In my last post I wrote about how this life is a special opportunity to become free of the grip of negative emotions and that it would be a pity to let this opportunity go to waste. In The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche writes about this point:
“In the Sufi Master Rumi’s Table Talk, there is this fierce and pointed passage:
The master said there is one thing in this world which must never be forgotten. If you were to forget everything else, but were not to forget this, there would be no cause to worry, while if you remembered, performed and attended to everything else, but forgot that one thing, you would in fact have done nothing whatsoever. It is as if a king had sent you to a country to carry out one special, specific task. You go to the country and you perform a hundred other tasks, but if you have not performed the task you were sent for, it is as if you have performed nothing at all. So man has come into the world for a particular task, and that is his purpose. If he doesn’t perform it, he will have done nothing.
All the spiritual teachers of humanity have told us the same thing, that the purpose of life on earth is to achieve union with our fundamental, enlightened nature. The “task” for which the “king” has sent us into this strange, dark country is to realize and embody our true being. There is only one way to do this, and that is to undertake the spiritual journey, with all the ardor and intelligence, courage and resolve for transformation that we can muster. As Death says to Nachiketas in the Katha Upanishad:
There is the path of wisdom and the path of ignorance. They are far apart and lead to different ends . . . Abiding in the midst of ignorance, thinking themselves wise and learned, fools go aimlessly hither and thither like the blind led by the blind. What lies beyond life shines not to those who are childish, or careless, or deluded by wealth.” (p.131)
A few pages later, I found this passage:
“Life, as the Buddha told us, is as brief as a lightning flash; yet as Wordsworth said, “The world is too much with us: getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” It is that laying waste of our powers, that betrayal of our essence, that abandonment of the miraculous chance that this life, the natural bardo, gives us of knowing and embodying our enlightened nature, that is perhaps the most heartbreaking thing about human life. What the masters are essentially telling us is to stop fooling ourselves: What will we have learned, if at the moment of death we do not know who we really are? As the Tibetan Book of the Dead says:
With mind far off, not thinking of death’s coming,
Performing these meaningless activities,
Returning empty-handed now would be complete confusion;
The need is recognition, the spiritual teachings,
So why not practice the path of wisdom at this very moment?
From the mouths of the saints come these words:
If you do not keep your master’s teaching in your heart
Will you not become your own deceiver?” (p.136-7)
I will present more quotes from teachings on this topic in my next posts.