Valuing Your Life
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
“So, this human life is a precious endowment, potent yet fragile. Simply by virtue of being alive, you are at a very important juncture, and carry a great responsibility.
You can achieve powerful good for yourself and others, so becoming distracted by the minor affairs of this lifetime would be a tremendous waste. Resolve to use this lifetime in this body effectively, urging yourself on from the inside and seeking whatever assistance there is from the outside. You should use your fleeting life for your benefit and that of others. Physical happiness is just an occasional balance of elements in the body, not a deep harmony. Recognize the temporary for what it is. Do not assume that there will be time later.
- It is certain that I will die. Death cannot be avoided. My lifetime is running out and cannot be extended.
- When I will die is unknown. Human lifespan varies. The causes of death are many, and the causes of life comparatively few. The body is fragile.
- We are all in this same tenuous situation, so there is no point in quarrelling and fighting, or wasting all our mental and physical energy on accumulating money and property.
- By mistaking what deteriorates moment by moment for something constant, I bring pain upon myself as well as others. I should reduce my attachment to passing fancies.
- From the depths of my heart, I should seek to get beyond these cycles of suffering created by mistaking what is fleeting for permanent.
- In the long run, what helps most is my transformed attitude.
Being aware of impermanence calls for discipline – taming the mind – but this does not mean punishment, or control from the outside. Discipline does not mean prohibition; rather, it means that when there is a contradiction between short-term and long-term interests, you sacrifice the former for the latter. This is self-discipline, which is based on understanding the cause and effect of one’s own actions. This type of discipline offers protection. A tamed mind makes you peaceful, relaxed, and happy, whereas if your mind is not disciplined in this way, no matter how wonderful your external circumstances, you will be beset by fears and worries. Realize that the root of your own happiness and welfare lies in a peaceful and tamed mind. It is also a great benefit to those around you.
Human beings have all the potential necessary to create good things, but its full utilization requires freedom. Totalitarianism stifles this growth. Individualism means that you do not expect something from the outside, or that you are waiting for orders; rather, you yourself create the initiative. Therefore, Buddha frequently called for “individual liberation,” meaning self-liberation, rather than freedom achieved through large-scale political or military action. Each individual must create his or her own discipline. If they are exploited by afflictive emotions, there will be negative consequences. Freedom and self-discipline must work together.”
From: How to Be Compassionate, pages 51-53.
Translated by Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D.