both/and

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the excluded middle way

our precious human life

Why bother? Why practice anything? Why be a good person? Why make effort to get Enlightened if this like is just a meaningless trip to our deathbed?

The Tibetan Lamas were well aware of these kinds of questions and objections, and I’m guessing these teachings arose in monasteries where young monks (often as young as 7 or 8 years-old) would have needed a little bit of encouragement now and again.

We’ve all been there. Existential angst. Even if you’ve been born and raised in a culture that accepts rebirth it must be hard to overcome spiritual sluggishness, ‘hey, I’ve got countless lives, I’ll start practicing tomorrow’.

The first Lamrim teaching (after realising you need teachings and taking on and relying upon a skilled qualified teacher) is meditation on our precious human life or “A life of leisure and opportunity” as Je Tsongkhapa puts it.

Traditionally we’re told to meditate on how rare this life is, how precious it is, and how meaningful it could be if we perfected ourselves and develop every good quality we possibly can. For all Buddhists this means attaining nirvana, and for Mahayana Buddhists it means attaining Full Enlightenment.

But, if you’ve tried, you’ll realise that meditation (let alone ending all suffering), isn’t as easy as just deciding to meditate. Well… perhaps it is… but witout a keen sense of urgency… and thepossibility of loosing something precious to us… it’s quite hard to keep meditating.

So… Tsongkhapa gives us lots of inspiring advice. A useful part of the discourse is the image of trekking the narrow cliff-paths of less fortunate states.

Why would I waste this attainment of of such a good life? When I act as though it were insignificant, I am deceiving myself. What could be more foolish than this? Just this once I am free from continuously trekking the many narrow cliff-paths of leisureless conditions, such as miserable realms. If I waste this freedom and return to thoses conditions, it would be similar to losing my mind, like someone dazed by a magic spell”[1]
Je Tsongkhapa, Lam Rim Chen Mo

Or as Richard Dawkins puts it…

“How much more do you want? We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they’re never going to be born, the number of people that could be here in my place out number the sand grains of Sahara… you and I are quite grotesquely lucky to be here. We are privileged to be alive and we should make the most of out time in this world”[2]
References
  1. Je Tson-Kha-Pa, Lam Rim Chen Mo Volume 1, p121
  2. Richard Dawkins, The Root of All Evil, Channel 4

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Filed under: dharma, meditation, our precious human life, suffering, Tsongkhapa

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