Precious Human Birth

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Precious Human Birth

Postby jeeprs » Mon May 20, 2013 11:43 pm

During my early studies of Buddhism, I distinctly remember reading that 'being born as a human' is accorded great importance in Buddhism because it is only as a human that liberation can be realized. This is one of the reasons that in the traditional texts, a variety of beings from other realms listen to the Buddha's talks.

However since reading this some years ago, I have not been able to verify it with reference to any canonical sources. Is this understanding the correct one, and, if so, is it given in any canonical sources?
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Re: Precious Human Birth

Postby cucatto » Tue May 21, 2013 2:00 pm

Hi,

This is my first post here, and i hope i can help you.
Before i say anything, i must tell you that i'm from Brazil, o excuse me in advance for any english spelling mistake.

The Chiggala Sutta, from the Samyutta Nikaya, also known as "The Hole", brings us:

SN 56.48 wrote:"Monks, suppose that this great earth were totally covered with water, and a man were to toss a yoke with a single hole there. A wind from the east would push it west, a wind from the west would push it east. A wind from the north would push it south, a wind from the south would push it north. And suppose a blind sea-turtle were there. It would come to the surface once every one hundred years. Now what do you think: would that blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole?"

"It would be a sheer coincidence, lord, that the blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, would stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole."

"It's likewise a sheer coincidence that one obtains the human state. It's likewise a sheer coincidence that a Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, arises in the world. It's likewise a sheer coincidence that a doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world. Now, this human state has been obtained. A Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, has arisen in the world. A doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world.

"Therefore your duty is the contemplation, 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress.' Your duty is the contemplation, 'This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.'"

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html



I can not remember of any other discourse of the Buddha about the precious human birth, but i'm sure there are more.
It would be very good if we could find them.

:buddha1:
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Re: Precious Human Birth

Postby Jnana » Tue May 21, 2013 11:21 pm

jeeprs wrote:During my early studies of Buddhism, I distinctly remember reading that 'being born as a human' is accorded great importance in Buddhism because it is only as a human that liberation can be realized. This is one of the reasons that in the traditional texts, a variety of beings from other realms listen to the Buddha's talks.

However since reading this some years ago, I have not been able to verify it with reference to any canonical sources. Is this understanding the correct one, and, if so, is it given in any canonical sources?

SN 56.48 is the most well known source. There are also a series of discourses, SN 56.102-113, that discuss the theme of the rareness of being born human.

In a Mahāyāna context, a Saṃyuktāgama version of SN 56.48 is given in the Sūtrasamuccaya to explain this topic, followed by the next topic of the rareness of obtaining the fortunate conditions in order to learn and practice the dharma, which involves more than just being born as a human being. The Sūtrasamuccaya begins this section by quoting an Ekottarikāgama version of AN 8.29. Here's a translation of the Pāli version of the discourse:

    There are, bhikkhus, these eight inopportune moments that are not right occasions for living the spiritual life. What eight?

    (1) Here, a Tathāgata has arisen in the world, an arahant, perfectly enlightened, accomplished in true knowledge and conduct, fortunate, knower of the world, unsurpassed trainer of persons to be tamed, teacher of devas and humans, an Enlightened One, a Blessed One, and the Dhamma leading to peace, nibbāna, and enlightenment is taught as proclaimed by a Fortunate One. But a person has been reborn in hell. This is the first inopportune moment that is not the right occasion for living the spiritual life.

    (2) Again, a Tathāgata has arisen in the world ... and the Dhamma leading to peace, nibbāna, and enlightenment is taught as proclaimed by a Fortunate One. But a person has been reborn in the animal realm. This is the second inopportune moment that is not the right occasion for living the spiritual life.

    (3) Again, a Tathāgata has arisen in the world ... and the Dhamma leading to peace, nibbāna, and enlightenment is taught as proclaimed by a Fortunate One. But a person has been reborn in the sphere of afflicted spirits. This is the third inopportune moment that is not the right occasion for living the spiritual life.

    (4) Again, a Tathāgata has arisen in the world ... and the Dhamma leading to peace, nibbāna, and enlightenment is taught as proclaimed by a Fortunate One. But a person has been reborn in a certain order of long-lived devas. This is the fourth inopportune moment that is not the right occasion for living the spiritual life.

    (5) Again, a Tathāgata has arisen in the world ... and the Dhamma leading to peace, nibbāna, and enlightenment is taught as proclaimed by a Fortunate One. But a person has been reborn in the outlying provinces among the uncouth foreigners, [a place] to which bhikkhus, bhikkhunīs, male lay followers, and female lay followers do not travel. This is the fifth inopportune moment that is not the right occasion for living the spiritual life.

    (6) Again, a Tathāgata has arisen in the world ... and the Dhamma leading to peace, nibbāna, and enlightenment is taught as proclaimed by a Fortunate One. A person has been reborn in the central provinces, but he holds wrong view and has a distorted perspective: 'There is nothing given, nothing sacrificed, nothing offered; there is no fruit or result of good and bad actions; there is no this world, no other world; there is no mother, no father; there are no beings spontaneously reborn; there are in the world no ascetics and brahmins of right conduct and right practice who, having realized this world and the other world for themselves by direct knowledge, make them known to others.' This is the sixth inopportune moment that is not the right occasion for living the spiritual life.

    (7) Again, a Tathāgata has arisen in the world ... and the Dhamma leading to peace, nibbāna, and enlightenment is taught as proclaimed by a Fortunate One. A person has been reborn in the central provinces, but he is unwise, stupid, obtuse, unable to understand the meaning of what has been well stated and badly stated. This is the seventh inopportune moment that is not the right occasion for living the spiritual life.

    (8) Again, a Tathāgata has not arisen in the world ... and the Dhamma leading to peace, nibbāna, and enlightenment is not taught as proclaimed by a Fortunate One. But a person has been reborn in the central provinces, and he is wise, intelligent, astute, able to understand the meaning of what has been well stated and badly stated. This is the eighth inopportune moment that is not the right occasion for living the spiritual life.

    These are the eight inopportune moments that are not the right occasions for living the spiritual life.

    There is, bhikkhus, one unique opportune moment that is the right occasion for living the spiritual life. What is it? Here, a Tathāgata has arisen in the world, an arahant, perfectly enlightened, accomplished in true knowledge and conduct, fortunate, knower of the world, unsurpassed trainer of persons to be tamed, teacher of devas and humans, an Enlightened One, a Blessed One, and the Dhamma leading to peace, nibbāna, and enlightenment is taught as proclaimed by a Fortunate One. And a person has been reborn in the central provinces, and he is wise, intelligent, astute, able to understand the meaning of what has been well stated and badly stated. This, bhikkhus, is the one unique opportune moment that is the right occasion for living the spiritual life.

This framework from the Sūtrasamuccaya was likely used as a template for the versions of the Tibetan preliminary practice (ngöndro) on this topic.
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Re: Precious Human Birth

Postby jeeprs » Wed May 22, 2013 12:15 am

Thanks, I think that is the scripture that I was thinking of. It is an important point for 'Buddhist Humanism' and an important counter to the tendency of the materialists to equate humans with animals (or computers.)

But a person has been reborn in the outlying provinces among the uncouth foreigners


Seems strangely familiar.

@cucatto - Hi! Welcome to the forum!

I did find the Chiggala Sutta on Access to Insight, but I am a little puzzled by that Sutta. I find the saying 'its a sheer coincidence that one obtains the human state' hard to understand. It seems to contradict the Brahamajala Sutta's teaching about 'fortuitous origins' being a wrong view.
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Re: Precious Human Birth

Postby Jnana » Wed May 22, 2013 12:53 am

jeeprs wrote:I did find the Chiggala Sutta on Access to Insight, but I am a little puzzled by that Sutta. I find the saying 'its a sheer coincidence that one obtains the human state' hard to understand. It seems to contradict the Brahamajala Sutta's teaching about 'fortuitous origins' being a wrong view.

The Pāli phrase is adhiccam idaṃ. Ven. Bodhi translates it as "it is by chance." He then comments in an endnote:

    Adhiccam idaṃ. The statement has to be taken as rhetorical rather than philosophical in intent. At the doctrinal level, all three occurrences mentioned here come about through precise causes and conditions, not by chance.

It seems possible that in this context adhicca could imply "unlikely."
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Re: Precious Human Birth

Postby jeeprs » Wed May 22, 2013 1:49 am

Right! Thanks. Rhetorical, not philosophical. I get that. I have often invoked that image of the 'blind turtle', it speaks volumes - it is a very evocative image.

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Re: Precious Human Birth

Postby Astus » Wed May 22, 2013 10:43 am

I'd like to add that, although less likely, gods can also attain different levels of enlightenment as shown in both the Nikayas and Mahayana sutras.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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