The Preciousness of Human Life Endowed with Freedom and Opportunity
The first theme the Tibetan masters extracted from the ocean of themes in the Buddhist teachings is the theme of the preciousness of human life, endowed with liberty and opportunity. It’s so nice a place to begin.
Reflecting on the preciousness of our human life and its freedom and opportunity is meant to build our self-confidence.
Preciousness of human life
Buddha told a wonderful parable:
Imagine, he said, an old blind turtle who lives in the bottom of the seven oceans and who surfaces once every century for air. Floating randomly around the seas there's a golden yoke. As often as the blind turtle at the bottom of the ocean happens to raise his head through the neck hole of the yoke when he comes up for his centenary breath, that's the likelihood of being born in the human life-form.
Reflect on how rare your human birth is — for every human, how many billions of other life forms there on this earth. You weren't born an insect, a sardine.
With such a rare opportunity, you really should appreciate what you have right now!
You should reflect how wonderful our life form is of the human embodiment, our person. How lucky we are to have it endowed liberty and opportunity.
What might this mean – “liberty”? What freedoms do you have — just by being a human — that you should cherish and take advantage of?
Imagine you were born a rabbit, a life in which is continual reaction to the predator chasing you. Imagine a life as a tiger, running for your own food.
If you have trouble with this, ask yourself: "If I were born a canary, I would not be able to..."
As a human, you can pause and reflect on what your situation is and then use your intelligence to choose a path of action.
Beyond the freedom which comes from being a human, what other liberties are you blessed with?
Chances are if you are taking this lesson, contemplating practicing this path, you enjoy freedoms many other humans do not.
Do you think “I have no time to develop my practice, I have no time to reflect, to meditate, to be mindful…?"
Think about all the humans on this earth whose circumstances do not allow them to study the Dharma, develop a path of emancipation. Chances are if you are studying the four thoughts that turn the mind, you have the opportunity to practice them.
Think of all the humans who lack this opportunity, people who are destitute, people enslaved economically, people enslaved politically, people who spend every moment of their lives and all their energies on survival. Spend some time and really appreciate the freedom and opportunity you are blessed with. Do you have enough to eat each day? Are you free from the fear of being displaced at any moment? Do you spend every moment of your life surviving, or do you have time read, meditate, take an Ashoka course?
Now reflect on the rarity of being in a place and time where teachings and teachers are available to you from which you can choose a path that's right for you, that you can follow in the "free" time you have.
Your precious opportunity also includes access to the teaching of freedom and enlightenment.
Even with a precious human life, and even with a life that allows the opportunity of time to practice and reflect, reflect on how precious it is to have access to the teachings on personal transformation. Only a generation ago think how rare the opportunity to be exposed to the Dharma was, how few teachers were accessible, how few resources like Ashoka were available.
Reflect on the rarity of being in a place and time where teachings and teachers are available to you from which you can choose a path that's right for you, that you can follow in the "free" time you have.
Reflect on the preciousness of the qualities within you because you are a human:
You have a mind that is capable of developing wisdom and compassion. You have a mind that that can distinguish right from wrong, a mind that can distinguish between that which causes suffering and should be abandoned and that which brings happiness and should be nourished.
In many societies there's no notion of liberation or self-illumination or education, merely training for life as a hunter or a warrior or a computer programmer. The real teaching of freedom is very rare. While materialistic cultures have ideas like the pursuit of happiness, the fight for freedom, and the land of liberty, real liberty is completely inconceivable to us.
The most important of the famous noble truths taught by the Buddha is the noble truth of freedom, which is the truth of nirvana. Contemplation of this noble truth of nirvana opens you up to the very idea that there is such a thing as freedom. Once you can imagine it, you feel a different sense about the meaning of your life. That you could be reliably, calmly, blissfully free, with absolutely nothing to compel you. No problems or suffering. This is unimaginable at first. Coming from a Protestant background if I even start to think about being free and happy, I unconsciously feel anxious, expecting someone to hit me or step on me. That's how we've been conditioned.
Human life is so precious.