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I am riddled by this question lately and it necessary for my progress on path of Dhamma. My question is, why is it that in this life time I have became obsessively bent to attain nibbana while everyone around me is living in total oblivion. I mean if I had so many rebirths in past lives exactly what was I doing all these quantillion lives, was I never told the dhamma. If I was told, then why am I not already enlightened. Was I dumb or something all these lives not to have awaken to the truth of suffering? What must have been my mistake all these lives? How can I rectify that mistake so that I can felicitate my nibbana in this life?

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-- "why is it that in this life time I have became obsessively bent to attain nibbana"

There is a traditional Buddhist teaching that explains this Awakening through a combination of lucky causes and conditions. When the conditions are unlucky, they are known as "Eight Conditions in Which There is No Freedom to Practice Dharma". When the conditions are lucky, there are known as "The Ten Advantages" or "The Five Individual and Five Circumstantial Advantages". I will not quote them here verbatim, for fear of simplistic reification - instead I will try to explain the idea behind it.

Awakening happens when your life conditions are "just right". Being "just right" means they are not too bad but not too "worldly good" either.

On one hand, there has to be enough good luck to be born in the right place at the right time to encounter Dharma, and your personal circumstances should be good enough to allow you to pay attention to it. Meaning, you need to be born in the right historical period in a civilized country that has Dharma available in some form, when there is no active war or other issues that would completely distract from anything but survival. You also have to be born a human or other type of sentient being that has its mental faculty in a good functional order.

On the other hand, you need to have enough suffering in your life and enough confusion to push you to seek some sort of resolution. If your life circumstances are too structured from birth, for example you are born to a family that has everything running well and under control, you may be so completely preoccupied with worldly activities of study, work, art, making business etc., that you will have zero interest in Dharma even if the Buddha himself were to teach you.

Just enough suffering and confusion -- but not too much -- because too much suffering and confusion leads to perverted worldviews, excessive aggression, extreme pessimism/hopelessness/nihilism, an idea that one can only get happy by abusing others, incurable cynicism, addictions etc.

So when these multiple "just right" causes and conditions come together all at the same time, we have this phenomena of Awakening - one day you come in touch with Dharma and you are interested. This is the moment when your negative seeds (suffering, confusion) and your positive seeds (open mind, intuitively right values) germinate in the ground of lucky circumstances.

This combination of positive and negative factors is very important. This is why human condition is so valuable, compared to other life forms. It gives just enough positive and negative factors in just the right proportions. It does not happen all the time, true, but still a million times more frequently than with almost any other type of sentient life. We are lucky to be messed up just enough to Awaken! :))

-- "Why am I not already enlightened? What must have been my mistake all these lives? How can I rectify that?

As you can imagine, there's any number of mistakes you could have made, but here is one traditional list, known as "The Eight Intrusive Circumstances". I will list them here in brief, it could be one or more in your case:

  1. you failed to overcome negative emotions dominating your mind.
  2. you were intellectually lazy and did not want to make effort to study Dharma.
  3. you failed to identify a confused teacher as such, and wasted your chance by following incorrect teaching.
  4. you were a procrastinator when it came to meditation.
  5. you failed to cut the self-perpetuating cycle of negative karma, and it claimed your freedom back.
  6. you did not say "no" to worldly people in your life that wanted you to do what they thought was important.
  7. you always prioritized solving your worldly problems over Dharma.
  8. you fell victim to the temptation of using Dharma as a source of money, power, or fame - and lost connection with genuine virtue.

I'm sure there are countless other potential mistakes one could have made, but this should get you started. There is much more on this topic in a book I recommend, "The Words of My Perfect Teacher" by Patrul Rinpoche.

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You've been here since forever due to craving and ignorance.

Ignorance of not knowing the Four Noble Truths.

There are 3 types of craving - sensual, becoming and unbecoming.

Basically, you're here because you deeply want to be here, you want to enjoy sensual pleasures, you want to become somebody, you want to live a full happy life and you did not know about the Four Noble Truths till the "man with good eyesight standing on the river bank" told you. There's no need to blame Mara or anyone else.

You're here because you craved to be here.

From Itivuttaka 114:

This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "Suppose a man was being carried along by the flow of a river, lovely & alluring. And then another man with good eyesight, standing on the bank, on seeing him would say: 'My good man, even though you are being carried along by the flow of a river, lovely & alluring, further down from here is a pool with waves & whirlpools, with monsters & demons. On reaching that pool you will suffer death or death-like pain.' Then the first man, on hearing the words of the second man, would make an effort with his hands & feet to go against the flow.

"I have given you this simile to illustrate a meaning. The meaning is this: the flow of the river stands for craving. Lovely & alluring stands for the six internal sense-media. The pool further down stands for the five lower fetters. The waves stand for anger & distress. The whirlpools stand for the five strings of sensuality. The monsters & demons stand for the opposite sex. Against the flow stands for renunciation. Making an effort with hands & feet stands for the arousing of persistence. The man with good eyesight standing on the bank stands for the Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened."

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The conditions and the reasons why sb chooses to follow the path of enlightenment in one lifetime are not clear.

To say that your Karma is wright,what about Milarepa who in one lifetime killed people?And at the same time he gained liberation.

Then Retchung asked, 'O lama, you spoke of having done white deeds, and no deeds are worthier than those devoted to the Dharma. How, Master, did you first encounter the teaching?' And the Venerable One continued thus:

I was filled with remorse for the evil I had done by magic and by hailstorms. My longing for the teaching so obsessed me that I forgot to eat. If I went out, I wanted to stay in. If I stayed in, I wanted to go out. At night sleep escaped me. I dared not confess my sadness to the lama or my longing for liberation. While I remained in the lama's service, I asked myself unceasingly and passionately by what means I might practice the true teaching.The lama replied, 'All sentient beings have the Buddha-nature within them. I know theoretically how to lead them to higher realms and liberation, but when conditions arise which test my actual attainment, I only remember words and ideas. I have no confidence in my ability to help beings. But now I am going to practice the Dharma to be able to meet any circumstances that arise. Either you must take over the guidance of my disciples so that I can devote myself to the practice leading to the higher realms and liberation, or you must practice the Dharma yourself and help us all achieve the higher realms and liberation. Meanwhile I shall support you with all the provisions you need.'

Thus my wish was fulfilled and I answered that I would practice the Dharma myself.

Tilopa

He first became a monk at the temple of Somapuri in Bengal. It is said that one day a dakini (female embodiment of wisdom) came to him in a vision and offered him her knowledge. Tilopa requested her teachings and received the initiation into the Chakrasamvara Tantra.

Naropa

Naropa went to the house of a woman who sold beer and encountered a junior Buddhist pandita. After the Buddhist pandita departed, Naropa found a volume of Sutras left behind by him and began to read them. He became very inspired by the teachings and his heart filled with devotion for the dharma.

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There is no such thing as "past lives". Please read SN 22.79, which explains clearly the meaning of "past nivasa". If there were past lives, we would be born into this world with much wisdom, knowledge & experience.

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    Of course there are past and future lives! Don't you know other humans existed before us and will exist after us? ;) – Andrei Volkov Aug 17 '18 at 2:53
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I am riddled by this question lately and it necessary for my progress on path of Dhamma. My question is, why is it that in this life time I have became obsessively bent to attain nibbana while everyone around me is living in total oblivion.

Society is by and large enslaved by Mara the evil one. This answer explains in detail. Don't go by the society.

I mean if I had so many rebirths in past lives exactly what was I doing all these quantillion lives, was I never told the dhamma. If I was told, then why am I not already enlightened. Was I dumb or something all these lives not to have awaken to the truth of suffering?

You were and are under the influence of Mara as is almost everyone. Do you think Steve Jobs was dumb , Bill Gates is dumb or Einstein was dumb ? No. Even the smartest of people fail to get the insight.

What must have been my mistake all these lives? How can I rectify that mistake so that I can felicitate my nibbana in this life?

Yours and everyone's mistake is that they haven't renounced the self and the world. They still think that the eyes is theirs. They still still think ears is theirs. They still think body is theirs. They still think Mind is theirs. When in actuality it all belongs to Mara. To rectify the mistake ,I guess the best way would be to, renounce the world and walk the path which Buddha laid.

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    Dheeraj thanks for answering... I know who is mara from buddhist scriptures but it doesnt practically make sense to blame Mara. I mean, i dont actually believe that there is some evil being in reality named Mara who is bothering us all...I mean what personal interest will he have in my life...this must be some sort of allegory...what exactly is Mara? So that leaves my question unanswered. Sorry for being so pedantic... – user13135 May 15 '18 at 1:28
  • @BodhiWalker I have quoted from the scriptures. It is not possible to believe in Buddha and not believe in Mara. Mara rules the world which Buddha wants you to renounce. – Dheeraj Verma May 15 '18 at 1:32

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