Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Blind Turtle

"Imagine that the whole earth was covered with water, and that a man were to throw a yoke with a hole in it into the water. Blown by the wind, that yoke would drift north, south, east and west. Now suppose that once in a hundred years a blind turtle were to rise to the surface. What would be the chances of that turtle putting his head through the hole in the yoke as he rose to the surface once in a hundred years?"
"It would be very unlikely, Lord."
"Well, it is just as unlikely that one will be born as a human being. It is just as unlikely that a Tathagata, a Noble One, a fully enlightened Buddha should appear in the world. And it is just as unlikely that the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathagata should be proclaimed. But now you have been born as a human being, a Tathagata has appeared and the Dhamma has been proclaimed. Therefore, strive to realize the Four Noble Truths." (S.V,456)


Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

It truly is rare and special to be born a human being. If I ever feel down, these thoughts help me back up!
Love your blog Teacher Dhammika!

aah-haa said...

"Therefore, strive to realize the Four Noble Truths." That is the essence of Buddhism, and that was what the Buddha feared to teach. It is so simple, so uncomplicated, so profound but many turtles surfaced for air for thousands of years but still missed the hole.

Justin Choo said...


What is "(S.V,456)"

Soe am i said...

Dear Paul,

more encouragement in these verses from the Dhammapada while we strive to rise above murky waters.)

"As from a great heap of flowers many garlands can be made, even so should many good deeds be done by one born a mortal" Dhp. 53

"Upon a heap of rubbish in the road-side ditch blooms a lotus, fragrant and pleasing" Dhp. 58


lzblue said...

Hi Justin,

(S.V, 456)

S - Samyutta Nikaya
V - The 5th collection (Maha Vagga)
456 - Page number in Pali Text Society's version

Check out an online version here where you can see other types of reference at the header:

Perry said...

Hello Bhante. This is interesting but my very basic knowledge has left me slightly confused, as well.

Perhaps there are very obvious explanations that I should already know, but I have heard a few times about the rarity of a human rebirth, but does this count for say, people who pass away while very advanced in Buddhism and close to enlightenment? Do they too wait for thousands if not hundreds-of-thousands of years to continue on the path to nibbana? Do quotes such as this only take into account those who have lived lives full of ignorance and craving?

Thankyou :)

yuri said...

I feel this story has an additional meaning. As the modern astronomy shows the Universe does not teem with life. It is a rare combination of conditions where life can emerge, and yet more unique to allow it to develop and reach the stage of sentient beings. We should treasure that it's happened in our sansaric migration, and utilise the chance it offers for liberating. But once a human being we don't fall back to lower stages unless we do something awful with our lives.

qwerty said...

This shows how lucky we are in this lifetime, also with the Internet it should make it even easier to learn the Dhamma, just take effort but I am loving every moment of it.

Justin Choo said...

Thanks Izblue, but cannot open the link

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Perry,
The Buddha did say that to be reborn human is rare. Two points. (1) ‘Rare’ does not mean ‘never’ or 'impossaible' it just means that given the prevalence of indolence, ignorance and desire human rebirth is not as common as rebirth in other spheres. (2) That was then. Since the Buddha’s time the Dhamma has become widely known, the major world religions have come into being, and at least in some parts of the world people have become more thoughtful, more sensitive and more broadly knowledgeable. Given this, I suspect that nowadays most people are reborn as human beings. Now the question should be ‘What am I going to do with my life now that I am human, now that I have this precious and wonderful opportunity?’

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Justin,
S.V,456 means page 456 of volume V of the Pali Text Society’s edition of the Samyutta Nikaya. In Bhikkhu Bodhi’s new English translation you will find it on page 1871.

Justin Choo said...

Thank you Bhante and Izblue

Buddha said...

During a recent retreat...when i showed Preference to Ananpanasati than to vipassana , my asst.Teacher Told me that "This is the Buddha Sasana" Time period in which Buddha's teaching (Vipassana) is Prevalent so make use of it to the Best & Practise Vipassna.

He mentioned that when the teaching starts to fade away ..the first to go will be Vippasana (Panna) ,then Ananapanasati (Concentration/Samadhi) then Sila, The next Budhha will be born only after many years after all the three have faded away.

Thanks for the Insightful post.
It has strenghtened my resolve.
i have mailed it to my Frineds & Relatives.

U said...

Wasn't it mentioned somewhere that "the day the blind turtle finds the yoke is the day when your sins will be forgiven"? Buddha was trying to say that it was impossible to save yourself from your own sins by trying to keep good rules