Letter No 109 - The purpose of life

Dear friend,

Life is chaotic. There is so much happening all the time. Health, career, relationships, friendships, socialising, learning, keeping up with shows that the world is watching, life is always ON. Yesterday I met a friend who has had a very hectic last month. I asked him - 'you must be looking forward to some down time now?'. He instantly said, 'there's no such thing as relax, something or the other is always happening.'

It's true, right? The stream of events and happenings and possibilities in our life is relentless. And in some way the opposite is also true, sometimes one wonders 'What is it all about? What's the point of all this anyways?'

Is there an end goal? Do our lives always have to have a purpose? Do we always need to be achieving something?

What do you think?


It's a vexing question. I sometimes feel as though I am constantly running. Towards some goal, some event, some task completion, some dream, some vision, etc. When I am in the flow, it seems ok. Everything is happening. I am multi-tasking, meeting people, making things happen, creating content, pitching ideas, planning for execution, taking calls while on the road (and I'n not the one driving) and all that.

And then when I take a short break, pause or holiday (like I just did), two very different feelings arise in me. One is anxious and also excited about getting back into the action and all the things that I need to get done. It's a nice feeling. There's a sense of freshness. But there is also another feeling that comes after a break. It's not one that says that 'I wish I could stay on this break forever'. No, that would be crazy. But it's a feeling of wanting to continue the feeling of the spaciousness, ease and relaxedness of the break into my daily life. Why does life have to always feel like 'time is running out'? Why can't it be more spacious?

Do you you feel me on this?


So, there are these two opposite feelings.

'lets get into action' and 'lets relax and chill'

And, if one were to flip the whole thing on this head, there are two opposing forces are the opposite of these two.

'lets be open and see what happens' and 'what is my purpose?'

Recently I was speaking to an elder friend who is in his mid-70's. He has been a successful businessperson, has a lovely family, a dream home, a couple of cars and really a beautiful life. Younger people find it difficult to understand that stage in life. There is a sense of fulfilment and completeness. My friend was telling me that he feels he has fulfilled all his desires and wishes and completed his duties. There is nothing else left for him to do. He was feeling a bit low because of this strange feeling.

My friend is absolutely fine, and he is a very experienced and grounded person. He shared these things with me in a moment of introspection. But his words made me realise the importance of having a sense of purpose, or focus, or commitment.

Yet, I also feel the importance of the opposite - being ok without a sense of purpose, being okay with emergence, and allowing oneself to be open and go with the flow. That's with all the textbooks of spirituality say - stay open and accept life.


Ok, now I'm treading on tricky territory. We've got four different feelings pulling us in different ways. Let me re-iterate them for you.

'lets get into action'
'lets relax and chill'
'lets be open and see what happens'
'what is my purpose?'

Haha. Now we are truly messed up.

Is life mean't to be all about goals and purpose, or is it mean't to be about living in the moment and acceptance what is?

We are now treading truly on the home ground of philosophy and spirituality.


Let's see what some philosophers say on this.

Albert Camus: The French philosopher Albert Camus argued that life is inherently absurd and devoid of inherent meaning. In his essay "The Myth of Sisyphus," he suggests that we must confront the absurdity of life and create our own meaning through actions and values.
"The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."

Viktor Frankl: Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, developed logotherapy, a form of psychotherapy based on the idea that the primary human drive is the search for meaning. He argued that even in the most challenging circumstances, individuals can find purpose by identifying a higher meaning in their lives.
"Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose."

Friedrich Nietzsche: Nietzsche believed that life does not inherently have a predefined purpose but that individuals should create their own values and goals. He famously declared, "He who has a why to live can bear almost any how."

Jean-Paul Sartre: Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre argued that life lacks inherent meaning, and it's up to each individual to create their own purpose through choices and actions. He coined the phrase "existence precedes essence."
"Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does."

Aristotle: Aristotle, in contrast, believed that human life does have a purpose. He argued that the ultimate goal of human existence is eudaimonia, often translated as "flourishing" or "well-being." According to Aristotle, this state is achieved through the pursuit of virtues and moral excellence.
"Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence."

Leo Tolstoy: The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy grappled with questions of life's purpose. Later in his life, he experienced a spiritual awakening and adopted a more Christian perspective. He believed that the purpose of life was to serve others and seek moral and spiritual growth.
"The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity."

Wow. That's intersting, right. Western philosophers seems to converge on the idea - life has no inherent meaning, we have to give it meaning, and it is important to give it some meaning!


Lets turn now to the east.

Indian Philosophy:

Adi Shankaracharya: The 8th-century Indian philosopher and theologian emphasized the pursuit of moksha (liberation) as the ultimate goal of life. He taught that the purpose of human existence is to realize the true self (Atman) and its unity with the ultimate reality (Brahman).

Swami Vivekananda: This 19th-century Indian Hindu monk and philosopher believed that the purpose of life is to manifest the divinity within oneself and serve humanity. He emphasized self-realization and the importance of work as a means to spiritual growth.

Chinese Philosophy:

Confucius: The Chinese philosopher Confucius focused on the moral and ethical aspects of life. He believed that the purpose of life is to cultivate virtue, live in harmony with others, and contribute to social order. The pursuit of inner moral excellence was central to his teachings.

Laozi: Laozi, the founder of Daoism (Taoism), emphasized living in harmony with the Dao (Tao), which represents the natural way of the universe. He believed that the purpose of life is to follow the Dao, be in a state of wu wei (effortless action), and attain inner peace and simplicity.

Middle Eastern Philosophy:

Rumi: The 13th-century Persian poet and mystic, Rumi, focused on the spiritual journey of the soul. He believed that the purpose of life is to seek divine love and union with God. His poetry often explores themes of love, longing, and the soul's quest for spiritual enlightenment.

Ibn Sina (Avicenna): The Persian polymath Ibn Sina made significant contributions to philosophy and medicine. He believed that the purpose of life is to attain knowledge and wisdom, both through intellectual pursuits and spiritual contemplation.

Japanese Philosophy:

Zen Buddhism: Zen philosophy, rooted in Buddhism, emphasizes mindfulness, meditation, and direct experience. The purpose of life in Zen is to awaken to one's true nature, often through practices such as zazen (meditation) and koan study.

Bushido: Bushido is the "way of the warrior" in Japanese culture. It emphasizes virtues like loyalty, honor, and self-discipline. The purpose of life for a samurai was to embody these virtues and serve their lord with unwavering commitment.

Amazing, there's seems to be some kind of converging happening here as well. The eastern thought seems to be around - the purpose is to be in a state of harmony or alignment with nature, a higher forces, or one's true self.


I have to say I'm fascinated to see this convergence among the western thinkers, and the eastern thinkers into two buckets or thought.

By now I'm sure you've guessed that I'm not foolish enough to try and give you any answers. I'd rather leave you even more confused that before. It gives me some evil kind of pleasure. Or maybe, this is the purpose of my life, to confuse people even more.

Alright, before you unsubscribe my letter, that is not the purpose of my life. But I do believe that the path to clarity often comes through even more confusion. There is something called good confusion. So, don't worry, dive into it, let there be confusion. And trust yourself to find something that will bring you peace, even before it brings you answers. In fact I don't think the answer lies in answers. The answer lies in a sense of peace. Peace will come if one stays with the question long enough without struggling with the answers.

Before I end, let me tell you the difference between games and play.

Games have goals, rules, pawns and players. Play has only the player and the play.
Games have fixed start and end points. Play can start anytime, and anyone can join anytime.
Games have competition and winning. Play has fun, frustration and elation.
Games are good. Play is better.

Be playful. Like a child. Don't always need toys, or outcomes, or goals to keep yourself occupied. Just be in a state of play every now and then. It's nice.

I hope this letter confused you a little, interested you a little, and infused a little sense of playfulness in you.

Do write to me some thoughts that might me dancing around in your mind right now. I'd love to read them.

Have a great week ahead.

In fratitude,