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Nāgārjuna's encouragement to practice the Dharma
March 19th, 2014

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Nāgārjuna's encouragement to practice the Dharma

To be born with the eighteen conditions associated with human birth, offers very rare and precious opportunities, and this life should not be wasted.

The eighteen conditions are: eight freedoms and ten endowments.

Freedom from 4 unhelpful births:
• in hell,
• as hungry ghost,
• as animal, or
• as god;
and, as human, freedom from the main 4 barriers to practice:
• overall lack of education ('barbarianism'),
• cultural context preventing the very access to the Dharma,
• terribly negative past karma,
• overwhelmingly defective faculties.
[If you can read this, you benefit from the 8 freedoms.]

Ten endowments, five 'individual':
• human (neither constantly overwhelmed by suffering nor by bliss),
• educated,
• sound mind (ability to reflect and learn),
• confidence / trust in the Dharma,
• reasonably positive past karma,
and five 'contextual':
• right time and place (i.e. with  opportunities to practice),
• teachings are well established,
• teachings are still available,
• other practitioners are available (non-isolation),
• support available (teachers, places…).
[If you can read this, you benefit from the 10 endowments.]

Regarding one who does not  take advantage of this opportune condition of human birth endowed with right conditions (e.g. one who wastes time complaining about one's circumstances: not enough support, circumstances not good enough, not perfect enough…), it is said by Nāgārjuna in the Suhṛllekha  ("Letter From a Friend") that such a person is « as foolish as one who uses a golden vase studded with jewels for vomit or spittle. »

Don’t misuse this precious human birth, which is  free from the negative contextual conditions and endowed with positive conditions. Make sure to make the human birth worthwhile.

Nāgārjuna, in the same text:
« Make this life useful. It is difficult even for the monks living in isolation to practice all the teachings of the Buddha, but try to achieve some of the qualities of the teachings to make this life worthwhile. You won’t have any regrets when the time comes to die. »

photo in New Delhi