the practical buddhist : essentials

the importance of asking the big questions


If you’ve ever felt trapped by your beliefs, it’s no one’s fault but your own. I know because I spent years of my adult life trapped within a religious thought system that left me feeling inadequate and unworthy.

Then I started asking questions. Questions that mattered. The big questions.

What is a big question?

A big question is one that results in an answer capable of changing the trajectory of your life. Big questions are the only ones worth asking because they yield answers that, if taken honestly and seriously, lead to real change. Assuming that you’re in a space of acceptance, the big questions can literally change your life forever.

Examples of big questions that I asked and answered (over time) include:

  1. What do I believe?
  2. Why do I believe what I believe?
  3. Who insisted I believe these ideas and concepts?
  4. Is there any tangible proof on which to base this position?
  5. Is there really any proof for the existence of God that I can accept?
  6. What is a belief?
  7. Is belief necessary?
  8. Who would I be without these beliefs?
  9. Why should I believe anything if there isn’t proof for the concept?

Answers to the big questions (and their consequences)

The big questions, if honestly considered, will change your life. For me, the questions above set my life on a course that changed relationships, life concepts, my views on death and living in the moment, and many other aspects of my life. I stated in my book that:

“Making the decision to live apart from the rituals and ceremony of religion has been the best course of action I’ve ever taken.”

Asking these and other big questions changed my life. But it hasn’t been all positive highs. There have been some serious setbacks in terms of the relationships in my life based on the outcomes of asking the big questions. For example, many in my family are devout, practicing Christians. The big questions led me to conclude that I am an atheist. Because I could no longer support the concept of a supernatural being called God, I live my life in a manner that is congruent with this position. It’s influenced how I’ve raised my youngest son (now 17 and a free-thinker, unencumbered by dogma and belief).

But this position has also strained some of my relationships with family and friends. Those who truly love or respect me accept this without issue. But I’ve been un-friended on Facebook by family members for whom my positions create an uncomfortable feeling. I don’t fault them for this as I most likely would have reacted in a similar manner when I was trapped within my belief system.

“One thing is certain: Asking the big questions isn’t for pussies.”

Why you should ask the big questions

I’m convinced that we live on autopilot for the majority of our lives. We get up and do the same things every day, make the same decisions, generally eat the same foods, and conduct our lives in the same manner that we did yesterday, last week, and last year.  This is living on autopilot.

Asking the big questions wakes you up. It forces you to consider why you do what you do and why you choose to do it. It creates an awareness of your ‘here-and-now’ and helps you realize how precious time is. You don’t want to waste another second of life.

When you realize that your here-and-now is all that exists an afterlife in heaven or hell is just a story created by humans to control the behavior of others, you choose to live your life differently.

Suddenly everything matters

You no longer take for granted the ideas, beliefs (if you hold them), or principles you previously live by and instead question everything. I like what Tony Robbins said in his book, Awaken the Giant Within, when he wrote:

“If you want better answers, ask better questions.”

Is it time you started asking better questions? Maybe the big ones?