Life can be viewed as a flow of moments, and how we spend these moments could bring meaning to life. A moment is a very brief period of time that can slip away instantly. What we choose to do, or not do in a moment, will belong to the past once the moment is passed, and that moment can never be brought back.
The Lord Buddha explained the rarest moment that could arise in one’s life is the moment that one gets to hear the Four Noble Truths. This is called “Kshana Sampatti” in Pali (the original language the Buddha used) which can be translated as an “opportune moment.” As with any moment, this opportune moment can also slip away in an instance.
Why did the Buddha call this an ‘opportune moment’ and why is it the rarest of all moments in a person’s life? The Buddha explained that we are in a cycle of rebirths called “samsara” in which a starting point cannot be discerned. In this long journey of samsara, one is not always born as a human being. Birth in the animal world, ghost world or hell is more common than birth in the human world. As rare as it is to be born as a human being, it is even rare to hear the Four Noble Truths. Because the endowment of a Buddha, who realizes the Four Noble Truths and teaches it, is even rare; for 100 eons there had only been seven Supreme Buddhas. Therefore, these two rare conditions have to happen together for an ‘opportune moment’ to arise in one’s life.
When an opportune moment arises in a person’s life, that person receives the opportunity to learn the Four Noble Truths and end the samsaric journey. That person gets to learn about the value of this moment and the value that the teachings of the Buddha can bring to his/her life. This moment is an invitation for a wise person to investigate his/her life according to the teachings of the Buddha and understand what is happening. When a wise person listens to the Four Noble Truths and thinks ‘Oh, I too can understand what Four Noble Truths are’, and strive to realise the noble teachings of the Buddha with confidence in the noble triple gem; the Supreme Buddha, noble Dhamma and the noble Sangha, that person can achieve noble and rare ‘Kshana Sampatti’. The Buddha’s teachings comprising the Four Noble Truths can only be heard during a Buddha’s Order by the Buddha himself or his disciples, the noble Sangha.
The Buddha also showed so many ways of losing the opportune moment and it is called a “dushtakshana” in Pali which is an inopportune moment. For example, if a person is born in hell or such a lower world when a Buddha is preaching the Four Noble Truths, that person cannot realize the teachings of the Buddha. Or if a person lives far away from the Buddha, he/she too misses the opportune moment.
Today, the teachings of the Gautama Buddha are present. But not many know how to make use of this opportune moment. One of the main reasons is the lack of access to actual teachings of the Buddha. Today, various people preach different ideas in the name of Dhamma, and focus their energy on trivial matters of life, missing the opportunity to put an end to the cycle of suffering. If the noble Dhamma is explained clearly just like Buddha did, anyone can easily understand it.
The Buddha placed so much emphasis on the importance of realizing the Four Noble Truths that, he said; even if one’s clothes or head were ablaze, one should pay no heed to it, but instead strive to realize the Four Noble Truths. Therefore, this sublime Dhamma which explains the Four Noble Truths should be accessible to all and should be spread around the world.
Lord Buddha pointed out that, there are wise people in the world who are capable of realizing the Four Noble Truths. Yet if they don’t get to hear the Dhamma they too would decline in wisdom and miss out on the ‘opportune moment’. Buddha said, ones who miss the ‘opportune moment’ are born in hell and lament over the missed opportunity.
Therefore, you must be attentive and wise to understand the importance of learning the Four Noble Truths, the importance of the invaluable moment you have right now. You must search for the teachings of the Buddha which explain the Four Noble Truths. You must not focus on the preacher; instead you must focus on what he/she preaches. You must be wise to discern whether the preaching has the Four Noble Truths in it. If it does not teach you about the Four Noble Truths, no matter how many times you have listened to Dhamma, or for how many years you have been learning Dhamma, you have not learnt the true teachings of the Buddha.
Therefore, you must first understand what ‘kshana sampatti’ is. If you are an intelligent person, then you have fulfilled one requirement. If you are fortunate to read and listen to the Dhamma which explains the Four Noble Truths, then you have met the second requirement too. Thus having learned the Dhamma, if you have grown in confidence of the Triple Gem and have a strong desire to realize the Four Noble Truths in this Gauthama Buddha’s Dispensation, you truly are a person that has embraced the ‘opportune moment’.
It is with much affection that I wish, you not lose out on this precious ‘opportune moment’, which has befallen you.
By Most Ven. Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thera