Precious Human Life
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
In order to develop a fully qualified
desire to take advantage of a life of leisure, you must reflect
on its four elements, as follows:
1) The need to practice the teachings, because all living beings
only want happiness and do not want suffering and because achieving
happiness and alleviating suffering depend only on practicing
2) the ability to practice, because you are endowed with the
external condition, a teacher, and the internal conditions,
leisure and opportunity;
3) the need to practice in this lifetime, because if you do
not practice, it will be very difficult to obtain leisure and
opportunity again for many lifetimes; and
4) the need to practice right now, because there is no certainty
when you will die.
Among these, the third stops the laziness of giving up, which
thinks, "I will practice the teaching in future lives."
The fourth stops the laziness of disengagement, which thinks,
"Although I should practice in this lifetime, it is enough
to practice later on and not to practice in my early years,
months, and days.
The ordinary samsaric mind sees the human body as just a tool with which to chase material, social, and biological needs, all of which satisfy only superficial levels of the spirit. Their effects do not pass beyond the gates of death. We have to learn to appreciate the intrinsic spiritual quality of human nature, to have a subtle confidence in the positive, creative aspect of our being. It is difficult to enter spiritual training if one regards one's life as having no purpose other than the pursuit of ephemeral, transient goals, as does a rat who builds a strong nest and then drags home all sorts of trinkets to it. In order to break the mind of this vain, mundane attitude towards life, we sit in meditation and contemplate first the eight freedoms and ten endowments, and then the meaningful and rare nature of a human incarnation. This contemplation imbues us with a sense of spiritual dignity that subtly transforms our way of relating to ourselves and our existence. We cease to see ourselves merely as animals uncontrolledly chasing after the immediate cravings of the senses in a vicious circle of jungle law; and we come to appreciate the quality of penetrating awareness and the capacity for spiritual development that distinguishes humans from animals and insects. This causes the thought of extracting the essence of life to arise with a joyous intensity.
The Path to Enlightenment
Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche
When you have many excuses not to do your work, ask yourself what guarantee
you have of another chance to do what needs to be done. Time lost is lost for
good. No matter how much you promise to improve, no matter what good intentions
you have for making it up, the time is gone for good. Feeling sorry about the
situation will not bring it back. You can never buy back that precious piece
of time. You may think, "Well, that piece of time has passed, but I still
have a long stretch of time left." No, you do not! What guarantee is there
that you will have another piece of time like this one? Wake up and stop the
excuses; they never made sense before and do not make sense now. Laziness and
procrastination have never worked in a sound and helpful way. It is only sound
and helpful to get things moving.
Hundreds of people may be more popular, powerful, and wealthy than we are, but from the point of view of the Dharma, no one is more fortunate. We have a very precious opportunity to make the best of our lives by working toward the attainment of buddhahood. We have obtained this precious human birth and have come in contact with the teachings and spiritual friends. All the favorable conditions are available--we could not ask for more. Yet this is only for a very short period of time.
Now when the bardo of this life is dawning upon me,
I will abandon laziness for which life has no time,
Enter, undistracted, the path of listening and hearing, reflection and contemplation,
Making perceptions and mind the path, and realize the “three kayas”: the enlightened
Now that l have once attained a human body,
There is no time on the path for the mind to wander.
Every spiritual tradition has stressed that this human life is unique and has a potential that ordinarily we don’t even begin to imagine. If we miss the opportunity this life offers us for transforming ourselves, they say, it may well be an extremely long time before we have another.
Imagine a blind turtle roaming the depths of an ocean the size of the universe. Up above floats a wooden ring, tossed to and fro on the waves. Every hundred years, the turtle comes, once, to the surface. To be born a human being is said by Buddhists to be more difficult than for that turtle to surface accidentally with its head poking through the wooden ring.
And even among those who have a human birth, it is said, those who have the great good fortune to make a connection with the teachings are rare, and those who really take them to heart and embody them in their actions even rarer—as rare, in fact, “as stars in broad daylight.”
The quality of life in the realm of the gods may look superior to our own, yet the masters tell us that human life is infinitely more valuable. Why? Because of the very fact that we have the awareness and intelligence that are the raw materials for enlightenment, and because the very suffering that pervades this human realm is itself the spur to spiritual transformation.
Pain, grief, loss, and ceaseless frustration of every kind are there for a very real and dramatic purpose: to wake us up, to enable, almost to force us to break out of the cycle of samsara and so release our imprisoned splendor.
October 7, 2011