taken aback that I would get such inquiries, and that some of you think of me as some sort of shaman. I’m just a street kid from the Bronx. What the heck do I know?

Got one the other day. “Dr. Joe,” it read. “…I just can’t seem to find meaning in life. Do you have any thoughts?

I fired off a response. “Read Victor Frankel’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning,’ and William James’ ‘What Makes Life Significant.’ I’ll follow up with some thoughts via the Valley Sun.”


Let me begin by cheering you up. Are you kidding? I have a few ideas, but nothing definitive. I should’ve written about how to cook hot dogs.

You know, the top three philosophical inquiries of human concern are meaning, love and divinity. The great thinkers have never reached consensus. Believe me, I’ve read every idea out there and I’m still baffled. When it comes to meaningful pursuit, there’s was nothing better than being 16, sitting in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium, eating hot dogs and drinking Ballentine beer.

However, years ago I learned something from the Buddha: “Life has no inherent meaning; it’s up to us to bring meaning to life.” So I’d bet the significance of life is not a matter of what you find; it’s what you do. It’s sort of like taking responsibility for your own contentment.

After reading the works of Joseph Campbell, I believe we should change the question to, “How do we find satisfaction in life?” We’d get a whole new set of answers.

Satisfaction is found in myriad ways. Native Americans find it in nature; poets in expression; writers in words; some find it in love, religion, work, family — and the list goes on.

I am convinced that meaning/satisfaction is derived from action. What have we done, and what are we doing, to cultivate bliss? The essence of meaning/satisfaction is awareness. It’s our ability to see life’s blessings and fortuitous moments.

Let me share a passage from a book I’m writing. The excerpt is based on a serendipitous moment that occurred 47 years ago:

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