“Most people do only what they feel like doing, failing to take into account the value of their human birth and the consequences of their actions. This makes it difficult for them to fully realize their human potential.
There’s an old saying that someone is `not all there’. It refers to a basic lack of human potential arising from callous insensitivity to the fact that human beings possess intrinsic qualities that are superior to those of animals.
This attitude promotes such degrading behavior that some people end up damaged almost beyond repair an empty human shell lacking all intrinsic goodness. Even then, they are unaware of what has happened to them, or why.”
Venerable Ācariya Mun Bhuridatta Thera
A Spiritual Biography
By: Venerable Ācariya Mahā Boowa Ñānasampanno
Translated by: Bhikkhu Dick Silaratano
This means don’t be an empty shell of a human. Don’t be someone who just has a human body only but his or her behavior and actions are less than that of a human being.
Your body is just the physical shell that you inhabit – like a house that you live in for a few years during your time here on earth. Don’t just have a human body and behave like an animal or worse.
So it’s so important to:
- Guard your precepts (no killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct nor intoxicants) well and protect your own virtue (though it may not always be easy). This way you can shine with an inner light. Your heart will be at ease because your mind will not be engaging in dark, turbid, murky and evil actions that harm others and yourself. Your heart will shine with its own inner radiance. So one thing that you can do whenever your mind gets dark and murky is to remember your precepts to brighten up your mind to try and lift it up out of that murky state.
- Help others – this also brightens your heart. But do it with wisdom – look at the overall impact that you have. Now it’s important to do good deeds – just don’t just do a little good deed at the expense of a greater goodness. This is especially important for those of us who are time poor and where many, many people always want your time. For example, someone wants you to help them with some little thing – but maybe you were doing something really important that would’ve benefitted someone else greatly or benefitted many people. So say, someone wants you to do them a little favor but you were in the middle of saving a life. So sometimes it’s also important to be able to say no in order to have the most positive impact – so you need to use your own wisdom and judgment – don’t use this as an excuse for refusing to do good deeds either!
You can see on YouTube and viral videos these days how some animals have more compassion than many humans do – saving their friend or their master from an accident. So these are animals who are showing human qualities or divine qualities – they may currently have the body of an animal, but perhaps, in saving a human life, they accumulate enough merit to be reborn as a human being or higher in their next life.
Ajahn Soo Pha gets saved by an elephant
This reminds me of a story that Ajahn Achalo once told about Ajahn Soo Pha (not sure if that is the spelling if his name). He would be around 120 years old in Phuket if he’s still alive today.
Once, a few decades back, this Ajahn got lost in the jungle. Apparently he walked all the way from Thailand to Afghanistan and back and stayed at the Shaolin Temple on his way back.
He is a very gifted monk but on his travels a few decades ago near the borders of Burma, he got lost in the jungle – away from civilization. At that time, he stumbled on to a herd of elephants but when they saw him, they did not welcome his presence – they were flapping their ears about on seeing him. So he radiated a bit of metta (loving kindness) to them.
Because he had some spiritual skill, he was able to see that one of the elephants was sympathetic towards him. So he communicated directly with the elephant (sounds similar to what Ajahn Mun did), saying “I have lost my way in this jungle and don’t know how to find my way out. I need to find human civilization somewhere. Would you please help me?”
Then that elephant walked alone away from the herd and came towards him and started leading the way and so, Ajahn Soopha followed him. After a while of walking for so long following the elephant, he got tired, so he communicated directly with the elephant again, “Please, I need to rest” and so, they both rested for the night. The next morning, they resumed. The elephant took him all the way to a village.
A few years later, a teenage boy came to pay respects to him down the line. He recognized him as being the former elephant that helped him out and he said that his human rebirth was the reward for helping him out.
Ajahn Achalo also related a story of when a snake tried to strike at him but he was radiating metta to it as best as he could. It would strike at either side of his leg but would miss his leg – apparently other monks had a similar experience (don’t try this at home boys and girls – if you see a snake, stay away from it and you can always radiate loving kindness to it from afar!) – your skill at radiating loving kindness may not be up to the level of these monks!