Meaning of life ~ try this experiment

Premise: If we don’t remember death each day, we are bound to neglect what is actually important in life, our perspective will be skewwhiff. True or false?

Please humor me by doing this experiment! 🙂 You’ll need 10 minutes or so. Get out a pen and piece of paper (or its hi-tech equivalent). Now please ask yourself the following questions, one by one, giving yourself time for each one to close your eyes and think carefully about it first, before moving onto the next question. Then write down your answers:

(1)   If I was never going to die, what would I do today?

(2)   If I was going to die in 50 years, what would I do today?

(3)   If I was going to die in 10 years, what would I do today?

(4)   If I was going to die in 1 year, what would I do today?

(5)   If I was going to die in 1 month, what would I do today?

(6)   If I was going to die in 1 week, what would I do today?

(7)   If I was going to die today, what would I do today?


Do the answers change? Which answer do you reckon is the most realistic or makes the most sense?

Can you work out from your answers what matters most in your own life? And what matters most to you today?

Looking forward to reading your feedback! Please comment below, and share this article if you like it.

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

23 thoughts on “Meaning of life ~ try this experiment”

  1. Wow.. thank you Luna 🙏 my answers clearly show how dharma has changed me… 1: was to start a sanctuary for abused animals.. 2: was to dedicate myself to others..3: re connect with lost family.. 4: to learn dharma to free myself.. 5: to give away everything..6: build the broken ties with family. 7:acceptance

  2. 1 and 2 don’t change. From 3 to 6 I’d cash in life policies, being terminally I’ll. 3-5 I’d book a round the world trip with my daughters. 6 and 7 there’s only talking left to do. I can tell them both what to deal with. It’s all written down in my bedside drawer. I just need to know they’d be ok. Talking will give them a good ending. It’s all about my daughters and leaving them behind. I prepare them for my death and think about how they’ll be all the time.

  3. Thank you Luna. This was extremely helpful. Thank you for dedicating your life to making Geshe la’s teaching so accessible. This exercise taught me so much about what is most important. “Stop worrying” came up a lot and my teacher talks a lot about viewing ourselves as a traveler so we can enjoy experiences without attachment.

  4. Hmm. My first answer was to risk my life to save someone from dying, like jump into oncoming traffic to save a person or animal from being killed (since I wouldn’t ever have to worry about dying myself in this scenario). Otherwise, the answer is “practice Dharma” for all the other questions. Thank you for posting. ♡

  5. Even just between answers 1 and 2 my aspirations went from completely samsaric to Dharma, just by acknowledging death. Only with number 7 did the peace, clarity, and relaxed sense of urgency come into my mind. Thank you 🙂

  6. 1. Awful idea! Trapped here forever! I wanna liberation and don’t rebirth here any more!
    2. The same as I’m doing now
    3. The same as I’m doing now
    4. Try to work less and meditate more and more
    5. Leave my work, go to retreat, meditate
    6. Leave my work, go to retreat, meditate
    7. Meditate until I die
    From 1 up to 7 my time is progressively more an more dedicated to meditation.

  7. Well my answers graduated from;
    1. Work like crazy to save enough to be able to afford to feed myself in the future as my body won’t physically last that long!

    With increasing amounts of dharma and purification up to

    7. Stay stuck to my meditation cushion all day alternating panic with purifying! (that’s after expressing undying (ha ha) love for my close ones. Then again if I told them it was my last day would I get near my cushion…..hmm need plan B ! X

  8. 1) Keep doing what i am doing now, seeking for more knowledge, loving and exploring nature and earth, searching for wisdom that i did not get a chance to explore, and sharing it with the living.
    2) Same as above
    3) Same as above
    4) Same as above
    5) Same as above
    6) Same as above
    7) Say goodbye to this life and look forward to a new one.

  9. If we knew how long we had, the choices become quite differentiated, but in not knowing we either realise that we should practice virtue now, this second, or at the other extreme we carry on as though it’s not relevant at all. My difficulty is the one where I die in 50 years – if I lasted that long with a sound mind and body it would be great! If I ended up ill and with dementia, not such a blessing and not so useful. I think Geshe-la covered that debilitating ageing process quite graphically and we should use that to motivate ourseves as well as death itself. 🙂

    (From David Yeshe Green who can’t use WordPress very well yet! ) LOL 🙂

  10. interestingly, doing this, it gets better going from 1 to 7, so a point has been made here that I should meditate on death, which will bring more happiness through increased giving, kindness, humility, and commitment, towards 1 instead of 7.

    a supremely helpful teaching, you are just as kind as the Blackberry man.

  11. Actually, this experiment made me think of a teacher of mine telling us ” we only have a few hundred months to live, right?” This kind of talk ruined my meditations. Now, six years later this is all I think about when placing events and feelings into prospective.

    What will it all matter 100 years from now and maybe you are all ready dead.

    Kadampa Geshes meditate on death in the morning to make the morning meaningful, they meditate on death in the afternoon to make the afternoon meaningful and finally they meditate on death at night to make the night more meaningful.

    I am trying to practice the yoga of sleep to get away from all this contemplation of death. Hope it works!

  12. 1) No death: plan for all kinds of vacations, trips, etc – then I realized, wow, I’d would never engage in Dharma (or rarely) because samsaric activities are so full of attachment.
    2) I’d be 73 so I figured I continue with what I had planned for today, and TRY to fit in my daily practice.
    3)I’d be 33 so I would want to have kids with my partner to experience motherhood – what an attachment!!!
    4)I’d be 24 so I’d do my daily practice and start being more mindful of Dharma, start getting things in order for my family, partner
    5)1 month: go to work, be happy, daily practice, get things in order for my partner (bills, insurance, etc.), see my parents, siblings, call my cousin & friends, set up bank account for sister, give her my money
    6) 1 week: same as #5 except go to work only to say goodbye
    7) Die today: in this order I would cancel everything and have a really nice conversation with my partner, eat with my parents & siblings, call my cousin, go to temple, pray, try and keep mind happy, and ask my teacher to be with me till the end.

  13. If I was never to die I almost gave up functioning. 50 years, I’d be 97, felt the need for some kind of retirement plan. 10 years and I’d fit in some adventures. One year left and I stop caring about some of the things I feel are so important to complete, like paperwork to do with earnings. I’d go on an intensive retreat with my nearest and dearest. One month and I bring the retreat into here and now. One week and I try to maintain concentration on Dharma regardless of what I have to do. Dying today….initially panic and then wow, time to see the consequences of practice so far and regret!

  14. wow, that was interesting
    when I was never going to die I was in my PJ’s watching all 7 seasons of The Office back to back.
    Midway I was making sure to clean up all my relationships, drop all negativity, meditating, prostating more and more.
    by the end I was purifying, accumulating merit, giving away all my stuff, begging my teacher to guide me in a retreat and stay right next to me until the end.

Leave a Reply