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 that have ravaged other humans, as well as other species, and environmental abuse of resources, then the meaning of life will become infused with despair, fear, 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 all register as meaningful. As preverbal 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, all contain potential meaning to how we come to define it on both a personal and interpersonal level.
Because life by its nature is so deeply interconnected, from the 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.
And so, although it is universally limited to a single species’ viewpoints, it is what we are left with. Still, it is like hitting the cosmic jackpot. To be alive is full of meaningful potential. What we do with it is up to each of us.
I believe each life contains its own opportunity to quest for and discover meaning. To define experience based on a deeply personal search, study, experiments, relationships and insights which expand and enrich a deeper knowing leads to 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 awareness, consciousness, and a deep capacity to connect, care, love, mourn, heal, evolve, learn, transform, can unfold as a beautiful sequence of meaningful engagements and interactions which help us to develop as individually unique beings and unfolds us 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, to make life meaningful.
What we do need is to pay attention. Wake up! To realise 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 utilise it wisely to its greatest good. To recognise the precious opportunity, endowed with freedoms and opportunities, cultivating awareness that understands deeply how 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 recognise a mind with an innate capacity choosing to make life meaningful.
That 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.
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