People get excited about strange things.
I recently saw a group of men kicking a ball into a big net and hundreds of thousands of people were cheering and throwing their hands up in the air, while millions were watching on television.
Everybody was totally out of control with excitement, in fact their faces were so distorted I couldn’t tell whether they were happy or in great pain. Sporting events seem very important to so many people, but it also brings misery and jealousy, as well as anger and hatred when your country beats my country.
On the other hand, a real cause for excitement and happiness is simply having this human body. This body we take so much for granted is the most precious thing in the universe. If we could really understand even a tiny part of its value to us, we would have a million times more reason for jumping in the air and shouting for joy, the way those soccer supporters do.
Every day—every second—we should have such a feeling of joy in our hearts that we have this precious thing that gives us the opportunity to do whatever we want. We can achieve anything we want to benefit ourselves and to benefit others.
In sports and in worldly activities, people are always chasing the best and trying to be the first at whatever they do. Winning at the Olympics, climbing Mount Everest, whatever people consider to be an achievement, is really nothing. There is nothing new in running faster or singing louder. We have all done these kinds of things innumerable times, in past lives if not in this one, and they certainly haven’t made us any happier. Perhaps the team that wins the World Cup are elated now, but has that cup brought them all real lasting happiness?
In fact, in all our previous lives we have achieved states we can’t even imagine. We have been born in god realms where the pleasure is billions of times greater than the pleasure all the money in this world could buy and where there is no obvious suffering.
We have achieved great powers in concentration, a concentration so profound that, as the great master Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo explains in the Three Principal Aspects of the Path to Enlightenment commentary, even a big drum beating right next to our ear could not disturb us. And we have even attained high psychic powers such as clairvoyance and the ability to fly. All this is nothing new. Things like this only seem special because we don’t understand reincarnation and therefore know that with our countless rebirths we have done all of this again and again.
In fact, although such things might sound wonderful, they are really just mundane achievements that mean very little in the long run. They cannot assure real happiness for us and they cannot free us from this cycle of dissatisfaction that we are trapped in called samsara. They have no power to eliminate or even diminish our delusions, which is the only real way of destroying our suffering and becoming happy. None of these samsaric things, whether it is excellence at sport or psychic powers, can even last. That is their very nature. To achieve them we have had to go through so much hardship and then we have them for a short while and they are gone, leaving us discontented again. Furthermore, everything of this nature is achieved through a motivation that longs for the mundane pleasure of this life, and, as we will see, that is a non-virtuous motivation that is the cause of future suffering.
But now, with this precious human body, we have just the right conditions to see beyond this and to understand what suffering is and how to overcome it, and conversely to understand the cause of true happiness and be able to attain it. We have the Dharma.
The Dharma is whatever leads us towards happiness and away from suffering; it is whatever destroys the roots of that suffering, delusion and karma. It is the path we all must take, whether we consider ourselves Buddhist or not. Only by renouncing the causes of suffering, such as attachment, and developing compassion and a correct understanding of the nature of reality—what is called emptiness in Buddhism—can we truly liberate ourselves. This is the new experience we should strive for, not golden cups or mountain tops. This what we have never achieved in the past.
Excerpted from Perfect Human Rebirth by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Learn more at Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.
Author: Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Editor: Travis May