Ven. Tenzin Dasel: What is the Meaning of Life?


Excellence Reporter: Ven. Tenzin Dasel, what is the meaning of life?

Tenzin Dasel: That is up to each of us personally to discover and create.

From the very beginning of life, we begin to form associations that quickly become meaningful. We are, each of us, the creators of giving life meaning. 

Life itself asserts no meaning in particular, but as human beings endowed with consciousness, curiosity, and intelligence we record and recall our own experience, share and transmit many collective stories, explanations, religions, sciences and view points which all seem to convey meaning. 

The very way we view life and our place within it will come to hold meaning. If we view life as a mind-blowing display of rich individual and collective feats of adventure, altruistic displays of leadership, love and compassion, full of kindness, then the meaning of life will become infused with wonder, mystery, humility, joy, gratitude and optimism. Conversely, if we view life as tragic, oppressive, unjust, full of heart wrenching history of wars and violence having ravaged other humans, as well as other species, not to mention environmental abuse of resources, then the meaning of life will become infused with despair, fear, anger, blame, anxiety, depression and pessimism. 

Generally, meaning may be fashioned out of our very basic experiences. On an individual level what brings us momentary happiness, what causes pain, what brings comfort, what disturbs peace of mind might register as meaningful. As pre-verbal infants all of these actions and reactions are coming strongly into our consciousness and awareness develops around these very basic experiences. The way a mother looks at us, her touch, the sound of her voice, the comfort of her body, the way she holds us, or the very lack of these experiences contain potential meaning and how we come to define it on both a personal and interpersonal level. 

Because life by its nature is so deeply interconnected, from DNA structure to social emotional intellectual capacities and cultural habits, meaning takes on a rich and wide variety of appearances across the planet. Yet meaning in all its vast and varied humanity comes from the only species we are aware of that assigns significance to its activities, communications, symbols, and history: homo sapiens. 

And so, although universally limited to a single species viewpoint on itself and life, it is what we are left with. Still, it is like hitting the cosmic jackpot. To be alive is full of meaningful potential. Who gets to decide the meaning of life? How we answer that question and what we do to craft a meaningful life is up to each of us. 

I believe each life contains its own opportunity to quest for and discover meaning. If meaning is wrought through experience based on a deeply personal search, study, experiments, relationships and insights which expand and enrich deeper awareness, we may tap into a confidence that one’s place in the grand scheme of life is, by its very essence, is an expression of meaningful potential. 

Life, lived with intention, consciousness and a deep capacity to connect, care, love, mourn, heal, evolve, learn, and transform can unfold as a beautiful sequence of meaningful engagements and interactions which help us to develop as individually unique beings unfolding along a widely collective transcendental universal journey. 

We do not necessarily need concepts of higher beings, Gods and Goddesses, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, great altruistic historical leaders and thinkers, although they may certainly serve as inspirations and authentic guides on the journey to make life meaningful. 

What we do need is to pay attention. Wake up! To realize how very precious it is to be alive. To be alive. To be part of something beyond concepts, extending far beyond what words are too limited to convey. To wonder, joyfully participate, explore, develop mindful awareness, learn, create, contribute and come to define meaning on one’s own terms with a deep sense of satisfaction and humility, courage and compassion, respect and responsibility. 

In my heart and mind the meaning of life is this: to utilize it wisely to its greatest good. To recognize the precious opportunity to cultivate highest awareness and to live with virtue, with purpose and intention. To remain mindful that having a human life endowed with free will can lead to ultimate freedom. Free to evolve love, care with compassion, create kindness and recognize a mind with an innate capacity to consciously choose to make life meaningful. 

To awaken and attain Enlightenment in order to be of ultimate benefit to self and all sentient life is possible. 

And to use this lifetime to live and love altruistically, determined to do just that.


~Venerable Tenzin Dasel is the lead teacher and meditation instructor at her home center Tashi Gatsel Ling in Maine, USA. She collaborates with several ME high schools to give talks on Buddhism and guide meditation for the students and teachers. She returns to TGL once a year, we should expect her back next in November 2019. Tenzin Dasel is a 1988 graduate with a BA from the prestigious Bates College, in Maine, USA. She received her Degree of Master in Arts from the respected Bangor Theological Seminary, graduating summa cum laude.

An experienced practitioner and teacher of meditation, she is the founder of Maine Mindfulness Project in the USA and has instructed thousands of people and helped many improve or recover to full health through counselling and meditation. Currently she serves as assistant to Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.

Copyright © 2020 Excellence Reporter

Categories: Buddhism, Slider

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