“Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, anytime.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace.
“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”
~H.H. The XIV Dalai Lama
“Each one of us is sovereign over the territory of our own being and the five elements we are made of. These elements are form (body), feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. Our practice is to look deeply into these five elements and discover the true nature of our being—the true nature of our suffering, our happiness, our peace, our fearlessness.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh
The first time I heard the phrase, “this precious human life,” I wondered what was so precious about it? There are 7.6 billion humans on this planet, being born, dying, suffering, and enjoying. Being born a human didn’t seem an extraordinary accomplishment or any type of accomplishment. Looking around, I saw some dogs that were living very enviable lives and being a moth or a butterfly seemed like an alright existence, beautiful albeit fleeting. What made being human a distinction?
The Buddha told his monks, if the world was covered in water and there was a wooden yoke that floated untethered around the globe, the chances of a blind turtle living at the bottom of the sea who surfaces once every hundred years placing his head through that wooden yoke—those are the same odds of being born as a human. Slim indeed. The Buddha goes on to say, the chances of human birth are slight, but the chances of being born into a time where there is a fully realized Buddha who has given you teachings and the opportunity for enlightenment, those odds are even smaller.
This lifetime is the only one we have at this moment. We are given the gifts of a human body to experience this world in all its pleasure and pain. This body and this life are our unique classroom for learning our life’s lessons that bring us closer to wisdom. From an evolutionary standpoint, we as humans are the highest, most evolved creatures on the planet (unless the stories about aliens are true). Modern humans are classified as homo sapiens. The words sapiens means wise or knowing. We are the people with wisdom or at least the capacity for wisdom. We are the only species that can become enlightened and extinguish the fires of greed, anger, and delusion. We are endowed with a brain and thought system that unravels genetic codes, DNA sequences, and is investigating the nature of life and the micro precision of creation. With all this mind power and potential, we as a species become responsible. We are not the overlords of the earth, that can deplete it and discard it. We can see the effects of our interventions on our earth and see that we are dependent upon the health of our environment for all life to continue. Our actions and attitudes matter.
Homo sapiens are the privileged ones whose actions can affect not only our own species but all other species on this planet. We have power as human beings. We have autonomy and the choice about what we do, unlike animals who react with innate species-specific responses. We are free to make our lives and our own choices. As Thây reminds us, we are sovereign over our bodies, our thought, speech, and actions. We are uniquely fortunate to be in the position to have a human life—and to make good use of this precious opportunity, for our benefit and for the welfare of all who inhabit this home.
May we all trust our light,