A continuation from yesterday's interview with HH Sakya Trizin.
Q: Your Holiness, how should we practice?
A: At the beginning of all Buddhist practice come two very important things: meditation of the Four Recollections and taking Refuge.
The Four Recollections are of the difficulty of getting human rebirth, of the impermanence of all Samsaric things, of the sufferings of Worldly Existence and of the law of Karma, which means of Cause-and-Result.
Generally speaking, it is very difficult to be born as a human being. We think that there are many human beings, but if we compare our numbers to those of other beings we realize how few we are. (For instance, in each of our own bodies there are millions of germs, microbes, viruses ad so on). So statistically the chances of attaining a human life are very poor. In any case, there are many places of rebirth, which are of no use to a being, as he will be unable to meet with the Buddha’s teachings in them. There are eight unfavorable places of birth: the realms of hell, of hungry ghosts and of animals, of barbarians, places where religious teaching is incorrect, where there is no Buddha, certain God realms and the realm of dumb people. Yet even if we get a human rebirth, there are ten necessary pre-conditions: it is necessary to be born in a place to which the Buddha has come, a place in which the Buddha actually taught the religion, a place where the teaching is still alive, where the teachers are kind enough to teach, and where there are still Buddhist followers such as monks and lay followers. There are also five external circumstances required of oneself: one must not have committed any of the five limitless downfalls, as this would create great obstruction.
This difficulty is explained in other ways, also. The cause of human rebirth is the performance of virtuous acts and keeping correct moral conduct, and since very few people are aware of this, human birth is rare by its cause. By nature, it is much easier to be born elsewhere. The difficulty is illustrated by an example: imagine a blind tortoise living in the ocean. Floating on the surface of the ocean is a yoke. The tortoise comes to the surface only once a century, yet he stands a better chance of putting his neck in that yoke than we do of being born in human form.
The recollection is of impermanence: the Buddha said, “The three realms of existence are like a cloud in autumn: the birth and death of beings is like a dancer’s movement; a being’s life is like a waterfall, like a flash of lightning in the sky; it never stops even for a single moment and, once it starts, it goes inevitably to its conclusion.” Everything is changing: outside the seasons change; spring gives way to summer, to autumn and winter. Children grow into adults, adults become old; hair turns from black to white, the skin shrivels and life fades. Isn’t that so? Everything changes constantly. There is not one single place where one can escape impermanence. Since everything changes constantly, one never knows when the end will come. One may be in perfect health today and yet die tomorrow. We know two things of death: it is certain to come and we have no idea when it will come. It could come at any moment and there are many things, internal and external, that can cause it. Thus, if you want to practice Buddhism, you must realize that it is necessary to start immediately. You can never be sure of a tomorrow in which to do anything.
In the next part, HH will answer on how the practice of Buddhism will help us.
Disclaimer: This interview was taken from the book "Pointing Towards Vajrayana" published by The Singapore Buddha Sasana Society Sakya Tenphel Ling. The Palden Sakya Centres of American Buddhism Sakya Shei Drup Ling actually holds the right of this text.