This Precious Human Life

This is something we talk about in Buddhism sometimes. “This Precious Human Life.” We dwell in a vast ocean of suffering. The fires of greed, hatred, and delusion assail us throughout our lives. But when teachers talk about This Precious Human Life they’re saying that we are lucky to be here, that our presence in this world of suffering and delusion is a good thing, that we should be thankful.

It seems counterintuitive at first. One of the first things I ever wrote for the internet was an article about the Four Noble Truths. In that article I went on and on and on about the First Noble Truth, that Life is Suffering. I had evidence, examples, quotes, and charts. I really proved that Life is Suffering. But then when it came time to explain the way out of suffering I was spent. I had very little to say. I had difficulty putting any sense of positivity and hope in the Buddhist path and as a result my article was rejected and I was sort of insulted. I almost gave up writing.

(I did a rewrite and got it published almost a year later. I don’t have a copy of the rejected version, but here’s the one that got published: The Revolutionary Nature of the Four Noble Truths)

I had trouble because I wasn’t thinking in terms of This Precious Human Life. Yes, our lives are full of suffering and pain. But this human life is precious. We are lucky to be here because we have the Dharma. We are all fortunate to have been born into a time and place in which we can study and practice. People who are into teachings on rebirth will tell you that a human birth is very rare and it’s only in the human realm that enlightenment is possible. I’ll say something simpler than that and just say that we are lucky to be born in a time and place where Buddhist teachings are available and easy to find. Thousands of teachings are available to us now and for most of history they were not quite so accessible. We are lucky to live in this time. We are lucky that the path out of suffering is available.

Sometimes I wake up and I’m sad. My life hasn’t really gone the way I wanted it to and it’s not really going the way I want it to now. I suffer a lot and I think we all suffer. I can just be sad, sometimes that is what I do. I can also reflect on This Precious Human Life. That helps, knowing I’m lucky to be here now.

You should try it too.

 

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About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher living in Kansas City. He gives online teachings through the Open Heart Project. He also runs the Monday Night Zen Group at the Rime Buddhist Center. His writing has appeared in Lion's Roar, Patheos, Tattooed Buddha, and Elephant Journal.

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