Nicolae Tanase: Dr. Berzin, what is the meaning of life?
Alexander Berzin: The Dalai Lama has repeatedly said that the meaning of life is the pursuit of happiness. But that doesn’t mean self-centered happiness at the expense of others. After all, everyone shares this same aim in life. Moreover, in this globalized world alive with social media, we’re all interconnected and affected by what each other thinks and does. The meaning of life, then, is the pursuit of well-being and happiness on an interconnected global level.
Well-being and happiness come from not only having the physical necessities of life. As important as they are, the quality of our lives also depends on having emotional well-being. Emotional well-being comes from a feeling of closeness with others, which comes from having sincere concern for others’ welfare, openness, honesty and a calm, clear mind. Most importantly, to help each other, we need compassion and wisdom.
Working on ourselves to develop these good qualities puts a meaningful direction in our lives. We’re all capable of taking this direction. As my teacher, Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche, once said, “If a bear in a circus can be trained to ride a bicycle, imagine what we humans can learn to do!”
~Dr. Alexander Berzin is the founder, author and executive director of Study Buddhism, formerly the Berzin Archives. He has been studying and practicing Buddhism since 1962, first at university – Harvard, where he received his PhD in Far Eastern Languages and Sanskrit and Indian Studies – and then for 29 years in India. There, he continued his studies primarily with the His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche and Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, as well as with other masters from all four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. He also served as translator for Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche and occasionally for the Dalai Lama himself. Author of numerous books and articles, including Wise Teacher, Wise Student: Tibetan Approaches to a Healthy Relationship and Introduction to the Kalachakra Initiation, Dr. Berzin has been teaching Buddhism internationally since 1982. He currently lives in Berlin, Germany.
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