Human Life: Using It Well
by Kalu Rinpoche
Among the myriad possible lives, only human life is endowed with the faculties that allow for an understanding and practice of Dharma. But merely being human is not always enough for spiritual progress; the value of human birth is actually quite variable. There are three kinds of human life: unfortunate human life, ordinary human life, and precious human life.
Unfortunate human life is one in which a person commits negative acts because he or she is subject to mental afflictions that in turn create a painful future.
Ordinary or banal human existence, while not used for negative ends, is not particularly positive either. This is the type of life most people lead: not doing anything particularly positive or negative.
Finally, there is the precious human rebirth: a human life in which a connection with a spiritual path and a guide have been established and in which, with faith in that path, it is possible to practice; all the favourable circumstances for practice are in place. That kind of life is said to be precious because it is the basis of spiritual realisation. Through it we can reach enlightenment, or buddhahood. It is also precious because of its extreme rarity-like a star in the daytime. Consider its rarity among the numerous nations on our planet: the civilisations of a great many nations make no reference to the spiritual path. Hundreds of millions of people live in an environment that completely lacks Dharma. Even in countries where Dharma is accessible, look how few people actually study and practice it.
Notice how in our city, our town, our immediate surroundings, so few people have the right circumstances for practice: freedom, motivation, the spiritual inclination to really devote themselves to the path. This precious human life is rare also because it is so hard to obtain. That we even have a precious human life is no accident; it is the result of positive actions accomplished on the path by morality, love, and compassion. All these acts left karmic imprints that have brought us to the present situation into which we were born: endowed with a precious human life. Among you there are some with faith in Dharma and others who are curious or sympathetic. Just by virtue of that, you possess the precious human rebirth.
In the past, we have been born and reborn an incalculable number of times in cyclic existence. Right now we have a precious human rebirth. If we do not devote ourselves to Dharma practice, this will be a loss much worse than that of a poor man who won’t take a treasure he has just come upon. Ultimately, we will continue to err indefinitely in the cycle of lives. If we know how to use this life, it can be the point of departure for our liberation.
We are at a fork in the road: one route ascends to higher realms and freedom; the other descends to lower realms. We have the choice of taking the high road or the low road. To use this precious human life as a support o Dharma practice and liberation is to give it its true meaning.