Ikigai: how the Japanese find meaning in life


Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” It is similar to the French phrase “raison d’être”. Everyone, according to Japanese culture, has an ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is important to the belief that discovering one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life. (from Wikipedia)

SOURCE: Big Think

The whole concept may be boiled down to four questions:

1) What do you love?

2) What are you good at?

3) What does the world need from you?

4) What can you get paid for?

Here’s a handy Venn diagram:


Author Dan Buettner told the BBC in order to find your ikigai, you should write three lists. The first is your values, the second things enjoy doing, and the last, things you are good at. “The cross section of the three lists is your ikigai,” he said.



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  1. Well the Indian philosophy terms this as “purushaarta”; literal translation is “meaning of being born as a human being”. It also neatly packages it into 4 parts dharma, Artha, Kama and moksha. We may not be able to capture the details in a Venn diagram but much thinking had happened in terms of life here. Vedanta as a subject deals not with not just something esoteric and events after death but very much about life and it’s meaning. More importantly it helps one to find it if one wants to.

    1. I agree with you, Ravi. Vedanta and the Vedic tradition is not just a philosophical exercise. It is meant to provide guidelines for daily living. Our lack of familiarity with the language of the Vedas is, possibly, the prime barrier to putting this huge and valuable resource to practical use. In my own, very limited exposure, I have been struck by the fund of wisdom that this tradition has.

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