Nicolae Tanase: Master Bobrow, what is the meaning of life?
Joseph Bobrow: Whew, just to ask is to begin to open. To inquire. We exhaust cognitive reasoning and just inquire, cultivating our innate curiosity. We become intimate with the question itself, allowing it to unfold, rather than grasping for an answer.
“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time,” wrote songwriter James Taylor. The passage of time can be painful as we age, lose loved ones, as our bodies fail us, and some of our dreams go unrealized. While we’re younger, the journey awaits and holds excitement and promise. But the question, “What is this?” can direct us beyond loss and gain to a profound and perennial truth that has the power to liberate us from “value added” anguish.
Of course, we can say that to fully realize the meaning of life we have to go beyond our small self, to serve others, to be part of something bigger than ourselves. To realize our unique gift to the world. To bring kindness, benevolence, wellbeing, and peace to others, all others, all beings.
And of course a life well lived involves all of these.
But, seeker, if you suspend the search to find meaning, and you welcome and hold the question, lightly and with constancy, you will enter a mystery. It is pathless path, trod by many seekers. When you stop looking and are immersed…
~Joseph Bobrow, Roshi, Ph.D., is a Zen master and founding director of Deep Streams Zen Institute. In the early 1980’s Joseph lived and studied with Thich Nhat Hanh in Plum Village, where he co-translated his Guide to Walking Meditation. Joseph practiced psychotherapy and psychoanalysis for thirty-five years and is the author of Zen and Psychotherapy: Partners in Liberation (2010) and Waking Up from War: A Better Way Home for Veterans and Nations (2015, foreword by H.H. the Dalai Lama). He is the founding director of Coming Home Project, a community service of Deep Streams Institute whose mission is Zen practice, interdisciplinary education, and community service.
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