Excellence Reporter: Rinpoche, what is the meaning of life? Or the purpose of life if you will?
Khensur Rinpoche: Most all of us fall into the trap of believing, at one point or another, that amassing wealth, fame, power, friendships, and even happiness itself is the purpose of life. Of course, these things can, and often do, bring some satisfaction, enjoyment—even “meaning.” But, if we are honest with ourselves, we will see that as we chase these things, any happiness they provide never lasts, and, in fact, is ultimately a source of pain as well.
How can we find lasting meaning and satisfaction when everything we pursue is temporary? If we are honest with ourselves, we will see that not only are the things we cling to temporary, but we are temporary too. Deep down, we may feel that with all this uncertainty, what is the point?
In my tradition, we encourage awareness of the fact that we could die at any moment. This helps us to maintain awareness of the preciousness of life and encourages us to sort out our priorities—to make our lives meaningful through our actions and understanding. Buddha taught that all life is suffering. The root cause of all this suffering is the fact that we do not readily recognize our true nature. In my tradition, we call it our “Buddha” mind—luminous, selfless, and free from suffering, self-grasping, and desire. It is this state of mind that is said to endure past death.
Coming to know our true nature requires overcoming our ordinary mind and moving past our ego. In our day-to-day lives, we become absorbed and distracted by our thoughts, feelings, and activities. It is easy to allow our ignorance, negative emotions, and actions to obscure our true nature, much the same way that clouds block our awareness of the endless sky. We all—from the simplest creatures to the most challenged human beings—have Buddha mind. And, thanks to the fact that all life is changeable, we can change our thinking and our actions to connect beyond our ordinary minds and into a deeper state of profound wisdom, love, and compassion.
Our precious human life is as fragile as a bubble on the surface of a pool of water. How will we use our time in this world to connect to the profound and enduring wisdom, love, and compassion of Buddha mind?
To cultivate the seeds of love and compassion that we are born with, we can practice giving, ethics, patience, effort, concentration, and wisdom. As an example of such qualities, we can look to the marvelous example of a mother’s love, generosity, attention, effort, patience, and discipline with her own child. She cares for her baby with selfless love and devotion, changing and responding with a child’s needs as it grows, loving her offspring no matter what.
When you give something away or help someone else, do you do it with that same motivation? Can you love and let go of the results? In my tradition, we believe in rebirth. So, if we think about it, everyone we meet has been our mother in a previous life, selflessly caring for us so we can grow and prosper. Even if you don’t believe in life after death, you can find meditating on motherhood to be a powerful practice.
A marvelous effect of practicing loving-kindness is that it generates an enthusiasm from within that feels good, is deeply meaningful, and endures in the memory of others. There is no better time to start practicing loving-kindness than now, no better opportunity than with those who challenge us. See beyond current conditions and sow the seed of compassion in the soil of our precious human life.
~Khensur Rinpoche Lobzang Tsetan, Siddartha School Project Founder is a Buddhist monk from Ladakh, India. In 1952, when he was fifteen years old, he walked with his father from Ladakh to Shigatse, Tibet to enter the renowned Tashi Lhunpo Monastery. After the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese government, Rinpoche returned to India and received his Geshe degree from Drepung Monastery in 1984. In 1995, Rinpoche founded the Siddhartha School in his home village, Stok, Ladakh, India. The school seeks to honor Ladakh’s Buddhist culture and language while giving the children of this remote Himalayan area a thoroughly modern education while emphasizing social emotional learning. In July 2005, H.H. Dalai Lama appointed Rinpoche to be the head abbot, or Kachen, of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in southern India. He retired from his duties as abbot of Tashi Lhunpo in 2018. Khensur Rinpoche has been traveling and teaching in the United States for over thirty years.
Khensur Rinpoche travels the world carrying the message that “children are the seeds of the future. We must care for them by providing love and education so that they blossom into good human beings.”
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