Precious human birth

A fleeting life saved by Amida Buddha

寶 贵 人 生


The above poem in Chinese expresses the true nature of this human life, which is characterized by impermanence, suffering from blind passions and the lack of an independent soul. Yet, human birth is extremely rare and becomes really precious to us, the moment when we would use it as the perfect receptacle to listen deeply to the Buddha Dharma and to receive Amida Buddha’s Boundless Compassion…

This human life is fleeting and impermanent
With suffering arising from blind passions
Though illusory and abides in emptiness
Shows us the uncreated Land of Happiness 

The Buddha’s Infinite merits and virtues
Are bestowed equally on all beings
May all accept Amida’s Gift of Shinjin
And obtain birth in His Land of Peace and Bliss

Suffering beings like ourselves do not know why we are born here – in an ever-changing environment firmly attached to greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and arrogance – living perhaps for only a short period of a 100 years and then blindly leaving this world in agony for another unknown existence of continued pain and suffering. How painfully foolish and blind we are, not making use of this precious human birth which has brought us the right condition to free ourselves from samsara – the vicious cycle of birth and death.


This precious human birth is extremely rare and most difficult to obtain amongst the six realms within samsara – our perpetual and unsatisfactory home of painful existence for billions of lives. A human birth becomes really “precious” only if one would use it beneficially, as a receptacle for the Buddha Dharma and for receiving the appropriate instructions that could lead one permanently out of samsara. Otherwise, human birth is just the same as the other types of samsaric birth – it is simply another unsatisfactory existence perpetuating the vicious cycle of birth and death.

Samsara is unfathomably immense, beings are countless in number, the places where beings inhabit are innumerable and the chains of interdependence that connect beings with each other are simply inconceivable. Driven by our accumulated karma – the cause and effect produced by the actions of our body, speech and thought – we had transmigrated endlessly throughout the six realms. Burning hatred and anger caused us to take birth as hell beings. Insatiable greed made us appear as hungry ghosts. Stubborn ignorance created us as animals. Uncontrollable jealousy caused us to become jealous gods (asuras). Overbearing arrogance and pride made us appear in the realms of gods.

Human beings are created by our collective good and evil karmas that possess different degrees of individual greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and arrogance. Therefore, we are able to intellectually perceive, both the good and the evil, the unimaginable suffering of beings in the lower realms of animals, hungry ghosts and hell beings, as well as the pain and pleasures, experienced by beings in the realms of gods and asuras. It is for this reason that human beings are balanced in their ability to vaguely experience and intellectually understand, the full spectrum of pain and pleasure. Therefore, a human birth could give us the best spiritual opportunity and environment, at least, to be able to ignite, that initial spark of faith in the Buddha’s words.

However, the chance of one taking birth as a human being itself, is so minute and counted as almost nothing, when compared with the countless, trillions of beings born in the unfavourable and extremely painful environments, as animals, hungry ghosts and hell beings. On the other hand, most gods, asuras and humans, are naturally destined for the three lower realms of unimaginable suffering – most likely the hell realms – when the good karma that propelled them to these seemingly favourable realms of painful existences, runs out at the end of their current lives. Thus, we should realize, that taking birth as a human being is extremely rare and most difficult to come by.

Now, due to the good karma accumulated from our distant past, we are fortunate enough to obtain this extremely rare human life. Yet, if we continue to live it, completely immersed in our constant struggle just for food, wealth, fame and the quenching of our insatiable desires, then, we would have live this life in vain. When the demon of death finally knocks on our door of impermanence at the end of this life, we are again thrown into the ocean of pain and suffering – the dreadful realms of samsara. Therefore, we must not squander away and waste this rare human life. It could again, take another countless billions of years of painful existence in the other realms, before another perfect opportunity arises for us to get out of samsara. We should know that, besides the Buddha Dharma, all the other religious teachings available today, merely afford their believers, a better but temporary, place of birth within the vicious cycle of samsara.

The one and only true teaching that assures our ultimate freedom from samsara, is the Buddha Dharma, in general and the Dharma of Amida Buddha, in particular. Therefore, let us completely abandon all the other paths, listen deeply to what the Buddhas taught and realize the real treasure uncovered by this precious human birth.


The Buddha Dharma taught by Shakyamuni Buddha over 2500 years ago, highlights our suffering, the cause of suffering and how we can effectively put a permanent end to all our suffering. For 45 years, The World-honored One, Teacher of gods and humans expounded countless Dharma discourses and brought immeasurable number of disciples to enlightenment. The Tathagata’s strong presence and Buddha-field enabled persons of different capacities to obtain emancipation in the Age of Right Dharma (正 法 時 代) lasting 500 years from His parinirvana.

The Buddha then revealed that the main purpose for which He came to this world was to preach Amida Buddha’s Vow of Boundless Compassion which promises to save all mundane foolish persons (凡 夫, bombu), good or evil, irrespective of age, gender, social status, intelligence or living conditions, especially in the 1000 years of The Semblance Dharma Age (像 法 時 代) and particularly in this latter day of The Dharma Ending Age (末 法 時 代) that followed.

We are now deep in this Dharma Ending Age in which human beings – badly defiled by greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy and arrogance – are absolutely incapable of practising strictly in accordance with Shakyamuni Buddha’s lifetime teachings to obtain enlightenment by their own self-power, strict discipline, difficult practices. The Buddha, out of great compassion for all suffering beings, exhorts all His disciples like ourselves who truly do not have the capacity for these practices, to sincerely entrust themselves completely to Amida Buddha’s fulfilled Primal Vow which is a sure way of breaking free from the relentless cycle of samsara at the end of this life in mortal flesh.


The Dharma of Amida Buddha, preached by Shakyamuni Buddha, is specially designed to permanently free all wretched foolish persons like us, firmly trapped in the net of samsara. In the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life, He tells us about Amida Buddha, who, during His practising stage trillions of years ago, under the guidance of Buddha Lokesvararaja, had boldly made 48 inconceivable Vows – each one specially made in accordance with the various wishes and conditions of the sentient beings. All these Vows had already been wonderfully fulfilled when Amida attained Perfect Enlightenment ten kalpas ago and His Pure Land of Peace and Happiness exquisitely established to receive all suffering beings who wish to be born there.

The Primal Vow is Amida Buddha’s main Vow – His fulfilled, Universal Vow of Boundless Compassion. It is His absolute pledge to all suffering beings – that those who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to Him, aspiring to be born in His Land and Saying His Name – would definitely be born there at the end of their current lives. For pathetic persons like us, who are utterly incapable in performing difficult meditative and non-meditative practices to save ourselves by self-power, total reliance on the Other-power of Amida’s Primal Vow is our only option for getting out of this treacherous samsara at the end of this physical life.

Saying the Buddha’s Name – (南 无 阿 彌 陀 佛, Namo Amida Butsu) – is thus, embodied in Amida’s Primal Vow. It is the act of true settlement expressing our complete reliance and true entrusting (信 心, Shinjin) in the Primal Vow. It is also our devoted expression of taking refuge and profound gratitude to the Buddha for having saved us from ocean of suffering. Single-heartedly entrusting in Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow, is thus, our ‘easy’ path out of samsara.


Seeing the preciousness of human birth – our realization that human birth is extremely rare and yet, can be easily lost or wasted – we are given the impetus to use it beneficially by devoting our lives to listening deeply to the Buddha Dharma. However, the vast majority of persons in this world, concern themselves solely with the constant struggle to quench their insatiable desires for food, pleasure, wealth and fame, while the others follow religions that fervently teach attachment for longer or eternal lives of happiness in the next life. It is truly lamentable that both non-religious, as well as seriously religious people – not realizing that are actually destined again, for just another realm within the vicious cycle of samsara – cannot see or comprehend, the preciousness of their human births.

The Larger Sutra states:

“To obtain human life is difficult in the extreme
To meet a Buddha in this world is also difficult
It is difficult, too, for a man to attain faith and wisdom
Once you have heard the Dharma, strive to reach its heart.

Even if the whole world is on fire
Be sure to pass through it to hear the Dharma
Then you will surely attain the Buddha’s Enlightenment
And everywhere deliver beings from the river of birth and death.”

In this world with numerous religious believes and faiths – every one claiming that theirs is true – we know with absolute certainty, that almost all of them, cannot put a permanent end to all our suffering. They can only cause us to be temporarily born in one of the realms within samsara. Thus, only the Buddha Dharma is true and real.


Listening deeply to the Buddha Dharma for the rest of our lives, may we be brought to receive the inconceivable Gift of Entrusting Faith (信 心, Shinjin) in Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow. Single-heartedly Saying the Buddha’s Name and taking refuge only in Amida Buddha, we are grasped and not forsaken by the Light of Boundless Compassion. We know, without any doubt, that samsara has finally lost its grip on us and that we will definitely be born in the Land of Peace and Ultimate Happiness, at the end of our lives. This last birth in the dreadful cycle of birth and death, is truly, a precious human birth.

Thus, we have clearly heard:

The Call of Boundless Compassion

南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Butsu
南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Butsu
南 無 阿 彌 陀 佛 – Namo Amida Butsu


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Related Pages – The Primal Vow