My Life’s Purpose
by Tan Hwee San
Since I was a child, I always pondered upon the meaning of life. Why am I here? What is life all about? I asked all the adults in my life, but no one could give me a satisfactory answer. Then when my beloved grandmother passed away when I was ten, I started to question more. Why do we die? Where do we go after we die? But I found no answers at that young age. The following years I became more and more withdrawn, spending time pondering my many questions but with no answers. My Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew books gave me little insight. Although I did well in my studies and was in a reputable girl’s school, I felt very lost, empty and unhappy. Then one day when I was fifteen, in my father’s car on my way to school – the images still remain vivid in my mind – I looked up at the sky and prayed, “Whoever is up there, please let me know the meaning of my life. Please show me how to be happy.” Little did I know that my prayers were to be answered soon.”
A few days later, my younger sister who was only in Primary Five then passed me a book given to her by her classmate. It was a Buddhist book, expounding on how Buddhism looks at Life and Death and the truths of our Existence. When I started to read the book, my mind opened! Something deep within me stirred. Although I was reading the teachings for the very first time, I felt a strong sense of familiarity. It instantly provided me with all the answers that I had been searching! I read about the Buddha and the Four Noble Truths, the Bodhisattva Ideal, and about the purpose in life – “To live like a Bodhisattva, such as Guan Yin, striving for Enlightenment, whilst at the same time helping and liberating as many people as possible from Samsara.”
Soon after, I chanced upon another Buddhist book. One of the chapters talked about practicing Compassion from the dining table through vegetarianism. At that time, back in the 1980s vegetarianism was not as common as it is today. I did not know of any vegetarians around me. But again, it was something that seemed so natural to me. I become a vegetarian overnight. As I look back now, I feel so blessed that at that young age, I already made a choice to practice compassion and stop the direct and indirect causes of suffering for other living creatures.
It has been more than twenty years since that fateful day I found the meaning of life. I am blessed to still be a practicing Buddhist and treading on my Bodhisattva Path. However on such a spiritual path, it is not a bed of roses. There are tests and trials. But these have acted as lessons, strengthening my faith and re-aligning me with my Life Purpose.
About ten years after I became a Buddhist, I met with a major obstacle that caused me to be disillusioned with my life purpose and the Bodhisattva Ideal. I felt very lost and decided to take a week’s leave from work to go for a Zen Retreat; to look deep within myself to find the answers. The many rounds of walking and sitting meditation greatly calmed my mind. Soon, it was time for the interview with the Zen master. I entered the room, exchanged greetings with him and sat down. As soon as I sat in front of him, I was overwhelmed with an immense feeling of peace and serenity. He looked at me and asked, “Do you have any questions?”
I looked back at him and from my heart shared what had been troubling me for some time, “Zen Master, I am feeling very lost and I don’t know what to live for now.” He paused for a second and said the following words that still ring in my ears today. “Animals live to eat. What do you live for?”
Tears welled up in my eyes and rolled profusely down my cheeks. In that instant, I reconnected with my Bodhicitta – my aspiration for Enlightenment and benefiting sentient beings. I knew I wanted to continue on my Bodhisattva Path.
It has been ten years since my meeting with the Zen Master. It is my greatest fulfillment to see people blossoming and leading meaningful, purposeful and altruistic lives. The Bodhisattva Ideal is still an inspiration for me. I am especially touched by Bodhisattva Guan Yin – Her great Compassion and Wisdom. I am never shy to share with people that the purpose of my existence is to strive for Enlightenment and at the same time, to help and awaken the consciousness of as many beings as possible. I am blessed to be able to always feel the divine presence of Guan Yin, and I know she is guiding me throughout my life, at every moment. I like to joke and tell people that I see Guan Yin as my “boss”. I am helping to do her work on Earth whilst she guides and supports me from above.
I hope my story offers inspirations in your life’s journey and prompt you to think more deeply about your own existence and divine life purpose. My sincere wish for you is best summed up by author Neale Donald Walsch:
Do not allow your life to represent anything
but the grandest version of the greatest vision you
ever had about Who You Are
Animals live to eat. What do you live for?