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Verse 19-4: Antidote to depression

Verse 19-4: Antidote to depression

Part of a series of talks on the 41 Prayers to Cultivate Bodhicitta from the Avatamsaka Sutra (the Flower Ornament Sutra).

  • How we can get bogged down in obstacles and what is not going well
  • How meditating on precious human life results in constant awareness of how fortunate we are

41 Prayers to Cultivate Bodhicitta: Verse 19, Part 4 (download)

We will continue with Verse 19,

“May I lead all beings to the higher forms of life.”
This is the prayer of the bodhisattva when going uphill.

I think we have been talking about precious human life, and upper rebirth, and the opportunity that we have. Emphasizing precious human life not just any kind of upper rebirth, because precious human life gives us the opportunity to practice the Dharma and therefore attain liberation and enlightenment which, with the other upper rebirths, the opportunity to do that is really, really limited.

I think reflecting on precious human life is really important because it’s a great antidote to depression. When we’re depressed all we do is look at, “This is wrong and that is wrong and I have this obstacle and this is not going right, everybody else has this and they can do that and they have better opportunities, poor me.” We are really sunk in that. Whereas, if we have done a lot of meditation on precious human life before, and have that very ready in our mind and we reflect on it everyday, then there is this awareness constantly that, “Wow I am so fortunate, unbelievably fortunate. How did I ever get this opportunity. And ok, there are hindrances and obstacles, but I am in samsara, so of course there are hindrances and obstacles, but compared to all the other rebirths that could happen, this is an incredible opportunity. It’s just incomprehensible how I have this fortune.”

If you have that in your mind and you look at your life through that viewpoint, there is absolutely no space to get depressed or to feel sorry for ourselves because there is this constant awareness of our fortune.

I remember when I first started meditating on precious human life I scratched my head. “Okay, I am not born in the hells, I am not born as an hungry ghost….” I was not really sure if I believed in all those things at the beginning. Gradually over the years I thought, “Yes I believe in them, I think it is possible to be born in those kind of realms.”

Even the human realms that I could see, I never thought of myself as being born like that, with impure senses or the misfortune of being born in a place or a time when a Buddha has not descended or has not giving teachings. Being born as a person who has no interest in the Dharma. I never really thought, “Why is that was so unfortunate?” That was because I did not really value the Dharma. But once you begin to see what samsara is and the possibility for liberation and enlightenment, then you really value the Dharma and you value your precious human life and those conditions that gave you the opportunity to practice it.

This is the kind of meditation that grows on you with time, like all the meditations do. But if you do it very regularly then it prevents depression. And then even if depression starts, you do not even go there. You begin to see a little bit of “oh poor me” come up and then immediately you reflect on precious human life and it is gone. It’s really quite an important meditation, I think. Even though like I said in the beginning, I did not understand it very well and I was scratching my head. If you persevere then you really see it’s usefulness in your life.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.