It is often said that we should be glad to have been born a human. There are however, those who, rather than rejoicing, resent the parents that gave them life and even those who commit suicide. While we may consider such things wrong, if we seriously think about it, most people are unable to feel grateful.
The Parable of the Blind Turtle and the Driftwood
In Buddhism, it is taught that it is an extreme blessing to be born a human and so, we must rejoice in such a thing. In the Zoagon Sutra, there is the famous parable of “The Blind Turtle and the Driftwood.”
One day, Sakyamuni Buddha asked, “There is for example, a blind turtle which rises to the surface from the bottom of a very large ocean once every hundred years. There is also a single piece of drift wood with a hole in the middle of it, floating in the ocean. Do you think that it is possible, even if only once, for the turtle that surfaces only once every hundred years to poke its head right in the hole in the driftwood?” When the disciple Anan replied, “Such a thing is practically inconceivable,” Sakyamuni Buddha said, “It is likely people would think it to be entirely impossible. However, it cannot be claimed to be absolutely
impossible. Being born a human is even more inconceivably difficult than the event in the parable.
Being “Thankful” Is…
Every day we say “thank you,” but in Japanese, it comes from the expression meaning that it is rare to have such a thing.
Even when considered from a scientific perspective, one can nod in agreement. When humans die and are cremated, they are reduced to ashes and air. On this occasion, let us think with the exception of the “heart (spirit)”, the air that we were made of is scattered throughout the universe. This is because air has no boundaries. When things are reduced to ashes, they too gather on the surrounding ground and become soil. Things can then grow in that very soil and after a long time, rocks can even form. It depends on where it is washed and carried away by the rain and wind, and whether sedimentation occurs in a river, lake, or ocean. Then, the air and ashes that made the humans, suppose they are once again assembled and a human is born, we can see what a blessing it is to be born a human. The Nirvana Sutra teaches that, “Those who fall to hell are like the soil of the worlds of the ten directions. Those who are born human are like the soil that can be placed on a fingernail.”
A Sole Sacred Mission
In this way, to receive the rare blessing of being born a human means that if we had not been born into the world of human beings, we would not be able to resolve the crucial problem that we all have. As humans, we have a precious sole sacred mission and we were born in order to achieve that mission. This sole sacred mission is to hear the words of True Buddhism, to listen to and believe in Amida’s Primal Vow, and thus resolve the matter of our soul. In Buddhism, this is called obtaining otherpower faith. However, such a magnificent chance only comes around once in hundreds of millions of years. Thus, when we listen to Buddhism and attain absolute happiness, we understand how truly precious and thankful it is to be born a human. If we do not listen to Buddhism, we will never be able to understand the joy of being born a human. Sakyamuni Buddha taught the above things as follows; let us reflect deeply upon it and savor these words:
“To be born human is a rare blessing - a blessing that is mine!
To listen to Buddhism is a rare blessing - a blessing that is mine!
If you do not achieve the purpose of life now, when will you? When can you?”
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #10 | 2011, Why is It A Blessing To Be Born A Human? (The Beacon #4)
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