Odyssey to Freedom in Sixty-Four Steps (transcript)

A commentary by Gelek Rimpoche

A fragment from Step 17: Embrace human life

I don”t know whether you are going to like this or not, but embracing human life is also a development. It is an important development for the individual. The beginning of individual development is embracing human life.

Sometimes or many times the question rises whether my life is worthwhile or worthless, It is very hard for some people to see it. Many think, “I am useless”. That is absolutely wrong. Every human being has his own value. We know that. Most of the people that think they”re useless, have some kind of mental problem, because when you really sit down and think, you”ll find there are a tremendous number of things you can do. You can do a lot of things for yourself, you can do a lot of things for others, for your children, for your country, for the world. A lot! You know you can make a difference, but still you keep on saying “I am useless, I am hopeless”. That is the absolutely wrong idea that is meant to be negated at this level. By negating that idea, what you get is appreciation, embracing your life.

To gain appreciation don”t compare your own capability with someone who has better capabilities. Compare your life with someone who is less fortunate than you, say someone who has a mental handicap. Then you will see the difference. Compare your human life with any other form of life, like with that of the pet dog you keep, the cockroach you have in your house, the mouse that pokes in all the time, these uninvited guests. Compare your life with all of them. Then the question does not rise; we have a terrific value in life! The problem is that we don”t want to do such a comparison. We take our own situation with its own capabilities for granted. That”s because we are not thinking properly.

The same capacity Buddha had, we have, so why can”t we make it? It is not the fault of life, but either we don”t have the opportunity, or we are not diligent enough, not interested enough. Otherwise, what Buddha has achieved, we can achieve. Really, the life we have is capable of doing almost anything. If your mind is working well, even though you may have a physical handicap, you can have scientific achievement or spiritual achievement. Why should I say much? Look at Stephen Hawkins, even in that condition one can achieve that much.

From the spiritual point of view, this life we have today and the life Buddha had, or for that matter any great master from any tradition, is not different. We are all human beings. What we are lacking is the opportunity and the efforts, otherwise it is the same thing.

Whenever you think “I am not good, I am ugly” I openly suggest you to look in the mirror. Take off your clothes and look in the mirror. Look at the basic life you have, how wonderful you are, how beautiful you look – each and everyone of us has wonderful qualities – and appreciate it. If you look carefully, you”ll it see with your own eyes. You”ll see that the exaggerating depression-inviting mind of “I am ugly, my nose is not right, my.” is meaningless, not true. You can confirm that by yourself by looking in the mirror. You”ll see the physical aspects of yourself and you appreciate them.

Likewise mentally. Your mental mirror is the dharma teaching, the presentation of the spiritual path. That reflects your mind. Look into that, get the reflection from that, find out whether you are going okay or not okay, appreciate what you did okay and try to redouble your efforts where you have to correct.

Somehow, fortunately, by sheer luck, we happened to meet with these teachings, the sort that are capable of delivering total liberation. Because we have the capacity to receive all the information, because we have the capacity to make up our own mind, we have to be open. Do not ever surrender your own intellectual freedom to anybody. Because that is our value. Because of that we can make a difference to our life. Some people may think, “I can”t take it anymore, I”m going to cut my life short”. The problem with that is, you try to escape from life. And mind you, you escape only for a very short period, because after a few hours you”ll be in a much more difficult situation than what you are in now. One has to remember that and appreciate life.

So embrace it, don”t waste it, don”t reject it, don”t bury yourself. That is the most important point here.

© Jewel Heart 2001