Updated: Sep 14, 2021
The story of Sisyphus
"Then I witnessed the torture of Sisyphus, as he wrestled with a huge rock with both hands. Bracing himself and thrusting with hands and feet he pushed the boulder uphill to the top. But every time, as he was about to send it toppling over the crest, its sheer weight turned it back, and once again towards the plain the pitiless roc
k rolled down. So once more he had to wrestle with the thing and push it up, while the sweat poured from his limbs and the dust rose high above his head."
(Odyssey, Book 11:593)
When discussing the vanity of human life, Sisyphus of Greek mythology is often mentioned. He was known for being an extraordinarily intelligent and smart king, but would often use his abilities to deceive others, including the Gods. Once he had crossed the Gods, they handed him the punishment that was to roll a huge rock up to a steep cliff. Once he rolled the rock up to the peak, it rolled down to the bottom again. So, he had to start over rolling the rock up. This punishment never ended and he had to repeat this forever and ever; many would consider this a terrifying punishment.
In my life, I felt empty and unsatisfied even though I had a harmonious life with money, good relationships, and a decent-paying job. Because things were going well, I was able to find happiness. But that happiness was purely based on external conditions. And I would ask myself, "If I didn't have all of this, would I still feel happy?" What I realized was that when things were not going as expected, I felt difficulties in my mind in the form of anxiety and stress---and as I got older, more and more things didn't always go my way. When I was 28, I found this meditation and the guide told me that if I stop trying to look outside and start doing self-reflection and looking inside, I would be able to find what I was looking for. As I recalled and discarded all the stories that had accumulated in my mind, I saw a lot of greed and expectations. I realized that even if I did achieve exactly what I wanted, eventually I would lose it. And I noticed in my life, I was living out a Sisyphean punishment---There was no end to the uphill battle. Once I got to what I thought was the end of a journey, another steep hill presented itself. I wanted to escape.
Many people often compare Sisyphus's story to human life. “Why was I born in the world and why do I live?” “What is the true purpose of life?” “What happens after death?” We have had those never-solved questions in our minds. Our human life was that we had to live day by day without knowing where we were heading to. Humans inevitably dies after living 80~90 years and we know that nothing from life remains upon death. It is exactly the same as Sisyphus who had to roll the rock up to the peak while knowing that it would fall back down. We cannot help but live a meaningless life that will vanish someday. We all put a lot of effort to find the answers to the questions of life; however, we end up not knowing any more answers than when we began our life. Sisyphus' mythological story is very much the story of human existence.
People are constantly searching for purpose and meaning in their lives through the material world, outside of themselves. But such meaning and purpose don't exist outside of themselves. It must be found within while alive as a human being. We need a precise method to achieve this--This is the purpose of meditation.