It was often said, “The Buddha Dharma that is rare to hear, now has been heard; the human body that is difficult to obtain, now has been obtained.” Having thus heard and obtained, what should one do? Practice soon without delay. Practitioners of our rank cannot afford to waste time, passing each days in futile activities, abandoning the urgent spiritual work until the end of our lives lived in vain. Listen to my verse:
Six realms of reincarnation immemorial,
Hastily coming and going none fared well;
Poor, abject, wealthy, or revered, all submerged in karmic ocean,
None can escape the sword of passing time.
Ancient sages also said, “Wait not till old age to practice the Way, buried in lonely tombs are mostly the young.” One must heed this stern warning. Another verse went like this:
Floating duckweed, life spans few years,
Ignorant at first, beyond help in old age;
Guests of fame and fortunate, the young and strong,
Who is really practicing the Way?
People often said that one should wait until retirement to practice the Way, or try to achieve social standing and wealth first. Some said having a family and establishing a business should come first; others advised to wait until children have grown. Day after day, there is always more tomorrow to speak of. While the suffering of birth-death begins with greed, which is also endless. One should know when the breath stops, life ends instantly. The cycle of birth and death that should’ve ended did not end; in fact it gets worse. On the march toward death, there are not distinction between the young and the old, there is only the constant flow of impermanence. Listen to my verse:
Practice the Way soon, without delay,
Awakening can be rather far off;
Visiting the Lapis Lazuli palace,
How can one be at ease like the breeze?