The Value of Life
Reverence and humility towards others with virtue
Although we realize that our lives will not last a thousand years, sometimes we still let ourselves drift down into the stream of worldly pleasures which causes us suffering. Sometimes we do things that bring later regret. Since everyone is counting the days of their lives. Some people might have asked themselves, “How do we live our lives to the fullest and how do we live every minute of our lives with full consciousness?
A highly respected monk had a clear answer to this. He always reminds the laypeople who come to make merit at his temple that dealing with life situations is something for which we must prepare ourselves.
“Even though we may dislike difficulties and welcome happiness, there is no way to avoid suffering in our lives because life is a mixture of suffering and happiness. Instead, we should prepare for the inevitable suffering with a steady mind.
“Human beings were born with inherent forms of suffering which include aging, sickness and death. Everyday these forms of suffering have adverse effects on our lives to various degrees.
“Instead of realizing and being aware of this suffering. Humans blind themselves even further with other trivial things. A person will trouble himself more to fulfill his desires, for example, to have a spouse and children, expecting that these will bring him happiness.
“Other individuals associated with the person having these desires are burdened with the same inherent sufferings (aging, sickness, and death). Thus, once he marries, instead of being happy, he is burdening himself with the natural sufferings of his loved ones, including the suffering that may be caused by having to be separated from them at the end.
“If you are married or have your own children, there is no need to explain the hardships that will come with your responsibilities. Even by remaining single, having to make a living, taking care of one’s parents, a person barely has enough time left for oneself. After being married, one must play the role of spouse and parent of the children. Each role surely has a tremendous amount of work involved. Thus, everyday, the family life is filled with worry and attachment.
“If you are tactful and articulate, you may be able to find some happiness in a marriage. Yet, one still cannot break free from suffering when death arrives. Being separated from loved ones is inevitable and renders great grief. If one wants to live a happy life, one must learn to be tolerant and to not burden oneself with unnecessary suffering.
“Some people may think that this teaching is based on a pessimistic view. But, in truth, it is a realistic teaching which tells you how to deal with life situations.
“The Lord Buddha was able to conquer all these sufferings. He taught that one can cope with unexpected suffering by mindfully preparing oneself to confront aging, sickness and death, habitually reflecting on the following aspects:
1. Knowing the purpose of life: Knowing that we4 were not born to live only for enjoyment. In fact, we were born to pursue perfections, to cultivate merit in order to break free from the sufferings of the samsara (cycle of life and death) by following in the footsteps of Lord Buddha to reach Nibbana.
2. Self-realization: Habitually reflect on the fact that it is natural for us to die. We have not yet gone beyond dying. We do not know when we are going to die. We must sooner or later be separated from all loved ones and treasured things.
Mental development through meditation
How can people think about death?
1. Thinking about death with the false view: Thinking that death is inevitable or just waiting for death to come, without cultivating merit or anything good, is a waste of a precious human life.
2. Thinking about death with the right view: Death is unavoidable, therefore, before dying, one must make the most of one’s physical existence by cultivating the maximum number of good deeds in order that the accrued merit resulting from those deeds will be carried on to the next life.
All life ends at death. Yet, death could never be the purpose of life. The purpose of life is to cultivate merit and purify oneself from defilements to attain Nibbana. Since defilements still remain, one should never stop doing good deeds until one’s last day arrives. This is the best recommendation that we have to offer.
Daily reflection on death and the separation from all loved ones and treasured things helps develop consciousness and progress in meditation. A person who performs this reflection will live his life with prudence and preparation. He tends not to seek any extra attachment to animate or inanimate things, focusing instead on performing good deeds. He is unafraid of any hardships. He realizes that death is creeping ever closer, like a shadow that has followed him from birth and is ready to attack him in moments of weakness.
3. Cultivating the utmost merit: The objective of life is to live with purpose or meaning. Doing something that cannot be carried over to the next life is not considered truly beneficial.
The Lord Buddha realized that only the results of our deeds will follow us when we die. He taught, “We are owners of our actions, we are heirs to our kamma, whatever actions we perform, be they good or evil, we will receive their consequences.”
He taught tree principle guidelines on how to live our lives and get the best out of them:
1. Avoid evil deeds: Cast of past bad habits and avoid starting new ones which can increase adverse consequences, to the extent that they will bring us to the unfortunate realms or cause us to miss the path to the heavenly realms and Nibbana.
2. Doing good deeds to the utmost extent: Attempt to perform any good deeds one has never performed and increase the effort devoted to those good deeds that one has already performed in order to gain passage to the heavenly realms and Nibbana while shutting the doorway of hell.
3. Purify the mind: Keep one’s mind bright and clear all the time, while inhaling and exhaling. If a person inhales and does not exhale, that person’s life will come to an end. Death bears no sign of warning. Therefore, everyone should prepare for death by always keeping a clear mind.
The brightness or cloudiness of one’s mind will open the door to heaven or hell for us, respectively.
A bright and clear mind resulting from the recollection of past good deeds will lead you to happiness. The force of good kammic effects based on the good deeds that one has done on earth will open the gateway to a heavenly realm with celestial treasures.
And a cloudy mind resulting from the recollection of past evil deeds will lead a person to the unfortunate realms. The force of bad kammic effects will lead to painful experiences corresponding to that person’s actions in his current existence.
Giving Dhamma sermons
These principle guidelines are categorized and elaborated in the Buddhist teaching, the 10 Bases of Meritorious Actions (Punnairiya-vatthu), which are shown below:
1. Generosity (Danamaya)
Merit acquired by giving to the appropriate recipient
2. Moral Discipline (Silamaya)
Observing moral behavior by restraining one’s speech and actions, by not causing turmoil for others
3. Meditation practice (Bhavanamaya
Mental development through meditation
4. Humility (Apacayanamaya)
Reverence and humility towards others with virtue
5. Aiding others (Veyyavaccamaya)
Assisting others without breaking the law, tradition, or morals
6. Transferring merit (Pattidanamaya)
Sharing merit with others
7. Rejoicing in merit (Pattanumodanamaya)
Rejoicing in others’ merit
8. Listening to Dhamma sermons (Dhammassavanamaya)
Listening to doctrines or right teachings
9. Giving Dhamma sermons (Dhammadesanamaya)
Teaching the doctrine or showing truth
10. Forming the Right View (Ditthujukamma)
Strengthening one’s views or forming correct views
“In sum, these ten meritorious actions can be categorized simply into three main groups. They are generosity (Dana), moral discipline (Sila) and meditation practice 9Bhavana).
“A person who understands the purpose of life, habitually contemplates the reality of death, and makes an effort to cultivate good deeds will have the right view of the world.
His mind will be unmoved by worldly sufferings. He will also be able to find happiness both in this life and the next.”
All of these teachings given by a respected senior monk remind us that we should not lead our lives carelessly; we should aim to perform good deeds, and we should avoid bad behavior and purify our minds everyday so that our lives are filled with value.
I hope that this message from a respected senior monk, expressed through this book, aids many in preparing themselves to mindfully handle any forms of suffering that life may bring. The value of a person’s life depends on how one spends it in this world in order to gain passage to Nibbana.
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