The Buddha said:
There are twenty difficult things to attain or accomplish in this world.
1. It is difficult for the poor to practice charity.
2. It is difficult for the strong and rich to observe the way.
3. It is difficult to disregard life and go to certain death.
4. It is only a favored few that get acquainted with a Buddhist sutra.
5. It is by rare opportunity that a person is born in the age of a buddha.
6. It is difficult to conquer the passions, to suppress selfish desires.
7. It is difficult not to hanker after that which is agreeable.
8. It is difficult not to get into a passion when slighted.
9. It is difficult not to abuse one’s authority.
10. It is difficult to be even-minded and simple-hearted in all one’s dealings with others.
11. It is difficult to be thorough in learning and exhaustive in investigation.
12. It is difficult to subdue selfish pride.
13. It is difficult not to feel contempt toward the unlearned.
14. It is difficult to be one in knowledge and practice.
15. It is difficult not to express an opinion about others.
16. It is by rare opportunity that one is introduced to a true spiritual teacher.
17. It is difficult to gain an insight into the nature of being, and to practice the way.
18. It is difficult to follow the steps of a savior.
19. It is difficult to be always the master of oneself.
20. It is difficult to understand thoroughly the ways of Buddha.
Life is not a bed of roses. It is difficult, it is complex. It is very rare to be alive in the true sense of the word. To be born is one thing; to be alive, quite another. To be born is to be just biologically here; to be alive is a totally different dimension – the dimension of spirituality.
Unless a man is spiritual he is not alive yet. But to move from the biological realm to the spiritual realm is very difficult, arduous. It is the greatest challenge there is. It is the greatest quantum leap – from the body to the soul, from the material to the immaterial, from the visible to the invisible, from time to timelessness, from out to in. It is arduous.
Buddha, in this sutra, says there are twenty difficult things. These twenty difficult things can become twenty steps of the challenge. These twenty difficult things are not to make you beware of them; Buddha is talking about these twenty difficult things not to make you avoid them – it is an invitation, it is a challenge.
These twenty Himalayan peaks are just a challenge for you…a great invitation. Don’t remain in the valley. The valley is very secure, convenient, comfortable. You will live comfortably, you will die comfortably. But you will not grow. You will only grow old, but you will not grow.
Growth happens only when you are accepting a challenge. Growth happens only when you start living dangerously. These twenty things are indicative of how one should live.
There is only one way to live and that is to live dangerously, courageously. You become rightly a human being only when you have accepted this challenge of the Buddha.
We will go into these twenty things. They look small on the surface, but Buddha cannot talk about small things. You will have to go into the depth of these small things, and then you will see – they are really difficult.
Before we enter this sutra, one thing I would like to tell you – that the search for truth is the search for the impossible. Religion itself is nothing but a passion for the impossible. But the beauty is – that impossible happens, that impossible also becomes possible. But you have to pay for it, and you have to pay tremendously. You have to sacrifice yourself utterly. You have to stake your whole life.
If you stake your so-called life, you will attain to what Buddha calls to be alive, to what Jesus calls to be reborn, to what Hindus call to be twice born, dwij. Then a totally new dimension and a totally new quality of being arises in you…uncorrupted by time and space, uncontaminated by anything, absolutely and eternally virgin.