Please take a few moments before you begin this teaching to settle yourself. Sit upright, yet naturally relaxed. Before listening to and/ or reading the teaching make aspirations such as: "I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to the precious Dharma. I am doing this for the benefit of all sentient beings so that they may be free from suffering and attain complete awakening".
Precious Human Life
Part Two of Khenpo Gyaltsen’s teachings on the Four Mind Changings
Khenpo taught in English, and the audio contains translation into Portuguese.
First, Khenpo requests that we learn about the meaning of a precious human life. Then, he asks us to make an effort to share these teachings with children, family, and friends. Unfortunately, he observes in these stressful modern times, that many people commit suicide. We can help people who suffer from heavy problems by sharing these important teachings. We need to spread the word about the value of the precious human body, and in particular we should teach young children about this precious opportunity.
Precious versus mere human life
Precious human life is different from mere human life, according to classic Buddhist teachings so it is important that we understand this distinction. When we talk abut a precious human life, we refer to eighteen qualities. Teachers often describe these as the eighteen freedoms and advantages. We should make an effort to learn about these and think about our own circumstances carefully.
If we possess those eighteen factors, then we say we have a precious human life. If we don’t have all of these, however, then we have a mere human life. In Buddhism, we say that it is very difficult to attain all the conditions for a precious human life. That is why the human population continues to grow, but there are still not many people who do possess all the qualities.
For example, if you have wrong view, then you don’t have a precious human life. And what do we mean by wrong view? Well, wrong view means not believing in karma: cause and effect. Or many people do not believe in past and future lives. Khenpo explains that this type of non-belief can bring danger. We subsequently won’t be attentive to the effects of our physical, verbal, and mental actions.
Similarly, we need to check each of the eighteen qualities: do we have these or not?
Moral discipline: the cause for precious human life
In the scriptures, we say that we attain a precious human body by practicing moral discipline. We explain that as the cause. And for lay people, we talk about the five moral disciplines. We need to protect this discipline, so that we can achieve a precious human life in the future. And here again, we need to check our actual behavior carefully.
If we take refuge vows, we promise not to kill any sentient beings. But how many of us hold this vow purely? Maybe we kill cockroaches, other insects, or small rodents. And we may feel that we have no choice, but is that really true? We need to examine this carefully. Our actions do have consequences.
If we cause harm in this way, then we are not protecting our moral discipline. That means we are not creating the causes for future precious human rebirth. And that is how we can understand why a precious human life is hard to attain.
What do we mean by precious?
Buddhist texts teach us that we need to have a precious human life in order to achieve buddhahood. Of course, all sentient beings have buddha nature. Although that is true, we also can learn about the five paths to enlightenment: a progressive journey along the spiritual path. The masters teach that we must possess a precious human body to attain the path of seeing. When we attain the path of seeing, then we can proceed through the other paths to full enlightenment.
At the end of the teaching, please remember to dedicate the merit of receiving a Dharma teaching. As you go through your day, take a few moments from time to time to recall these instructions.
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