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Buddhadharma : Summer 2017
summer 2 0 1 7 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 33 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. Because we live in an age where we have to pay our bills for every little thing we need, the sense of urgency becomes a monetary issue for us. 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. As spiritual practitioners, we need to balance our priorities. This means being able to balance the needs of this particular life with our long-term spiritual goals. Of course we have to manage our bills and make sure we have a place to live and food to eat. And we have to meet our responsibilities to our friends and family. But we also need to make our spiritual work a priority. If we can balance that, then we are intelligent and capable. If we cannot, we are just the opposite. To do that, we have to convince ourselves that this life is important. It shouldn’t take too much convincing, since we already have some sense that our life is precious. We recognize this when our life is threatened, but on a day-to-day basis we tend to take our precious human life for granted. For the most part, we keep ourselves busy meeting one urgent requirement after another, and that makes us think we’re managing. But the truth is, we don’t want to think about changing our priorities. We think we’ll squeak by with some spiritual development at the last minute. For those who do have a regular practice, how many leave it until the very last thing at night or rush through it like some chore you have to finish? That’s what most people do. But the Buddha told us that unless we reflect on the rarity of this human life and how easily it can be lost, and also think about how capable we can be if we apply ourselves, we will never be able to utilize the richness of this life. By richness, I’m speaking not about wealth but about opportunity. Our most important opportunity is that we are human beings. We may think the samsaric gods and spirits are able to do much more than us. Forget it. They are equally miserable, even more than us sometimes. Even if we have time, we put the most important thing in our life—our spiritual development—on the back burner. These are upside-down priorities. In old Tibet, we had to keep reminding ourselves that human beings can do anything. These days we don’t have to, because science clearly shows us what human beings are capable of. Human beings alone are responsible for tremendous scientific achievements, not the ghosts and samsaric gods. Those achievements are because of the extraordinary capabilities of our human minds. We really have brilliant minds. As human beings, we all have tremendous capacity. But if we don’t utilize it, then it remains weak. If you have a car and you leave it sitting outside for two years, it won’t work when you try to start it. You can push it and bang it, but nothing works. Then you have to tow it to a garage and pay a mechanic a fortune to fix it—if you’re lucky. Otherwise, you have to send it to the junkyard, and it’s wasted. If we don’t use the capacity of our minds, that’s what we can expect. But if we make the effort to develop ourselves, our capacity will be limitless. That is the example that the Buddha and all the other enlightened beings have provided for us. In short, our human life, with the limitless capacity of our minds, is capable of producing any result we wish. If your goal is to get rich, your human life is capable of producing it. If you want to become famous, your life is capable of doing it. Hollywood is full of such people. It’s the same with anything else you choose to do. Whether you are satisfied with the results or not is a different story, but human life is capable of delivering the goods. If you want to be fully enlightened, if your ultimate spiritual goal is to achieve enlightenment, then this life is capable of delivering that as well. From our point of view we may fail, but it won’t be because our human life lacked the capacity for total enlightenment. It’ll be because we didn’t take advantage of it. Consider the Buddha, who had a human life just like ours. There was nothing extraordinary in his life except that he happened to be an Indian prince.