Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  When will an opportunity like this arise again?

(4.15) Since the appearance of a Tathagata – a Buddha,
Faith in his teachings, a precious human body,
And a suitable basis for practising Dharma are so rare,
When will an opportunity like this arise again?

We know we have all the conditions necessary for the practice of Dharma—we have perfect conditions, but the question is are we using those conditions?   With these conditions we can discover and put an end to all the paths that lead to suffering in our mind. We probably never had such conditions before and we will probably never have them again.  Human life is rare enough, but one such as we have?

I did the math before and it comes out that we have a life like this only once every 637 quadrillion (thousand trillion) lifetimes.  Buddha likens the chances of us having a precious human life to odds of the blind turtle who lives in an ocean the size of this world and surfaces only once every 100,000 years.  There is a golden yoke (a yoke is what is put around an animal’s head when the pull a cart) floating on the surface, what is the likelihood of the blind turtle putting their head through the middle of the yoke?  The surface of the earth is 510 million square kilometers, or 510 trillion square meters.  If you assume the yoke is 1 square meter and an average lifespan of 80 years, the turtle will rise to the surface only once every 1,250 lifetimes.  Each time the turtle rises it has a one in 510 trillion chance of putting its head through the yoke, resulting in once every 637 quadrillion lifetimes!  Numbers this big are simply beyond our imagination, so for all practical purposes we can say this is our once in an eternity opportunity.  Again, the Christian model of saying we get this one life on earth to do it right is, more or less, correct.  It is as if this is our one chance.  The question we face is are we going to waste it.

Unless we do something with this opportunity, it is meaningless.  We need to choose to use this information to decide to not waste this opportunity.  Until we make this choice, all of our Dharma knowledge will remain intellectual.  It is only once we have decided to embark on the journey that we start to appreciate and understand the value of each instruction we are given.  Shantideva says we need to formally declare war on our delusions, because when we do and the battle is joined, we will then need the instructions.  They will no longer be viewed as optional, rather they will be necessary for our very survival.

(4.16) Today, for example, I might be free from sickness,
Well-nourished, and without afflictions;
But this life is fleeting and deceptive,
And my body is as if borrowed for a moment.

Why do we become so complacent?  I think the main reason is we forget that because we’re human we must die.  We may be healthy, wealthy, happy, all these things.  But the fact is all this will come to an end.  Inevitably I will become unhealthy, unwealthy, unhappy.  When things are good, we assume they will last forever, and then we are shocked when they come to an end.  We should not take for granted our present circumstances, but always recall that karma changes fast.  Our lives can be turned on their head in an instant, or worse we can lose our life altogether.

While we have it good, we should use our time wisely to store spiritual provisions for the long road ahead.  In George Martin’s A Game of Thrones they say, “winter is coming.”  The meaning is the current good times will not last and we must prepare for the hardship we know is coming.  Our spiritual winter is coming, whether we freeze to death or make it through the winter depends entirely upon how we use our time right now.

We do not want to be the person who arrives at the time of death empty-handed, with nothing to show for the spiritual opportunities we have had.  Venerable Tharchin says we should “live our life from the perspective of our deathbed.”  We should view each situation as we go through life through the lens of how we will think about it when we are on our deathbed.  If it is not going to be important to us on our deathbed, then it is not important now.  If it will be important to us on our deathbed, we should consider it important now.  If we live our life in this way, there is no danger of our wasting our precious human life nor dying full of regrets.

3 thoughts on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  When will an opportunity like this arise again?

  1. I wonder ,shouldnt you calculate only sea surface instead of all earth surface ?qwhat do You think? great work calculating .anyway is a wonderful reflexion

    • In the scriptures, it says an ocean the size of this world. But once you are in the quadrillions anyways, it probably doesn’t make much difference! 🙂

      • Yes ,knowing how dificult is to get a Life ,in quadrillion’s ,better we get hurry and don’t lose a second of this precious life to work on emptiness and Bodhichita !
        Thank you Ryan for this article ,and the meditation inside .i love your work is so useful and rewarding
        Thankkkkkkkkkk You for helping us to grow !
        A lot of merits for you 👍👍👏👏👏

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