- Do you want to live a meaningful life?
- Do you believe that the world should be a better place?
- Do you want to make a difference?
There are many of us who would answer all of those questions with an emphatic ‘Yes!’ – yet the choices and opportunities put before us by our society, education and cultural traditions often seem to be very inadequate in helping us translate our intentions into meaningful practice. Some perplexing questions seem to have no answers in sight, for example
- Is my life merely a ‘routine’ to meet my material needs, or is it possible to lead an intellectually and emotionally fulfilling life while meeting my economic requirements?
- Do human relationships have to involve conflicts, inequality, emotional distress and unhappy compromises, or is it possible to have joyous, contented, mutually enriching interpersonal relationships?
- Should the education of children just involve attaining information so they eventually get better jobs, or is it possible to have an educational alternative that not only helps children become thoughtful individuals but also wiser human beings?
- Are unhappiness, meaninglessness and discontentment an integral part of human life or is it possible for us to live purposeful and meaningful lives?
- Are exploitation, poverty, injustice, discrimination and war an inevitable part of human society or is it possible to have a just and equitable society?
Are development and ecological sustainability always going to be mutually exclusive, or is it possible to develop and utilize technology for the benefit of humanity, without disturbing the ecological balance of our planet?
The long history of humankind has seen numerous attempts to answer the above questions and create a “better” world. While all these efforts have yielded considerable success on some fronts, they have failed to solve many of the problems that face humanity. For example, it is not difficult to see that the world we live in has an intensifying ecological imbalance. Similarly, while some forms of exploitation have been abolished, the current economic systems have also created much inequality and dehumanizing poverty: those at the “bottom of the pyramid” struggle for the most basic needs like adequate food, clean water, and a means of livelihood. However, the greater irony of our materialist-consumerist way of life is that even the so-called successful people in today’s world – those at the “top of the pyramid” – often struggle with a sense of meaninglessness in their personal lives, live in difficult interpersonal relationships, lack time for their children and family, and face various other conflicts and unhappy compromises in their lives. In addition, crime, violence and an escalation conflicts are increasingly common features of most societies across the world today.
Numerous philosophies, life-paradigms, socio-political movements and social experiments have sought solutions ranging from personal salvation and promises of another world on the one hand, to economic development, equal opportunity, freedom from injustice and exploitation and the creation of classless societies, on the other. While all of these may have contributed in some way to humankind, no ideology, movements or experiments have yet been able to create a world where:
- Individuals are happy, healthy and fulfilled
- Inter-personal relationships are joyous and mutually fulfilling, and all families have a secure and purposeful means of livelihood
- Society is just, undivided and humane, and
- Ecological harmony is maintained in all its richness and diversity