The Dalai Lama on the Meaning of Life

The Dalai Lama on the Meaning of Life

Today I saw an article on Slate about the Dalai Lama’s visit to New Mexico in April, 1991. Near the end of the article, a waitress asks him “What is the meaning of life?

In my entire week with the Dalai Lama, every conceivable question had been asked—except this one. People had been afraid to ask the one—the really big—question. There was a brief, stunned silence at the table.

The Dalai Lama answered immediately. “The meaning of life is happiness.” He raised his finger, leaning forward, focusing on her as if she were the only person in the world. “Hard question is not, ‘What is meaning of life?’ That is easy question to answer! No, hard question is what make happiness. Money? Big house? Accomplishment? Friends? Or …” He paused. “Compassion and good heart? This is question all human beings must try to answer: What make true happiness?” He gave this last question a peculiar emphasis and then fell silent, gazing at her with a smile.

Indeed, happiness is in the very nature of life itself. Knowing we are life itself, we know happiness. This is sat chit ananda, or as the Dalai Lama’s tradition would say, Nirvana.

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