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Verse 19-2: Precious human life

Verse 19-2: Precious human life

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

  • How not every human life is a precious human life
  • Thinking about beings who are so close to the Dharma, and yet so far from it

41 Prayers to Cultivate Bodhicitta: Verse 19, Part 2 (download)

We are talking about the 19th one:

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

We were talking yesterday about why the god realms are considered higher forms of life even though a precious human life is the most advantageous for the Dharma practice. It’s important here to also remember that any human life is not a precious human life. Don’t equate the two terms. Precious human life and human life are different because a precious human life has all of the eight freedoms and all of the ten fortunes. It’s important to remember that. Just being born as an human being is not really sufficient to have all the conditions for Dharma practice. If your senses aren’t intact, if you are living in a place where you have no access to Buddhadharma, if from your side you have no interest in it, if you are so full of wrong views, if there is no sangha community, if the teachings have not spread there. There are so many obstacles that could come even if you have a precious human life.

It can be really potent in our meditation when we go through these to think of people that we know that are so close to having the ability to practice and then they miss one of the little things and that’s it. I mean there is several situations that really stick out in my mind. One is beings in Bodhgaya which from our viewpoint is the holiest place on this planet. Pilgrims pour in, and they want to do prostrations and a lot of offerings and meditation and really feel like it is possible to attain enlightenment. And then there are these people who come there to sell little Buddhist trinkets. That’s how they make their livelihood. No faith in the Dharma, no interest in the Dharma. They are in a community where so many holy beings come. Teachers come to teach the Dharma, they have no interest in going, nothing. Or all the tea venders, so many people selling tea but they never make it to a teaching and have no interest in it. It’s like they are so close but so far away at the same time.

You think of any small thing and the opportunity is gone. I mean you look at our kitties. They are here in the middle of a monastery. So many teachers come. They hear a lot of teachings. Of course they sleep through them. So do some of the human beings. So close and yet so far away.

I remember one time when Lama Zopa was staying where I used to live in Seattle and I had one little kitty, Jigme, and she used to hide under the bed. She had Lama Zopa literally sitting above her crown but she couldn’t see it. She couldn’t appreciate what was going on. Think about this, and then think about all the different causes that are necessary to create the reason for precious human life. Then we really see how we shouldn’t take our present opportunity for granted. How we really should exert a lot of effort to create as many of the causes as we can because a precious human life depends on a whole spectrum of causes to create all those cause to insure that we have that kind of life in the future so that we can continue to practice.

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.