Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche: On the Meaning of Life

Ponlop RinpocheExcellence Reporter: Rinpoche, what is the meaning of life?

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche: A lot of people ask me this question, “What is the meaning of life?” I think it’s helpful to also ask why we’re asking this question. From a dharmic point of view, it’s simply because we want to be happy. So many of our questions and actions are motivated by our longing for happiness – and our confusion about what makes us happy.

In a large part, finding a meaning to our life, finding a sense of purpose, does bring us a sense of happiness. But that meaning is not something that already exists when we are born and we have only to find it and claim it. There’s not one “great meaning” somewhere out there that’s the same for every life.

In fact, it’s truer to say that there’s no meaning to this life. In the short time we have between the moment of our birth and moment of our death, we must give a meaning to our life. We must see how we can make it meaningful, how can we do something positive that will benefit the world and will benefit us too. Don’t just wait for “the meaning of life” to find you or come to you in a dream. Because in Buddhism there is no self-existing meaning. Meaning is something you give. You make it.

When you keep in mind your intention to make this life meaningful and beneficial, then that purpose continues into any given moment. We have to make this moment beneficial, because life is nothing but this moment. The past moment is gone, the future moment isn’t here. There’s only the present moment. It’s this moment that counts. Don’t blink, otherwise you’ll miss it. How we can make our whole life meaningful and beneficial is by making this moment meaningful and beneficial.

The mere pursuit of happiness, with no other purpose, can bring us more suffering than joy. If you look closely, the key to a good life, to good living, is actually to find a positive meaning in your attitude and actions, so when this moment or this life is over, that benefit continues beyond us.


~Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche is a widely celebrated Buddhist teacher and the author of Emotional Rescue, Rebel Buddha, and other books.

His Holiness the 16th Karmapa and His Holiness the Dalai Lama recognized Rinpoche as a reincarnate lama of the Nyingma tradition, the seventh incarnation in the Dzogchen Ponlop lineage.

In 1979 (when Rinpoche was fourteen), the 16th Karmapa proclaimed Ponlop Rinpoche to be a heart son of the Gyalwang Karmapa and a holder of his Karma Kagyu lineage. In this way, Rinpoche came to hold the Kagyu lineage as well as the Nyingma lineage into which he was born.

A lover of music, art and urban culture, Rinpoche is a poet, photographer, accomplished calligrapher and visual artist, as well as a prolific author. Rinpoche is founder and president of Nalandabodhi, an international network of Buddhist centers.

Copyright © 2018 Excellence Reporter

Categories: Buddhism

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