The pandemic is killing people across the world and making them jobless, bankrupt, or mentally stressed. But it has also given a break to some lucky ones from their regular busy lives. I hope the readers of this column are reading it in the comforts of their homes.
If nothing has gone wrong, this home lockdown should be a great opportunity to generate good thoughts and work our way toward mental peace. But unfortunately, many of us are over-indulging in social media, filling our minds with all the junk, and dwelling on the gloom. We are only inviting misery for ourselves as we don’t know how to use our minds in the right way.
Praying for quick recovery of all the infected ones, I ask the fortunate ones to make best use of the extra time that has come as a bonus. This is a great privilege that won’t last long, and it is absolutely dumb to waste it on trifles. By pondering on the dearness of human life, we will know the dearness of the moments that build it. We can then set our minds on the right course.
The Buddhist philosophy holds human life extremely precious. There is a famous analogy to explain it: Suppose the entire earth is a big ocean and a blind turtle lives at its bottom. It comes up to the surface once in a hundred years. A wooden yoke with a single hole is floating on the water, drifting wherever the wind and waves take it. Now imagine the turtle emerging on the surface with its head sliding through the yoke. What a great coincidence that would be! With same rarity one gets chance to be born as a human being.
One has to move through different realms of existence, get countless births in one or more of them as per one’s orientation, and earn enough merits to be born as a human, according to Buddhism. These realms number six: gods (deva), demi-gods (asura), humans (manusya), animals (tiryag), hungry ghosts (preta), and hell beings (naraka).
The Buddha said human-realm is the most important among the six. The god-realm is characterized by all the material pleasures one can think of, but then it is afflicted with greed, passion, craving, pride, and attachment. The asuras may also have the material pleasures, and they may possess supernatural powers, but they are characterized by hatred, anger, and arrogance. With deluded minds, both gods and demi-gods cannot see their own bondages.
Only the humans have the intellect to see the sufferings of life, and understand that they could be overcome. The Buddha advises humans to use their capacity to work out their own salvation. He says every human has this capacity, and one should start right away, without wasting a moment of the precious life, to reach the liberating potential of the human mind.
That is great news. Far better to dwell on than the junk many of us keep feeding our minds with.