Looking for life’s purpose.
As a young man I was always curious about the deeper questions of life and about Eastern culture. As part of my degree at university I studied Existentialism, Metaphysics and Physics. I was struck by the nihilistic ideas of Nietzsche (God is dead) and the theories of Jean Paul Sartre (Being and Nothingness) This led me to study many of the philosophers and physicists that talked about the Universe and our existence and to write a thesis on “The concept of a person”. However, although I read and discussed much about the concept of body, mind and spirit, I realise on reflection that it did not help me understand reality or my spiritual side at all.
In my thirties I was married to a lovely young French woman. We had a son and I was settled in my career as an international businessman. We had a very nice thatched cottage in a Cotswolds village, and everything to look forward to. She became pregnant with a daughter but sadly miscarried, became very depressed, and then died very horribly from liver cancer. At 35 years old I found it very difficult to understand how anything so awful could happen to someone so young. Life suddenly seemed totally bleak and meaningless. I struggled to see the meaning and purpose in life.
In 1992, in despair, I wondered who in the world could tell me the purpose of life? I thought I would try to speak to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and although it took me six months to meet him, I was eventually able to put my question to him at his home in Dharamsala, India.
His message was clear: “Happiness for oneself and others is the main purpose of human life, but our normal day-to-day life is about hope. With hope we can survive, but once we have lost hope our life span is shortened. In order to achieve happiness, we need peace of mind. This may not bring total satisfaction, but we first need to achieve complete calmness and peace of mind. Meditation can be very helpful.
My view of this is based on the great Buddhist masters. The idea of Buddha Nature for all sentient beings is a very good idea involving the understanding of the theory of emptiness – void ness. Our ultimate goal is the permanent cessation of suffering. Human life is most precious, and we get a favourable sense of meaning if we believe in rebirth, where there is always hope. In the long term, we have hope. Every negative event is just a temporary setback and the future depends on everyone’s effort”.
This was an important day in my life that I will never forget.