We've covered some extensive and perhaps esoteric territory. It's territory that's rarely discussed in today's hectic world, with its myriad diversions. Yet it's territory that addresses the heart of our existence. In summary, it provides answers to the deepest questions around what it is to be human - the so-called existential questions. These are questions such as 'What is the Meaning of Life?', 'What is my Purpose?', and 'How should I Live?'
If we take "How should I live?" first, there are two parts to the answer. If we want to be happy - or at least feel less dissatisfied with life - we need to look after our own mental and physical health, so that the whole of us functions in harmony. The second part is that because of our biological nature, we need good relationships to experience genuine ongoing wellbeing. Only at the level of ego are we truly isolated beings. There's much more we can do, but we'll come to that. For the moment, we have an answer to the question "How should I live"?
From that answer, we can approach the other two questions. The sense of meaning in our life is found in how it is lived. If we live with inner harmony, and as social beings (and by exploring deeply who we are), we can find all the meaning we need in life. Our purpose is found in attending to those very things, whilst following our own special passions within an ethical framework that involves caring for all beings and all of our planet.
'Following our passions' means using our special gifts to contribute to the lives of others. Apart from caring for family, our special passions (or gifts) may be fulfilled through our work or other employment (including volunteer work), through creative endeavours, or simply our way of being in the world.
Related to 'How should I live?' is another existential question: 'How did it all begin?' (meaning how did the universe and life begin?) The scientific hypothesis of the 'Big Bang' is more of a metaphor (or a mathematical calculation) than a detailed or satisfying answer. For example, it leads to another question: 'Why did the Big Bang occur?' Some of the deepest thinkers of the Eastern traditions hold that reality is endlessly expanding (or descending) and simultaneously returning (or ascending). But their answer to 'Why?' relies on metaphysical explanations. Perhaps we're incapable of fully knowing how (and why) the universe began, which is part of the reason humans have turned to the supernatural. Without devaluing such explanations, we can find a way of being that accommodates them as well as satisfying the deeper secular thinkers (while still not answering 'Why?') The quote at the top of the page points to this: a more holistic way of looking at these questions, and at the same time adopting a world view and an ethic more appropriate to our future.
(More to come).