Excellence Reporter: Bardor Tulku, what is the meaning of life?
Bardor Tulku Rinpoche: I think we should first make a distinction between worldly life and spiritual life. If we are engaging in worldly life, the things that give it meaning are the things that make it enjoyable – meaningful relationships, comfortable surroundings and fulfilling activities. In this type of life, we seek happiness that revolves around ourselves and the betterment of everything associated with ourselves.
If we are engaging in spiritual life, the things that give it meaning are the things that help to develop and deepen our understanding of our nature (that is the same nature of all living things) – relationships with enlightened beings, our spiritual practice and beneficial activity for others. In this type of life, we seek happiness that revolves around others and their betterment. To best benefit others, we need to shape ourselves into beings that have good qualities, and so we rely upon the examples, teachings and instructions of those whom we consider to have attained a high level of enlightenment.
In terms of worldly life, Buddhists do not believe that ordinary beings have control over whether they want to be reborn or not. Due to the force of past actions and habits that they formed, they are drawn to and born into a new life. This process is based upon ignorance and attachment to the self, and cannot be broken if beings continue to engage in self-clinging. Many beings choose to engage in virtuous activity, like generosity, patience, kindness and so forth, which can become their spiritual path. This is excellent, and has positive effects on one’s mind, behavior and community. It contributes to the relative happiness of oneself and others. The Buddhist path incorporates these activities, often referred to as skillful means, and combines them with wisdom attained through meditation, in order to dispel the mental afflictions of anger, attachment and ignorance, in the wish to attain ultimate happiness for oneself and others.
For Buddhists the ultimate goal is Buddhahood, a state completely free of all afflictions. There are certain methods used to attain this sate, such as perfecting one’s good qualities, purifying past negative karma (effects of negative actions), studying the Dharma (enlightened teachings), and most importantly, forming a relationship with an enlightened teacher. If one is shown extreme kindnesses by an enlightened teacher who has transcended samara (cyclic existence), in the form of instruction and blessing, only then can that being hope to attain enlightenment, and only with the utmost sincerity and perseverance. The meaning of existence of all enlightened beings is to lead others to enlightenment, to develop them into beings who can then develop other beings when they realize that worldly life and continued birth in samara is none other than prolonged ignorance and suffering. It is the commitment of every Buddha (a fully enlightened being) to free every single sentient being without partiality from the suffering of samara by nurturing and teaching them how to perfect their good qualities and to recognize their own true nature.
~The Third Bardor Tulku Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, a holder of the religious lineage of Terchen Barway Dorje, who was recognized by His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa at a very early age. Rinpoche is the founder of a Tibetan Buddhist center, Kunzang Palchen Ling, and the Raktrul Foundation, in Red Hook, New York.
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