(5.58) Contemplating again and again
That I have attained this special freedom after a very long time,
I should hold as unmoveable as Mount Meru
The intention to accomplish the real meaning of a human life.
In every aspect of human endeavor, lack of strategic focus results in failure. In military and business circles, a distinction is made between strategy and tactics. Strategy is the overall goal that one is trying to accomplish and the plan for how to accomplish that goal. Tactics more narrowly focuses on how to use existing resources to accomplish short-term objectives. It is possible to be tactically brilliant, but strategically foolish. Basically it means we do the wrong things very well. If we lose sight of our strategic objective, we can easily become side tracked in distractions and deplete the means with which we can accomplish our strategic objective, resulting in strategic failure. We sacrifice the larger purpose on the altar of issues of lesser importance. If instead, we stay single-pointedly focused on our overall objective, we protect ourselves from wasting our energies on secondary goals.
It is exactly the same with our human life. We have complete freedom in life to choose the goals towards which we work. For simplicity sake, we can divide these goals into two categories: worldly and spiritual. Worldly goals are those aimed at securing happiness and freedom in this life. Spiritual goals are those aimed at securing happiness and freedom in our countless future lives. Before we find the Dharma, virtually all of our goals are worldly in nature. The central purpose of the first nineteen meditations of the Lamrim is to change our goals to become spiritual in nature, first wishing to close the door on the lower realms, then to escape completely from samsara and finally to lead all beings to full enlightenment. It does not take much to realize spiritual goals are far more important than worldly goals. Our future lives are countless whereas this life is only one. Countless is more than one, therefore it is more important. Similarly avoiding lower rebirth is good, but if we remain at risk of it happening later we are not truly safe. The complete safety of liberation is far better than the temporary safety of upper rebirth. Finally, securing our own permanent freedom is good, but securing the permanent freedom of all living beings is a far more worthy goal since, once again, countless living beings are more important than one.
Yet, despite this, we remain almost single-pointedly focused on the accomplishment of our worldly goals. We deplete our energies doing worldly things, leaving us without the time or resources to accomplish our spiritual objectives. We may become an incredibly successful, wealthy, well-loved individual, but all of that will be for naught when we face the Lord of Death. We may have tactically lived our life brilliantly, but been strategically quite foolish. We will have done the wrong things very well.
Shantideva is reminding us with this verse, to keep at all times in our mind the precious Bodhichitta. In can be quite hard to always examine our behavior, having to restrain ourselves, having to stop thinking or saying certain things. We know we can quite easily become discouraged, so we must contemplate and meditate on our precious human life so that we can become resolute, so that our intention to accomplish the ultimate goal is unmoving as Mount Meru. When we consider all the good we can do for ourselves and for others if we persevere with our training of the mind, we find the power we need.
Our actions are as meaningful as the goals towards which we work. Going to work, taking care of our families, and the myriad of other things we do in this life are not inherently meaningless. They only become meaningless when we do them for meaningless reasons. If we do these exact same things with meaningful reasons, these same activities become highly meaningful. The most meaningful reasons are spiritual ones. Every situation we face in life will give rise to one delusion or another, therefore every situation gives us a chance to abandon our negative habits and train in virtue. Every situation gives us a chance to relentlessly battle our enemy of delusions. Every situation gives us a chance to dedicate our life to the service of others. Every situation is equally empty, so every situation equally gives us a chance to train in ultimate truth. If we are clear on our purpose in life, then we can integrate all of our activities into a single purpose. In this way, we can both do what needs to be done in life and remain focused like a laser on our ultimate spiritual objectives. Then everything we do will have great meaning, we will protect ourselves from becoming distracted and we will quickly accomplish our spiritual goals.
If we fail to do so, our life will become devoid of meaning, we will become distracted by meaningless pursuits, we will dissipate our energies leaving nothing for our spiritual trainings and then arrive at death empty handed. What will we do then other than realize our foolishness of a life wasted and die full of regrets and fear for what is to come? Don’t let this be your fate.
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