Excellence Reporter: Dr. Wallace, what is the meaning of life?
B. Alan Wallace: Issues of meaning, values, and ethics are considered by many to be subjective in nature, determined simply by one’s preferences, in contrast to the objective truths revealed by scientific inquiry. I find this split between subjective and objective domains of reality to be superficial and misleading.
The realms of values and truth are not “non-overlapping magisteria,” as proposed by the evolutional biologist Stephen J. Gould. Rather, they are interdependent aspects of reality, in which authentic values may lead to the discovery of deep truths, and the experiential discovery of such truths may bring greater richness to one’s values. The key is the pursuit of genuine wellbeing, what the ancient Greeks called “eudaimonia.” This is a sense of wellbeing that is derived not from what we can get from the world, but from what we can bring to it. There are multiple dimensions of such wellbeing.
The first has to do with social and environmental wellbeing, and it flows from treating our fellow sentient beings and the environment as a whole with benevolence, while abstaining from violence.
The second has to do with cultivating psychological wellbeing, by cultivating wise desires and intentions; cultivating the attentional qualities of composure and clarity; cultivating cognitive intelligence of perceiving things as they are, without turning a blind eye to empirical evidence and without conflating reality with our own projections; and finally, cultivating emotional intelligence, avoiding the extremes of hypersensitivity and apathy.
The third has to do with cultivating spiritual wellbeing, by exploring the innermost depths of who we are and how we relate to the rest of reality.
In short, the meaning of life is to lead an ethical way of life, cultivate exceptional mental balance, and to seek to fathom the depths of our own innermost nature, which is the source of genuine wellbeing.
~B. Alan Wallace Ph.D., dynamic lecturer, author, translator, teacher, researcher, interpreter for many Buddhist contemplatives and scholars, including the Dalai Lama, and one of the most prolific writers and translators of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Dr. Wallace, a scholar and practitioner of Buddhism since 1970, has taught Buddhist theory and meditation worldwide since 1976. Having devoted fourteen years to training as a Tibetan Buddhist monk, ordained by H. H. the Dalai Lama, he went on to earn an undergraduate degree in physics and the philosophy of science at Amherst College and a doctorate in religious studies at Stanford. With his unique background, Alan brings deep experience and applied skills to the challenge of integrating traditional Indo-Tibetan Buddhism with the modern world. Dr. Wallace founded and is president of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies
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