My friend told me yesterday that something I'd said had helped her. This would be last year, when she was going through a difficult time, and we'd been chatting online. Mostly about music theory and the business of music, as my friend is also a musician, but also about more personal stuff, because that's what friends talk about.
Funny thing: I couldn't remember what I'd told her. I often fall into the habit of dispensing advice based on whatever Buddhist theory I'm studying at the moment, and evidently something I'd said had helped her. I was glad I could be of help, but I had no idea what I'd said, so I asked her.
She said, "Everything happens for a reason."
No, I don't think so. "Everything happens for a reason" is one of those platitudes against which I've railed for most of my life. A platitude is a bullshit line that's intended to make people feel better, even though it in fact holds no significant truth. This particular platitude implies that there is some omnipotent higher power pulling the strings somewhere, which is another bullshit line against which I've spoken and written.
There is such a thing as universal causality, which is both scientific and Buddhist in nature, being the subject of one of the Buddha's great discourses. It states that everything has a cause, and that cause has a cause, etc. In the event of a car crash, for instance, the crash may have happened because someone fell asleep at the wheel. She may have fallen asleep because she was up all night studying for a big exam; She was studying for the exam last night because she lacks the self discpiline to study during the alotted time, and had to get in some last-minute book time.
Just an example. I bring it up because it's relatively close to the idea of everything happening for a reason, but it means something completely different. Either way, I doubt I'd have quoted this principle while giving a friend advice on how to handle something.
Probably I said something more like, "Life is experiential" or "Everything is impermanent" or "Change is inevitable". Don't dwell on the negative, because picking and choosing (moving toward the pleasurable while avoiding the unfavorable) is the opposite of mindfulness.
Or something like that. Whatever I said, I'm honored that it was hgelpful. But I also think it's telling that I got credited with throwing out a platitude that I would have never said. I didn't correct her when she told me that, by the way. Whatever I'd said had made her feel better, which wasn't really my objective, but I'm glad about it. If she equates that with a bullshit line that carries its own partially hidden religous meaning, I guess that's okay. I mean, I didn't want to ruin the feel-good value of whatever I'd told her, so I let it go.
What do y'all think? I'd especially like to know what you think about the line "Everything happens for a reason". If you believe it, what's the reason? Does it mean that there's a secret divine purpose for every occurrence? Everything that happens was first planned out by your god(s)?