Pema Namdol Thaye: The Meaning of Life… offering water to an ant

Untitled 2Excellence Reporter: Pema, what is the meaning of life?

Pema Namdol Thaye: I learnt the meaning of life from my precious spiritual teachers: my Amala (mother) and my uncle Lama Gonpo Tenzing Rinpoche. They devoted their entire lives to benefiting others. This is something they lived, and breathed, and demonstrated from moment to moment for as long as I can remember.

From their accumulative and constant small gestures, such as never hesitating to feed a beggar or a stray dog, or offering water to an ant, or greeting a stranger with kindness, they embodied a presence – a deep-seated happiness – that brought a spontaneous happiness to those around them. Even someone in an angry state could relax and easily become calm in their presence.

From them I learned that the path to happiness comes from cultivating one’s own inner quality of being for the benefit of others. How can we cultivate our inner being? First we can recognize that true happiness comes from when we are generous and kind to others. When we are helping and thinking of others, this alone will be the cause of happiness within ourselves. And when we become happy, through that we gain compassion. And when we gain compassion, our wisdom increases. And when our wisdom increases, then we are able to tap into our own inner being – what we might call Buddha nature.

When we can tap into this Buddha nature – the enlightened quality that is inside each and every being – then we will experience the true meaning of life. But to find that meaning we need to start from the small moments first. To do that we will have to help the beggars and the dogs, the ants, every being, not just humans, because all creatures, they all have Buddha nature. We have to be disciplined in our thoughts, in what we say, and how we act in the world. If this idea is introduced at an early age it is beneficial.

The meaning of life can also be expressed in art form, in music, in poetry and in creating motion pictures. How is this? The meaning of life can be expressed in many different forms. Even simply by sitting in a chair, the meaning of life can be found and expressed.  This is through reflection, and generating motivation of care and generosity to others. What is your driving force?

The meaning of life is not found through the search to gain power or wealth or prestige. Building self-identity and self-centeredness does not fulfill the meaning of life. The meaning of life means selflessness. Meaning of life is motivation that is pure, non-dual, and free from self-recognition. From that, happiness and contentment blossoms as you come to know your own nature, your true inside.


~Pema Namdol Thaye is an internationally celebrated master Tibetan-Bhutanese  painter, 3D mandala specialist, architect, author and art educator. His innovative artwork has been exhibited in museums around the world including the Victoria & Albert Museum (London), Rubin Museum (New York), and the Asian Art Museum (San Francisco). Pema holds an unbroken artistic lineage from Tibet, and he has dedicated his life to the preservation of Himalayan art and architecture as it evolves into the twenty first century. In 2008 Pema founded Padma Studios®, a multidisciplinary fine art studio in Los Angeles, CA. To learn more, or to say hello, please visit

Copyright © 2018 Excellence Reporter

Categories: Art, Awakening, Buddhism

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