This Precious Birth

“Having inherited a vast treasure — one’s present circumstance — meditate on the precious opportunities and blessings of this rare and fragile human existence. Make it worthwhile.”

This precious human birth, being free and well-favoured offers excellent physical, verbal and mental opportunities for practising the path to liberation. Holding the correct view of cultivation with the mind of impermanence, turn the mind to contemplate the eight opportunities and ten blessings of a human birth.

This human existence is the most fortunate of all births as it has freedom from the eight forms of existence in which spiritual practice is virtually impossible.

These Eight Opportunities of a Precious Human Birth:

1. as a hell being, whose existence is dominated by intense suffering. A violent and extreme environment reflects the aggression that is a root cause for this kind of experience.

2. as a preta or ghost whose existence is dominated by want, particularly for food and water. A barren, lifeless environment reflects the addictive greed that produces such an experience.

3. as an animal, whose existence is dominated by fear of predators and who is subject to changes in the environment. Stupidity and insensitivity create this type of experience.

4. as a god in the desire (kama), form (rupa) or formless (arupa) realms whose existence is a continuous experience of blissful sensations and mental ease until just before death when unpleasantness manifests. Pride and arrogance are the causal factors for this arising.

5. in an age when no Buddha has appeared and the attributes of the Three Jewels are unknown. The world of this existence is a desolate place.

6. in a primitive, uncivilized society where no teaching is expounded. Such societies far outnumber those in which one can hear Buddha-dharma.

7. as someone with mental and/or physical incapacity, who would meet with great difficulties in trying to hear and practice dharma.

8. as one who does not accept the validity of dharma, preferring to hold perverted views.

None of these eight conditions easily afford the opportunity to practice dharma. In the first three, the limitations imposed by confusion and pain preclude spiritual concerns. In the heavenly realms attachment to sensual and mental pleasure preclude investigation of dharma.

In all eight conditions, past deeds result in suffering. Even in the precious human birth there is resultant misery, but the painful arisings are concomitant with good circumstances. It is taught that human birth includes enough suffering to provoke question, and enough calm to experience answer.

When a free human birth has been obtained there are a further sixteen conditions which can hinder spiritual practice. They are:

Eight Unfavourable Conditions Based on Present Circumstances:

1. when one is disturbed because the five emotional poisons (pride, grasping and clinging, aversion, jealousy, delusion or bewilderment) cause imbalance and partial views.

2. when one is influenced by unwholesome companions.

3. when one is subject to false views and practices which support such views.

4. when one is extremely lazy.

5. when one is subject to the fruition of previous activity based on ignorance which causes a stream of obstacles to interfere with the ability to practice Dharma.

6. when one is placed in the service of an organization or person for whom dharma has no validity.

7. when one takes up the outer form of dharma practice due to fear of death or poverty but does not have a sincere aspiration for release from suffering.

8. when one becomes involved in dharma as a means to achieve a social position or for monetary profit.