When this question suddenly appeared in my mailbox, after a moment of astonishment, I really rejoiced! Finally! Finally we can get to the heart of things! Indeed, I am often asked how I live as a Buddhist nun, where I live, what I do with my days, for how long I meditate… but the source of all my spiritual journey is really this question: what is the meaning of life?
But, as soon as the question is asked, a second question suddenly appears: why should life have meaning?
And then a third question? Life in relation to what? To death?
This theme is also rarely addressed. Death. Is there life after death? And before that? What do we do now?
When the Buddha was asked this question, he kept silent about the afterlife. I guess he had a sweet, quiet little smile then. The smile of the one who knows but can say nothing. The smile of the lived and non-transferable experience.
When asked, “What comes after life? ” The Buddha sometimes replied: “If you are hit by a poisoned arrow, do you go and find out from which wood the arrow is, who fired it, with what strength, to which tribe the warrior belongs, etc? No, the most important thing is to take care of yourself. As soon as possible!”
Indeed, for Buddha and therefore for Buddhists, the most important thing is to do what has to be done now. At the heart of life itself.
In this sense, for Buddhists, the meaning of life is… to live!
Live what presents itself with intensity.
Hear, see, feel, feel, in real time. Taste the flavour of the moment.
And discover, at the heart of the present moment, that life’s path is not always from the past to the future, but can also be from the future to the present.
A new perspective, isn’t it?
~Kankyo Tannier is a Buddhist nun of the Zen tradition. She lived in a monastery (www.meditation-zen.org) in Alsace for over sixteen years before settling in the middle of a nearby forest, surrounded by trees and animals. She teaches meditation workshops and writes a blog on everyday spirituality at www.dailyzen.fr (english language), has given a TEDX talk, has a blog on the Huffingon Post (France) and writes books. She is a truly modern nun, bringing her philosophy and ideas to life in a practical, accessible and light-hearted way.
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