According to Buddhist understanding, our streams of consciousness have no beginning. We have had previous lives, and lives still previous to those. In many lifetimes we were not even human beings, and many of our human lifetimes were not conducive to spiritual practice. We lacked spiritual teachers, or inclination, or opportunity. We made a living, or we died prematurely, or whatever: we just got by. We could not devote ourselves to eradicating the true sources of suffering and cultivating awakening. Now, in this present lifetime, we have the extremely rare circumstance of a fully endowed human life. It is within our reach to attain full awakening, and whatever we neglect to do in terms of spiritual growth in this lifetime is not because of lack of opportunity but simply because of an inadequacy from our own side.
So now Geshe Chekawa encourages us to practice what is most important. Having encountered something of unutterable value, it would be a staggering loss to shunt it aside and devote our lives to other things as if we had not found such an opportunity. Rather than simply devoting ourselves to mundane happiness that ripens only in this lifetime, let us take into account our well the future lives we are now creating.
The author encourages us to emphasize practice, above all the cultivation of bodhicitta, rather than book learning. As a contemplative himself, he recommends meditation as the most important of all the many ways of cultivating bodhicitta. Finally, rather than relying chiefly on textual information, he encourages us to look to the quintessential guidance of our spiritual mentor.
He makes another point also. Instead of abandoning a certain region as an unsuitable place for practice and going somewhere else, we should apply the antidotes for our own mental distortions wherever we find ourselves. Inner practice is far more important than the outer environment. Having said this in this beautiful region of the eastern Sierras, I would add that where a choice exists, choose the environment that is most conducive to practice.
Excerpted from: The Seven-Point Mind Training(first published as A Passage from Solitude : Training the Mind in a Life Embracing the World), by B. Alan Wallace. Copyright 1992 by Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York 14851.
This site provides an on-line database of commentaries on the Tibetan Buddhist meditation practices of lojong (Mind Training) and tonglen.