The Blind Turtle

Suppose their existed a vast and deep ocean the size of this world, and on its surface the floated a golden yoke, and at the bottom of the ocean their lived a blind turtle who surfaced only once in every one hundred thousand years. How often would the turtle raise its head through the middle of the yoke? His (Buddha’s) disciple, Ananda, answers that, indeed, it would be extremely rare.

In this context, the vast and deep ocean refers to samsara – the cycle of impure life that we have experienced since beginningless time, continually in life after life without end – the golden yoke refers to Buddhadharma, and the blind turtle refers to us….for most of our countless previous lives we have remained at the bottom of the ocean of samsara, in the three lower realms – surfacing only once in every one hundred thousand years or so as a human being. Even when we reach the upper realm of samsara’s ocean as a human being, it is extremely rare to meet the golden yoke of Buddhadharma; the ocean of samsara is extremely vast, the golden yoke of Buddhadharma does not remain in one place but moves from place to place, and our wisdom eyes are always blind. For this reason Buddha says that in the future, even if we obtain a human rebirth, it will be extremely rare to meet Buddhadharma again.

Picture of turtle with golden yoke to remind us of our precious human life