Human Potential


Of the different realms in samsara, the cycle of rebirth, being reborn as a human offers the greatest potential for spiritual advancement.

In some existences, everything is so wonderful that there seems to be no suffering in sight. In other existences, beings suffer so much themselves that even thinking of alleviating the suffering of others is virtually impossible.

But as humans, we personally know suffering and can empathize with the suffering of others around us. As humans, we have both the ability to find our own happiness and the compassionate wisdom to help others find their way to happiness.



The Habit of Doubt

While we are supposed to not blindly believe what we are told, our skeptical minds can work overtime. Our reasonable inclination to question new ideas can lead us to doubt anything new and different.

This can occur with our practice of the Buddhadharma as we are told to experience the truth of the teachings for ourselves.

I can observe that when I constantly want new experiences and possessions, I will be disappointed because my ability to want far out paces my ability to attain. When I allow myself to become upset, I feel unsettled when the anger subsides. When I say something that hurts another, I feel remorse and wonder how to undo the harm I have done. Fortunately, when I am considerate and mindful, I feel good, knowing I have done what is right. And when I chant, I feel calm and happy.

So I can see cause and effect occurring right now.

But what about the future? What about all the things I have done in the past? If I'm distracted, I can't remember what I went to do in the next room! I certainly can't remember my past karmas.

At some point in our learning and practice, we need faith. Not in a religious sense because the Buddhadharma is not a religion. I mean faith—as in unwavering belief—in the everyday sense.

People get married with the faith that they will spend the rest of their lives with their spouse. We board a plane with the faith that we will land safely. A lot of what we do requires faith. There are just some things we cannot prove in advance. But trusting the person we marry and knowing that flying is very safe, we act on our faith and fly happily off on our honeymoon.

When the Buddha warned us that doubt is one of the six poisons, he was not talking about reasonable doubt; but blind, unsubstantiated doubt. As the provable things he said are found to be true by us, we will come to the things that we need to accept on faith. At this point, when the teachings have struck a chord within us and we have been so deeply moved by them, we need to let go of our suspicion and mistrust. We need to let go of our habit of doubt.




By nature, all people are equal; thus, no person is, by nature, superior to another. Cognizant of just how often we give in to negative emotions like greed, anger, impatience, and jealousy, we will realize that we have little to be arrogant about. It would be much wiser to develop humility, recognizing that with our many faults we need to focus on correcting them. And as we get compliments for our improvement in correcting our faults, we must work even harder to put aside our pride and to practice humility.



Go Veggie and Help Others




·   The first precept is to not kill. When we eat animals, we are asking those who do not understand cause and effect to plant the seeds for much future suffering. 

·   Approximately 60 million people a year die of starvation. Those lives could be saved because those people could eat grain used to fatten cattle and other farm animals - if Americans ate 10% less meat.

·   It takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat. If we all just ate the grain, everyone in the world would have enough to eat.

·   About 20 percent of the world's population, or 1.4 billion people, could be fed with the grain and soybeans fed to U.S. cattle alone. (Mark Gold and Jonathon Porritt, "The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat," 2004, p. 22.)

·   The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported in 2006 that 854 million people across the world are hungry.

·   According to Dr. Waldo Bello, executive director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy, "[t]here is enough food in the world for everyone. But tragically, much of the world's food and land resources are tied up in producing beef and other livestock—food for the well-off—while millions of children and adults suffer from malnutrition and starvation. In Central America, staple crop production has been replaced by cattle ranching, which now occupies two-thirds of the arable land." Jeremy Rifkin, "The World's Problems on a Plate," The Guardian Unlimited, 17 May 2002.

·   Roughly 1,000 species a year become extinct because of the destruction of the rainforests.

·   Each of us switching to a vegetarian diet will eliminate the killing—and suffering—of more than 100 animals a year. It will also help to lessen the demand for future suffering as fewer animals are raised for our consumption.


No Perfection Here in Samsara

Our lives will never be perfect here in samsara, in the cycle of rebirth. We can easily forget this when we find our path and our teacher. Striving to be a better person, to follow the guidance we receive to the best of our abilities, we become frustrated to find that we still run into difficulties. That we still encounter obstacles and seeming contradictions.

It is at this point that people can become discouraged. They may think that their good actions are failing to produce good consequences. They may think that they should have progressed more than they have.

It takes time, it takes patience, it takes hard work to remain focused on our vow to end suffering and attain happiness for all beings. But we are so ego-oriented, so wrapped up in our concept of self that we can lose track of this goal.

There will always be obstacles in samsara. There is a Chinese saying "Good work, more trouble." Just because we are sincerely trying to improve does not mean that all our karmic consequences and obstacles will fall away and we will progress smoothly in our practice.

Nothing is easy here in samsara and there is no perfection either. Accepting this will help us to hang in there when we seem to encounter endless obstacles. The obstacles are temporary and will be overcome as long as we do not give up.