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Buddhadharma : Fall 2008
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 08 30 A ll sentient beings, including myself, have gone through continuous ups and downs, life after life, experiencing the sufferings of samsara. The reason we keep having all of these problems is because we haven’t managed to fulfill our life’s mission. What is our mission? In the most basic sense, we all have a desire for peace and hap- piness, and we all wish to be free from pain and suffering. But though we may experience happiness here and there, it is not the kind of happiness that has never known suffering. In fact, for most of us it is the kind of happiness that is based on suffering. We put a lot of effort into having material comforts, and on top of that we want men- tal and spiritual comfort. But even when we think we are working for spiritual benefit, if we dig deeply we may find that it is sim- ply attachment—the attachment of bringing ourselves to a state of material or spiritual or emotional comfort. The kind of comfort most of us seek is a kind of stopgap comfort. We haven’t really addressed the root of suffering or developed the true cause of happiness. Once we realize that, and reflect and meditate on it, we can begin to see the true nature of suffering and the cessation of suffering. From there, one can make the decision to seek true peace, nirvana, which means freeing ourselves and others once and for all from suffering and its causes. Why haven’t we been able to achieve that yet? Why haven’t we fulfilled our mission? Because we don’t yet realize how important this life is. We don’t realize the limitless capac- ity of our human body and mind, and how difficult it is to find. We don’t have a sense of urgency because we don’t realize how easily this human life can be lost. Instead, we keep ourselves busy chasing after happiness and running away from suffering, life after life. Many of us complain, “I have no time.” I like to call that a good, fancy, stylish excuse. Everybody likes to say, “I’m too busy,” because everybody would like to seem important. It is a great excuse that offers several benefits: you can avoid what you don’t want to do; it gives you a showbiz idea of being important; and all the important people do it, so you can include yourself with them. I refer to that as busy laziness. We experi- ence this kind of laziness because we have a problem recognizing our real priorities. Even if we have time, we put the most important thing in our life—our spiritual development—on the back burner. Our laziness is well suited to these upside-down priorities. The sense of urgency becomes a monetary issue for us, because we live in an age where we have to pay our bills for every little thing we need. If we don’t pay our bills then not only will the bill collectors chase us, but even our electricity and water will eventually be shut off. Practice Like Your Hair’s on Fire Enlightenment is still possible, says Gelek Rinpoche, but time is running out. We have to make the most of this rare and fleeting opportunity to wake up. Gelek Rinpoche is a lama in the Geluk lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and the founder of Jewel heart, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. he is the author of Good Life, Good Death: Tibetan Wisdom on Reincarnation. johnbuissinEau illustRation by mike holmes