1. THE PRECIOUSNESS OF HUMAN LIFE
In this lifetime, each of us is gifted with a human body and with circumstances, both external and internal, that are conducive to a fruitful spiritual practice of potentially great depth. To understand how precious this opportunity is, it helps to have reached a sense of conviction that we are each endowed with a continuum of consciousness that is not confined to this life alone, and, moreover, that our actions and behavior have significance from one life to another.
As we take into account this linear progression from past life to present to future, we can appreciate the rare and precious opportunities that this fully endowed human life presents to us right now: the gifts of our teachers, the circumstances that are conducive to practice, the countless means we have for transforming our lives in a wholesome way. From this context we can also look laterally, to other sentient beings around us. Everyone desires essentially the same things as ourselves - a lasting state of contentment and freedom from suffering, pain, anxiety, and fear.
Although this common ground we share with every sentient being in the universe is utterly simple, the ways that individuals strive to fulfill this eternal longing vary with infinite diversity. And, for so many people, these methods are pathetically ineffective. We don't need to be great sages to see that many people fail tragically at finding happiness and freeing their minds from unnecessary grief. It takes no deep insight to see that the source of both our well-being and our maladies lies within our own hearts and minds. To change our experience of life we must inevitably change our hearts and minds, or rather our heart/minds.
The Buddhadharma starts from where we are right now, with our uncertainties and our shortcomings, as well as our wholesome qualities. It starts here, not after we have become Bodhisattvas. It shows a clear path for living a meaningful, wholesome life of increasing contentment and good cheer in this very lifetime, and it shows us how to sow the seeds for our well-being in future lives.
As this sinks in, priorities change. Before, we might have said, "The teachings are good. They are all very well, but given my job and my family, my bills, the city I live in, all my responsibilities and commitments, I just don't have time. I don't have time to hear teachings, or to meditate, or to read books on dharma. I don't have time to bring my mind to Dharma." This suggests a set of priorities that leaves precious little time for dharma. What could be more important? Keep in mind that Dharma is not confined to formal practice, sitting cross-legged in meditation or reciting sadhanas. Dharma is meant here in a broad sense; but not in a sense so diluted - or deluded - that "living Dharma all the time" means very little Dharma at all.
2. DEATH AND IMPERMANENCE
An awareness of death and impermanence enhances the vivid realization of the preciousness of a fully endowed human life in a way that transforms the heart and mind. It is possible to be lethargic in a very dynamic way: lethargic in relation to dharma but dynamic regarding samsara. We have plenty of time for entertainment, movies, vacations, sports, and partying. We have plenty of time for work. But we have precious little time for dharma, thinking, "Perhaps, when the kids are older, when I retire, when the work eases off a bit, or when winter comes, or summer. . . ." We always assume that there will be time later, but in the process we are aging and our vita
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.