A Perfect Human Rebirth
By Khensur Lobsang Thubten Rinpoche - the Ex-abbot of Sera Jhe Monastery
(November & December 2001 Newsletter)

Lama Atisha said,

'Our human life span is short.
So much to learn and do, yet so little time.
How short is our life span? The answer is indefinite.
So seize the innermost essence of your life,
Like a swan which takes milk from the water.'

How can we seize that? To accomplish that, we must have a human body that enjoys eight 'freedoms' and ten 'endowments', both of which are the pre-requisites for anyone to practise the Holy Dharma. On the top of that, we must have the merits to meet a qualified guru, and the fortune to be free of illnesses.

When we are endowed with the sufficient and necessary conditions, we should be sure to seize the essence of this precious human life to practise dharma instead of wasting it on trivial pursuits. Most importantly, we must not procrastinate, thinking that we can do it tomorrow. Compared with life spans of beings in higher and lower realms, human life span is the shortest and indefinite. Yet death is definite. We cannot afford to postpone our practice in dharma to some other time. So before death knocks at our door, we must take the essence of our life. So much to do, so little time. Therefore, we must choose what is best for our short life.

As quoted earlier it is said if swans are given milk mixed with water they will only take the milk, because what swans desire is milk, not water.

Back to we human beings. We have met with Mahayana teaching through a Mahayana guru and as a practitioner of Mahayana Dharma, the best way to extract the essence of our life is to practise the teachings to achieve enlightenment within this life time. If we cannot do that, then at least we should exert our wholehearted effort on our practice to train our mind with renunciation, bodhicitta and the right view of emptiness. In this light, training oneself thoroughly and sincerely in the three principal aspects of the Path is considered to be taking the essence of human life.

If one asks whether it is possible to achieve Enlightenment, then the answer is yes. It is possible. It happened in the past in India. Many practised this Path, gained realisation and achieved Enlightenment. Likewise in Tibet, in the past infinite beings practised this Path and gained realisations and enlightenment. The kind of situation that they were in at that time and the kind of situation that we are in now are the same. They also lived the same human life that we do now. The Dharma they practised is the same Dharma we do today. And we too have met fully qualified gurus. If we display strenuous effort in our practices, we can definitely achieve enlightenment, like our predecessors. For those who only wish to take the essence of the middle scope for human life, the purpose of practice is to achieve personal liberation from suffering in the samsara through three kinds of higher training, namely, morality, concentration and wisdom. If we cannot do that, at least we should aim at achieving higher rebirths in future life times. For practitioners of this lower scope, they have to create necessary causes and conditions for the future life to definitely meet pure Dharma through fully qualified gurus. As Nagarjuna said that prior to achieving buddhahood, one must achieve higher rebirth endowed with eighteen qualities - the perfect basis to achieve enlightenment. So we should spare no time in this life creating the causes and conditions to vouchsafe a perfect human rebirth in the coming life times. With such an aim in mind, one must keep the vows pure, coupled with practices of generosity and supplemented with pure stainless prayers. This done, there will be no qualms about good rebirths in future. Keeping pure vow protects one from falling into lower realms. If that is protected then the only other choice is higher rebirths as the glorious Chandra Kriti said, "The cause of higher rebirth is none other than pure, moral conduct."

So if we practise the six perfections in particular the perfection of generosity, we will not face any hardship in our daily livelihood. Our material needs in our day-to-day living will be taken good care of while practising dharma. As Guru Shakyamuni Buddha said "Generosity results in wealth, whereas pure moral conduct results in higher rebirths."

Chandar Kirti also said that practising patience results in beauty, whereas the practice of wisdom results in a proper understanding of the conditions that bind and drag one in Samsara and those that liberate one from Samsara.

The principal advice of Buddha's teaching after having taken refuge in the Dharma is not to harm any sentient beings. Also it is said that harmony among the Sangha is the sources of happiness. Here Sangha are referred not only to the ordained monks alone. Rather, they also comprise any sincere lay practitioners. If there is harmony, there is happiness. And if there is sincerity, there is happiness among dharma friends and practitioners. This is considered a sound basis to cultivate and develop one's mind and life.

Therefore, a dharma centre like yours is very important and precious. The purpose and aim of a dharma centre is to preserve and spread the Buddha's teachings in order to benefit sentient beings first and to eliminate sentient beings' suffering next. To realise such an aim, we need a place to spread the teaching. So therefore, a centre becomes very important for Dharma to exist and expand. It will be a venue where the hub of multifarious dharma activities are held. The way a centre works is markedly different from that of other secular organisations in our society. For one thing, dharma activities are run under different aims, procedures and formats. For another, practitioners expect and receive different kinds of benefits. It is no easy matter for any centres to survive within the financial means as sponsors are few and far between. Crystal clear, members in a centre, more often than not, have family obligations to fulfil and a lot of mundane affairs to attend to. They have to squeeze some time out of their tight schedule to work for the centre. Be that as it may, members of your Centre think only about the benefits of the Centre. They bear hardship stoically and I am very happy to see that.

Conflicts of interests, differences in opinions, plus dislikes and disharmony are common scenes in any normal organisations. Personal interests and benefits reign supreme. Yet in a dharma centre, the one and only one aim is to preserve and spread Buddha's teaching to benefit all the sentient beings. I trust that there aren't any conflicts of interests, in case there are, bear the hardship and practise patience. Co-operation and harmony should top the list of priorities in planning and administering centre activities.

I am very happy to know that you have bought a bigger centre. I am sure the centre will be even more beneficial in the future to sentient beings and Buddha's teaching. I will pray for that.

Thank you all very much.

Teaching given in MBA in April 2001