Recognizing the Freedoms and Advantages
There are eight freedoms and ten advantages. Firstly, if you were born in the hell, preta or animal realms, you would suffer from intense heat and cold, from hunger and thirst, or from enslavement, and it would be impossible for you to practise the Dharma. If you were born amongst the long-living gods, it would also be impossible because you would not have any thought of practising the Dharma. The Buddha’s teachings are not found in uncivilized lands of the border regions, so living there is also an impossible state. Those with wrong views do not have any possibility of practising the Dharma because their minds are contaminated by false beliefs, and they are just like Devadatta or Lekpé Karma. If you were born in a world where a buddha had not come, or during a dark kalpa, it would be impossible because even the words “Three Jewels” would be unknown. If you were born incapable of understanding, it would be impossible to practise the Dharma because you would not be able to understand the meaning of the teachings. When you have a physical body that is free from these ‘eight states where there is no chance for Dharma practice’, it is known as possessing a support for Dharma practice complete with the eight freedoms.
Secondly, the ten advantages are divided into the five personal advantages and the five circumstantial advantages. With regard to the first of these, being born as a human being means that you have a proper physical support for practising the Dharma. Having all fivefaculties intact means you can study the teachings and contemplate them. In a central land means to be born in a place where the teachings are available. A lifestyle that is not harmful or wrong means that your body, speech and mind are in harmony with the Dharma. Having faith in Buddha’s teachings means recognizing that they provide a special path leading to freedom from samsara, and a state which surpasses the situation of the worldly gods. When you possess these five endowments, ‘the five personal advantages’ are said to be complete.
For the five advantages due to circumstances to be present, a buddhamust have come into the world, an event as rare as the appearance of an Udumbara flower; he must have taught the three wheels of Dharma; and the teachings must have survived without fading. There must be extraordinary friends who have embraced the teachings [i]; and a master or a spiritual friend must have accepted you. These five are known as ‘the five advantages due to circumstances’.
If you have every one of these eighteen freedoms and advantages then you have what is known as a “precious human life”, and you are in a position to practise the teachings that bring about permanent freedom from samsara. Nevertheless, if you succumb to negative influences and adopt an incorrect lifestyle and so on, then your human life will have gone to waste. As it is said:
Finding a human life with freedoms and advantages,
Is like finding a priceless jewel,
Just look how those without renunciation,
Waste this opportunity!
Used well, this body can be a ferry to liberation,
Used badly, it is an anchor in samsara.
[i] There are different ways of interpreting this one of the five circumstantial advantages. Words of My Perfect Teacher explains that it means we have entered the teachings.. Some commentaries, as is the case here, explain it as meaning that there are other people who have entered the teachings.