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Buddhadharma : Fall 2008
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 08 32 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, we are intelligent and capable. If we cannot, we are just the opposite. But 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 not speaking about wealth but about oppor- tunity. 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. 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 scien- tific 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. If we make the effort to develop ourselves, our capac- ity 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 hap- pened to be an Indian prince. From the point of view of the capa- bility of human life, his opportunity was no different than ours is now. Everyone has the same potential. Not only that, but we are fortunate enough in this life to have access to the teachings and the shared experience of the Buddha. It is a message that has survived in a living tradition. And we also have many other non-Buddhist traditions that teach us the value and potential of our human lives and what we can achieve if we put our minds to it. As well, we have a sangha that is with us on this journey, and we have spiritual teachers who can give us the teachings and also offer their own example. In fact, within this life we have everything we need to achieve freedom and perfection. Once we realize the importance of life, we begin to let go of our attachment to wasting time. Things we once viewed Many of us complain, “I have no time.” I like to call that a good, fancy, stylish excuse. The truth is, we don’t want to change our priorities.