Preciousness of Human Life Endowed
with Freedom and Opportunity
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The first theme the
Tibetan masters extracted from the ocean of themes
in the Buddhist teachings is the theme of the preciousness
of human life, endowed with liberty and opportunity.
so nice a place to begin.
Reflecting on the preciousness of
our human life and its freedom
and opportunity is meant to build our self-confidence.
of human life
Buddha told a wonderful parable:
Imagine, he said, an old
blind turtle who lives in the bottom
of the seven
oceans and who surfaces once every century
for air. Floating randomly around the
seas there's a golden yoke. As often
as the blind turtle at the bottom of
the ocean happens to raise his head through
the neck hole of the yoke when he comes
up for his centenary breath, that's the
likelihood of being born in the human
Reflect on how rare your human birth
is — for every human, how many billions
of other life forms there on this earth.
You weren't born an insect, a sardine.
With such a rare opportunity, you really should
appreciate what you have right now!
You should reflect
how wonderful our life form is of the human embodiment,
our person. How lucky we
are to have it endowed liberty and opportunity.
What might this mean – “liberty”?
What freedoms do you have — just by
being a human — that you
should cherish and take advantage of?
you were born a rabbit, a life in
which is continual reaction
to the predator chasing you. Imagine
a life as a tiger, running for your
If you have trouble with this,
ask yourself: "If I were born
a canary, I would not be able to..."
As a human, you
can pause and reflect on what your situation is and
then use your intelligence to choose a path of action.
Beyond the freedom which comes from
being a human, what other liberties
are you blessed with?
Chances are if
you are taking this lesson, contemplating practicing
this path, you enjoy freedoms many other humans do
Do you think “I have no time
to develop my practice, I have no time
to reflect, to meditate, to be mindful…?"
Think about all the humans on this
earth whose circumstances do not
allow them to study the Dharma, develop
path of emancipation. Chances are
if you are studying the four thoughts
that turn the mind, you have the
to practice them.
Think of all the
humans who lack this opportunity,
people who are destitute, people enslaved
economically, people enslaved politically,
people who spend every moment of
lives and all their energies on survival.
Spend some time and really appreciate
the freedom and opportunity you are
blessed with. Do you have
enough to eat each day? Are you free
from the fear of being displaced
at any moment? Do you spend every
moment of your life surviving, or
do you have time read, meditate,
take an Ashoka course?
Now reflect on the rarity of being
in a place
where teachings and teachers are
available to you from which you can
choose a path that's right for you,
that you can follow in the "free" time
opportunity also includes access to the teaching
of freedom and enlightenment.
Even with a precious human life, and
even with a life that allows the opportunity
of time to practice and reflect, reflect
on how precious it is to have access
to the teachings on personal transformation.
Only a generation ago think how rare
the opportunity to be exposed to the
Dharma was, how few teachers were accessible,
how few resources like Ashoka were
Reflect on the rarity of being
in a place and time where teachings
and teachers are available to you
from which you can choose a path that's
right for you, that you can follow
in the "free" time you
Reflect on the preciousness of the
qualities within you because you are
You have a mind that is capable of
developing wisdom and compassion. You
have a mind that that can distinguish
right from wrong, a mind that can distinguish
between that which causes suffering
and should be abandoned and that which
brings happiness and should be nourished.
In many societies there's no notion of liberation
or self-illumination or education, merely training
for life as a hunter or a warrior or a computer
programmer. The real teaching of freedom is very
rare. While materialistic cultures have ideas like
the pursuit of happiness, the fight for freedom,
and the land of liberty, real liberty is completely
inconceivable to us.
The most important of the famous noble truths taught
by the Buddha is the noble truth of freedom, which
is the truth of nirvana. Contemplation of this
noble truth of nirvana opens you up to the very idea
there is such a thing as freedom. Once you can
imagine it, you feel a different sense about the
of your life. That you could be reliably, calmly,
blissfully free, with absolutely nothing to compel
you. No problems or suffering. This is unimaginable
at first. Coming from a Protestant background if
I even start to think about being free and happy,
I unconsciously feel anxious, expecting someone
to hit me or step on me. That's how we've been conditioned.
You are a great being
Have you been exposed to a religious
tradition that begins with some huge
putdown, that you must begin by seeing
how there’s something wrong with
you and you have to save yourself?
Perhaps that God made you out of nothing
and that you have to depend on some
authority, some power for whatever,
in desperation, you really need to
The beginning of the path is so important, because
until you really treasure yourself how can you
truly develop a mind that seeks freedom?