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Buddhadharma : Fall 2008
33 fall 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly be equal to the chances of that blind tortoise emerging with his head poking through the yoke. Actually, the life we have is not just a gift; it didn’t just happen to you. You have earned this life—this opportunity, this capability and potential for the ultimate achievement of enlightenment. You have earned it because of the great karma you have accumulated. According to the teachings, the basis of that karma is a pure morality. Sometimes we ignore the issue of morality, and we just enjoy whatever we are doing. But morality is very impor- tant. Even our normal human understanding can tell you how important morality really is. I cannot emphasize this enough. Would you like to be an immoral person? Nobody will say yes, right? Common sense tells us how important morality is. It is morality, with the help of the other six activities—gener- osity, patience, enthusiasm, concentration, and wisdom—that enabled us to achieve the karma of this wonderful human body and mind. These virtues are the support for the basic morality that has brought us this life. We need to recognize the rarity of this life. We need to real- ize how difficult it is to obtain, and we need to understand that it is unlikely to come again unless we lay the groundwork of perfect morality and the other virtues right now. It is almost too late already. But understanding and realizing the preciousness and opportunity of human life won’t come from just hearing about it. We have to meditate on it so that it becomes part of our lives and our way of thinking, influencing our actions and shap- ing our personality. If we don’t meditate, it remains merely as information. If we meditate and incorporate this knowledge into our lives, then it becomes a quality within us. That is what makes a difference. We need to fulfill our mission while we still have the time and ability. The way to do this is to have a continuous rela- tionship with the enlightened ones and a connection to the teachings that the enlightened ones have shared. By practicing that every day, we should be able to reach enlightenment in a short time. If it takes three minutes, let it be three minutes; if takes three years, let it be three years. But let it not be three lifetimes. with great urgency gradually seem less important. We begin to make choices that help our spiritual development rather than hinder it. We rearrange our priorities, and the push and pull of busyness begins to lose its hold on us. We no longer want to waste time. That is the sign that we have begun to understand the value of our lives. A few people might take this the wrong way. They can become very rigid about it and say, “Well, that’s it. I’m not going to waste time. I’m not even going to waste a second with useless activities like paying my bills or visiting the doctor.” That can become a neurosis; it is a form of nervousness and fear, rather than a realization of the importance of this life. When you have a realization of life’s importance, you actually become much gentler and calmer and sweeter and develop a better personality, instead of a rigid and twisted one. Realizing the rare and precious opportunity of human life helps make us better human beings. When you realize the importance of this life, you become motivated to find the right balance. Right now, most of our priorities are on one side—the material side. That’s what I mean by unbalanced. Sometimes people throw everything on the spiritual side and completely neglect their responsibilities as family members, citizens, students, or whatever their roles might be. That’s not so good either, unless you happen to live in a cave. I also want to touch on another aspect of appreciating human life, one that has to do with realizing the difficulty of finding this human life. The Buddha used an example to describe just how rare it is to obtain this human life. He was asked by a king, “How many human beings from the lower suffering realms will be able to come up to the wonderful human life that you talk about?” The Buddha looked around and saw a big mirror. He picked up a handful of peas and threw them at the mirror, and all the peas fell down. Bud- dha said that the chances of getting a precious human life are even less than the chance of any peas sticking to the mirror. And then there is a very famous example in which the Bud- dha said that if this whole continent became a huge ocean, and within that ocean you had a yoke floating on the waves and a blind tortoise that popped up once every five hundred years, the chances of obtaining precious human birth would If you want to be fully enlightened, if your ultimate spiritual goal is to achieve enlightenment, then this life is capable of delivering that.