2. The Precious Human Life

As mentioned earlier, even though Buddha-nature permeates all sentient beings, certain causes are required to fully manifest this potential. Human life is one of the most important causes. It is the working basis for the attainment of Buddhahood. “Precious” human life refers to a life with leisure and endowment.

Leisure means that one is interested in this path and also has enough time to study and practice the teachings—true independence. Even though there are many human beings in this world, not everyone takes interest in the Dharma and even those who do may not have time to participate. It is not possible for them to dedicate enough of their lives to make progress. Therefore, not all human beings have a “precious” human life, only a few.

Endowment means the compilation of all the different causes and conditions. If even one of the ten endowments, a single cause or condition, is missing, then one lacks the opportunity to practice the precious Dharma, even if one is a human being. So, therefore, when one has this leisure and endowment, one has the opportunity to overcome all suffering, to uproot all causes of suffering, and to actualize the complete qualities of enlightenment.

So, therefore, when you have these qualities, you need to take full advantage of them without procrastination or laziness. Time passes every moment; there is no additional time with which to prolong your life. Knowledge is infinite and we don’t have enough time to study everything. So, we should use the short period of time we have in the best way, by receiving the essence of the teachings and applying it in practice as soon as we can.

Leisure and endowment do not arise without cause, but rather they are the result of great virtuous actions and of the accumulation of merit and wisdom through many lifetimes.

If you don’t re-accumulate these virtues, merit, and wisdom, and just “spend” them for this life’s enjoyment and happiness, you may not regain the precious human body that you have now.

If that happens, you lose all opportunity to benefit yourself and others.

How much better to exchange the temporary happiness of samsara for the definite happiness of enlightenment! This is why it is so important to be vividly aware of the opportunity we have with this human life.

It is like a precious jewel we hold in our hands—if we throw it in the mud or exchange it for an ordinary stone, it would be most unfortunate.

In order to use this precious human life in the best way, we need faith or confidence.

First, confidence is based on understanding the role of cause and effect. All the sufferings of samsara are caused by non-virtuous action; all benefits and happiness, temporary as well as definite, are caused by virtuous action. We need to have trust in inexorable cause and effect and apply ourselves to this practice.

Then, in order to free ourselves entirely from the cycle of samsara, we need to develop the aspiration to attain complete Buddhahood, the fully awakened state. See that state as the ultimate benefit and happiness, and see that there is no other way to bring about unchanging happiness.

To fortify this confidence, we have to see the excellent qualities of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

The Buddha is the embodiment of wisdom and compassion.

The Dharma is the vehicle that gives us the opportunity to get rid of all our confusion and to develop the Buddha’s qualities. It is the ultimate alchemy which transforms all negativities.

The Sangha provides examples of successful practitioners, warriors in the battlefield of samsara who defeat all the enemies—samsara and the afflicting emotions—who protect all sentient beings and lead them toward enlightenment.

So, when one has faith supported by the leisure and endowment of precious human life, it won’t take too long to cross the ocean of samsara and bring benefit to so many sentient beings.

Source: Gampopa, Dharma Lord. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation: The Wish-fulfilling Gem of the Noble Teachings. Translated by Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche. Edited by Ani K. Trinlay Chodron. Boulder, Colorado: Snow Lion, 1998.