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Buddhadharma : Summer 2017
34 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2 0 1 7 From the point of view of the capability of human life, his opportunity was no different from ours. 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. We have a sangha that is with us on this journey; we have spiritual teachers who can give us the teachings and also offer their own example. 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. 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 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. Buddha said that the chances of getting a precious human life are even less than the chance of any peas sticking to the mirror. Then there is a famous example in which the Buddha 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 be equal to the chances of that blind tortoise emerging with his head poking through the yoke. 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 This life 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.