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Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas

Text Section 207

Using a metaphor [dpe], the inhabitants of the hells are said to be as numerous as the stars in the night sky and the pretas no more numerous than the stars visible in the daytime. This means that there are very few pretas (hungry ghosts) compared to the number of inhabitants of the hell realms.

If there were as many pretas as stars at night, the number of animals would be like stars in the daytime, which means there are far more pretas than there are animals. And if there were as many animals as stars in the night sky, the number of gods and humans would be only as many as stars in the daytime, meaning there are far more animals than there are gods and humans.

The tradition of Jigme Lingpa’s preliminary practices of the ’Longchen Nying Thig’ [klong chen snying thig] holds that one should recite the lines about the difficulty of attaining a human rebirth at least three times every day. Most people take their human body for granted and do not consider it a privilege. You must be aware that you do have at this time an extraordinary opportunity [go skabs] and a very special physical support [khyad par can gyi rten].

You must realize the value of your human body. This human body is the perfect vehicle; it provides us with the best possible chance to develop the precious bodhicitta [byang chub sems rin po che]. Although all beings are equally endowed with the perfect buddha nature [bde gshegs snying po], the human body alone constitutes the perfect condition for developing bodhicitta. Even an ant has buddha nature, but no ant can develop bodhicitta and progress on the path to enlightenment.

In general, the Buddha’s teachings are vast [rgya chen po] and profound [gting zab po]. While our human mind is of very limited scope, the mind of the Buddha is unlimited, and his knowledge is equally boundless. The Buddha knows everything throughout space and time; his knowledge penetrates the past, present and future. His mind pervades the infinity of space, and he knows everything at once. He knows, sees, hears, smells, and so forth in an unlimited way.

There seems to be a vast difference between the unlimited perspective of the Buddha and our narrow perspective. His topic of teaching might be too vast and our minds too narrow. We could have great difficulty in truly understanding the Buddha’s realization and what his teachings are talking about. This difficulty is only due to our own limitations and not because the Buddha’s teaching is flawed.

Really understanding a Buddhist text is not at all easy. The pith instruction, therefore, is: “Expand your mind!” Open your mind beyond its habitual limits; contemplate on infinite space and expand your scope as much as possible. Only with a vast mind can you understand the scriptures of the Buddha’s teachings.

When you contemplate the difficulty of obtaining this human body, you are reflecting on the noble truth of suffering, the first of the four noble truths [bden pa bzhi]. This body is considered to be defiling [zag bcas] and is subject to the truth of suffering [sdug bsngal bden pa]. Meditate on the truth of suffering by reflecting on the difficulty of obtaining a human body, and you will become a good practitioner.

For a practitioner of Vajrayāna, reflecting on the difficulty of obtaining this human body is indispensable. A Vajrayāna practitioner understands that this mind in this human body is endowed with buddha nature [bde gshegs snying po], that this human body provides the best circumstances for developing the precious bodhicitta. A Vajrayāna practitioner also understands the reasons for visualizing this body as a deity and why pure perception [dag snang] must be practiced. The practitioner understands that all beings are primordially male and female deities, that visualization practices [bskyed rim] are a conceptual imitation of enlightened perspective.

The practice of pure perception [dag snang] means to view yourself and the entire universe as a display of deity, mantra and awareness. Through this practice you conceptually imitate the Buddha’s pure perfection, acknowledging primordial purity for what it is. Failing to understand that the perspective of the buddha nature is infinite purity, you do not understand Vajrayāna. Pure perception is the key to Vajrayāna.

Many practitioners visualize their body as a deity but feel in their hearts that they are doing something strange. They practice the visualization because they are told to do so, not understanding that such visualization is a skillful method to jump to the Buddha’s enlightened perspective. They do not know how to mingle the practices of skillful means and wisdom. The visualizations of pure perception are practices of skillful means and must always be mingled with the recognition of buddha nature, which is the practice of wisdom. Only when practicing the unity of skillful means and wisdom will one swiftly progress toward enlightenment.

Truly appreciating the difficulty of obtaining a human body will gradually lead to pure perception. Therefore, do not belittle this contemplation and regard it as unimportant. Contemplating the difficulty of obtaining the human body is part of the contemplation of the truth of suffering and has great implications.

If you look at the life stories of the great masters of old, you realize that they had only very few disciples who became great masters themselves and reached high levels of attainment such as the rainbow body. This is because most dharma students are not truly able to disconnect from worldly activities. Most spend their lives in a mixture of dharma practice and worldly involvement.

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