How very precious is this human life!

It is said that to be born as a human being with the capacity for intellectual discernment and to encounter the Buddhadharma is like the following story, as told by the Buddha.

Suppose this entire world is like a vast blue ocean. And beneath its deep waters lives a blind tortoise that only surfaces once every hundred years. At the same time, on the water’s surface, bobbing along with the rise and fall of the waves, blown hither and thither by the winds is a wooden yoke, or ring, with a hole in its middle. Back and forth across the ocean surface this yoke floats in no particular direction always going wherever the current takes it. Now, what are the chances of the blind tortoise when it surfaces just that once in a hundred years suddenly find its head going through that hole in the middle of the yoke? What are the chances of the two meeting in that way? You won’t be wrong if you said the probability is like a million in a zillion chance, right? Yet for it to happen is actually far easier than it is for us to be born as a human being and to encounter the Buddhadharma as well! A human life is indeed precious and even more so when we are endowed with the intellect to appreciate the teachings and put them to practice.

Therefore, the teachings say, please try to use this precious incarnation as a human being to benefit others. Because, at the end of the day on our deathbed, when this precious life is about to end, no material possession, fame, status or self-cherishing will save us except what we have cultivated from our spiritual practice.

When the Buddha told this story, he wanted people to consider this amazing one in a zillion chance. Will we just encounter the teachings in passing or will we rise to the challenge to do the necessary work in order to liberate ourselves from the endless wheel of cyclic existence? This is his invitation to us. To become a Buddha just like him. To seek enlightenment as a way to help all sentient beings end all suffering.

When we take to the path that leads to this ultimate goal of liberation, it isn’t just to save ourselves but others as well. Because along the path, we would learn how to grow a big heart that is capable of inclusion, wisdom, compassion and skilful behaviour. People know us through our behaviour as we seek to bless others through our presence. And we can’t do that unless we first take on the challenge to become better people by using this precious human life to be the best that we can be.