Excellence Reporter: Tina, what is the meaning of life?
Tina Rasmussen: From my perspective, the meaning of life is to discover the truth of what we are—to move beyond limited perception of the “me” and to know the deeper Reality. Through the human experience, we can know that Reality as both a sense organ of the Ground of Being (as our individual human consciousness) and as that Ground itself (through non-dual awareness). With this realization, we can find contentment in the 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows that are a part of every human life, and know directly that what we are goes beyond the birth and death of the body and our personality.
Ultimately, the purpose of life is a mystery. Some schools see life as the play of the divine, the “leela” of the Absolute manifesting into form, out a love that extends itself from the unmanifest Ground into physical form. In this view, existence is the play of the divine returning home, almost like a game of hide and seek, with adventures that deepen wisdom and love along the way. In that process of the Ground coming into form, form itself can become enlightened, ultimately extending the beauty, perfection, and profundity of the Absolute into the physical realm. Incarnating into the physical realm as a human provides enough suffering to be motivated to awaken, but also enough freedom from suffering that most humans don’t have to dedicate 100% of their life energy to survival. This is why a human birth is so precious—and a human birth in which we are motivated and have the opportunity and resources to seek enlightenment is seen as very sacred and not to be wasted.
In Buddhism, in which there is a belief in rebirth, the only thing we take with us when we die is our consciousness and our karma, so life is about becoming more and more realized and liberated, which is carried into the next life. From a human point of view, if one has committed to the Bodhisattva vow, the process of incarnating will continue until all of materiality is liberated from suffering. So life is about awakening ever more deeply, and helping “others” awaken to their True Nature.
Many people think the Bodhisattva vow means that “I as an individual am forgoing enlightenment until all beings are enlightened.” But from the realized perspective, there is no “other,” so that vow is really to oneself as the oneness of the Ground of Being—to continue the play of manifestation until the totally is realized and free from delusion.
I can’t imagine a better meaning for life, than continuing in manifestation until all of Being is free from suffering and is abiding as the bliss and profundity of Truth, as the mystery itself.
~Tina Rasmussen, Co-Guiding Teacher at Awakening Dharma
Tina learned to meditate in 1976, at age 13. In 2003, after many years of practice in Buddhist and modern non-dual traditions, she was drawn to undertake an intensive year-long solo retreat during which a profound awakening to Reality occurred. In 2005, Tina attended a retreat with Burmese meditation master Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, who ordained her as a Buddhist nun. During the retreat, Tina became the first Western woman to complete the entire Samatha path in this lineage. Tina also took refuge with Tsoknyi Rinpoche, a Tibetan Dzogchen teacher, and was initiated into the Nyingma lineage.
As an offering of gratitude to the dharma Tina, along with Stephen Snyder, wrote the book, Practicing the Jhanas, which was later published by Shambhala. In 2007 Tina became the first Western woman authorized by Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw to teach.
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