Sunday, September 21, 2008

Realising the precious human rebirth

According to the Lam Rim teachings, the precious human rebirth is the very first to be taught both in the short and long versions of the Lam Rim (after the need for a spiritual teacher) . In doing the Lam Rim contemplations, this is the very first realisation to be gained in a series of realisations; hence the term "graduated path". (side note: however, some of these realisatons can be gained simultaneously, for example: you may gain realisation 1 to 3 one after the other, but realisation no. 4-8 you gained it all at once; it all depends on individual basis)

In doing the contemplations on precious human rebirth, we have to analyse and debate with ourselves why this is considered the precious human rebirth. In Buddhism, it is like this. We donot just simply accept the buddha's or any of his subsequent disciples' teachings. We question it, we seek until we obtain satisfactory answers to all our "whys". It is not just an intellectual exercise, but to implant an unshakeable spiritual conviction.

Intellectual understanding is really useless. For instance, we can easily forget the precious human rebirth when we indulge in endless love affairs, not giving up even though the person you are "madly in love with" had said to you umpteen times that he/she is not interested in you. You go through all kinds of pain and torture to win his/her heart. If this is a bad example, let me give you another. OK. In a traffic jam, we often forget the precious human rebirth. Instead of taking the time when we are stucked there to recite mantras mentally - ie, doing your daily mantra commitments during traffic jams, we get angry and hone constantly, or we just let out thoughts fly meaninglessly. If we have realised the precious human rebirth, and if we cannot as yet renounced the world, then we will seek jobs that at the least will give us time to go for retreats and pilgrimages.

So, realising the precious human rebirth is important in order to not forget our direction in life and to put real meaning into all of our actions. Realising the precious human rebirth is the foundation of all dharma practice. But the converse may not be true, ie. people who are practising dharma maynot be someone who had realised the precious human rebirth. That is why there is a saying that practising the dharma may be just another worldly action if we donot first gained this realisation of the preciousness of human rebirth. There are so many people who are practising the dharma, but how many have truely realised the precious human rebirth?

So, how to gain this realisation? As per Lam Rim, we have to contemplate the rarity of human rebirth by analysing how rare it is compared to other types of rebirth, and supporting it by examples from the sutras or observances from life experience. We do it daily until the rarity and preciousness of our being sinks deeply in us. And even without the need to contemplate or supporting examples, we will be aware of it always. When is it that it is considered that we have gained the realisation of precious human rebirth? Is the answer - when we practice the dharma? Not exactly. This is because persons who are practising the dharma donot necessarily have realised the precious human rebirth. BUT - putting it the other way around - persons who have realised the precious human rebirth do always practised the dharma. See the difference? So, the answer is "We have realised the precious human rebirth when we recognised that we have only this ONE and ONLY chance to make good of our precious rebirth as a human with no defects and with the opportunity for dharma practice". As long as you think you have the chance to come back as a human again, then that is as long as you will procrastinate and delay your dharma practice and thus, have not realised the precious human rebirth.

In order to be considered you have gained this fundamental realisation, you need to truely see the rarity of the turtle who surfaced once in an aeon and be able to poke at the yoke floating on the wide ocean. Remember that it is not an intellectual exercise as I have said and I am repeating again. The believe must sink inside you deeply!

In the beginning, some of the signs and symtomps of gaining this realisation is that you may wake up in the morning feeling greatly joyful of this once and only chance - more precious and much more rare than getting a gold medal at the Olympics - then you may be seized suddenly by fear. You may feel that death may happen to you soon and hence, you would have lost this precious human rebirth. (Note that the latter is actually another Lam Rim realisation, i.e. of impermanence and death but it could happen at the same time when you realised the precious human rebirth). After realising this preciousness of human rebirth, you would not unnecessarily endanger yourself or involved yourself in dangerous activities that would increased your chances of death happening sooner. It is no longer a case of self-cherishing or attachment to life anymore, rather you think that you need to make the most of this short yet precious existence that you have.

What is the benefit of this realisation? Need I say more? The entire path will open up to you once you have gained this basic Lam Rim realisation. On this note, I would like to share with you one secret on how to cure the most cronic illness... without having to do any pujas or spend huge amount of donation or money in medicines. If you are on the brink of death, you need to answer this question properly and honestly : -


Maybe, you answer - "well, I am still young". Is that a good answer? No. Why shouldn't young people die? They are not exempted, you know? So, you try to give another better answer. You go on until you realised that it is our own attachment to this body, or attachment to persons or family that we think we need a cure. These are not really satisfactory answers. The truely satisfactory answer is:

"We need a cure because we have this one and only chance for dharma practice. If I am dead, I would not be sure of another human existence...unless of course, someone can guarantee me of another rebirth as a human (not just any human, but human with opportunity to meet with the dharma again) or rebirth into Amitabha Pure Land. So, since no one can give me this guarantee, please give me a little more time. ..." and then you go on to tell the Buddha what you will do if you are given a specific extended time. 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 5 years... whatever - Specify the time that you need and what you WILL DO during that extended time. For example, you promise to attend retreats or complete 1,000,000 mantras of whatever deity, or promise to study the entire Lam Rim. IF you have gained this realisation of preciousness of human rebirth, chances are you will be spared from untimely death and your wish will be granted. By whom? Not the Buddha; but by yourself actually. Your destiny and karma have changed due to your changed attitude upon gaining the reliasation. That is why karma is not something unchangeable. Destiny is not engraved in steel and iron.

But it can only happen if you truely have realised the preciousness of human rebirth. Basically, we cannot cheat the Buddha. It's either we have the realisation or we don't. Our illness will also not be cured if our illness is at an advance stage, or we are obstructed by heavy karma. So it makes perfect sense to gain this realisation ASAP before we are diagnosed with any potentially terminal illness. (re-edited on 19 Oct 2008)

I took a long time to finish this blog. Completed it only on 5 Oct 2008. And it will take a longer time before I realise what I have written. I am not sure where all those words came from...hehehehe... beats me!

ANYWAY, TAKE CARE! May all sentient beings be able to benefit from this blog! :)

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