17. The ten useless things(1)
1. Our body being illusory and transitory, it is useless to give over-much attention to it.
2. Seeing that when we die we must depart empty- handed and on the morrow after our death our corpse is expelled from our own house, it is useless to labour and to suffer privations in order to make for oneself a home in this world.
3. Seeing that when we die our descendants [if spiritually unenlightened] are unable to render us the least assistance, it is useless for us to bequeath to them wordly [ rather than sppiritual] riches, even out of love(2).
4. Seeing that when we die we must go on our way alone and without kinsfolk or friends, it is useless to have devoted time [which ought to have been dedicated to the winning of Enlightenment] to their humouring and obliging, or in showering loving affection upon them(1).
5. Seeing that our descendants themselves are subject to death and that whatever wordly goods we may bequeath to them are certain to be lost eventually, it is useless to make bequests of the things of this world.
6. Seeing that when death cometh one must relinquish even one’s own home, it is useless to devote life to the acquisition of wordly things.
7. Seeing that unfaithfulness to the religious vows will result in one’ s going to the miserable states of existence, it is useless to have entered the Order if one live not a holy life.
8. To have heard and thought about the Doctrine and not practised it and acquired spiritual powers to assist thee at the moment of death is useless.
9. It is useless to have lived, even for a very long time, with a spiritual preceptor if one be lacking in humility and devotion and thus be unable to develop spiritually.
10. Seeing that all existing and apparent phenomena are ever transient, changing, and unstable, and more especially that the wordly life affordeth neither reality nor permanent gain, it is useless to have devoted oneself to the profitless doings of this world rather than to the seeking of Divine Wisdom.
These are The Ten Useless Things.
(1) They are useless in the sense meant by Milarepa when he came to realize that human life ought never to be frittered away in the spiritually profitless doings of this world. ( See „Tibet’s Great Yogi Milarepa”,p.176- 7, 179- 80.) The tenth aphorism of this series having been unintentionally omitted from our Tibetan manuscript by the scribe, we have substituted for it an adaptation of our own, based upon the doctrine of the worthlessness of wordly actions, as thus enunciated by Milarepa, and upon which this category of „The Ten Useless Things” is based.
These teachings, if practically applied, like those of the Buddha or of the Christ, would result in the cessation of all actions performed selfishly rather than altruistically. The same supreme doctrine of the renunciation of the fruits of action underlies the whole of the Bhagavad Gita.
(2) To fritter away the precious moments of life in heaping up the perishable goods of this world, thinking thereby to benefit oneself and one’s family, is unwise. One’ s time on Earth ought to be given to the winning of those riches which are imperishable and capable of assisting one both in living and in dying. It is the science of accumulating riches of this character which parents should bequeath to their children and not worldly riches which merely intensify and prolong their possessors’ slavery to sangsaric existence. This precept is emphasized by the fifth and sixth precepts which follow.