enlightened minds

Buddha Nature

by Khöndung Ratna Vajra Rinpoche

To begin with, I’d like to stress the importance of motivation in our practice. Whether we are receiving a teaching on Buddha nature or any other teaching, or whether we are practicing the Buddha Dharma through body, speech and mind, the first step is to develop the right motivation. It is said that the accumulation of great merits due to virtuous deeds depends on one’s motivation in the beginning, concentration on the actual practice or teaching, and one’s dedication at the end. Therefore, motivation is very, very important.

For example, if two persons are circumambulating the Buddha’s stupa. One is doing the circumambulation with right motivation in the beginning, right concentration during the circumambulation, and also dedication at the end; the other one is doing the circumambulation without proper motivation in the beginning and, during the circumambulation, he or she is not concentrating on dharma or reciting any mantras but talking about mundane things with others, and he or she does not dedicate the merits properly at the end. Physically both have done the same number of circumambulations of the same stupa, but the one with proper motivation will earn far greater merits than the other one. Therefore, if we seek to accumulate great merits and make our practice a real cause of attaining Buddhahood, we must do the practice properly by developing right motivation in the beginning.

And here, developing motivation involves first of all developing renunciation thought towards the whole of samsara. This is very, very important. In short, without the renunciation thought, it is difficult to become a real Buddhist.

In order to become a real Buddhist, we need to take the Pratimoksha vows. There are many different levels of the Pratimoksha vows, and in order to become a Buddhist, we need to take the refuge vow inherent in the Pratimoksha vows. It is also important to know that not all refuge vows constitute Pratimoksha vows. For instance if one is receiving the refuge vow from the master, with the proper ritual, but one is receiving it with inferior motivation such as fear of one’s parents, teacher, or relatives, and not out of one’s own sincere aspiration, in reality this refuge vow is not the Pratimoksha vow. Also, if one receives the refuge vow in order to gain fame, wealth, or rewards, then that is not a proper refuge vow either. With this kind of motivation, even if one receives the refuge vow, it does not belong to the Pratimoksha vows. In general, the definition of the Pratimoksha vows is that, motivated by the renunciation thought, one should not harm others through body, speech or mind. Without the renunciation thought, one cannot receive the proper refuge vow; and without this proper refuge vow one cannot become a real Buddhist. In short, without the renunciation thought one cannot become a real Buddhist. This renunciation thought is therefore very, very important to develop. It is like a cornerstone to becoming a Buddhist.

Renunciation thought does not merely involve renouncing one’s house, town, city, or country. Here renunciation thought means renouncing the whole of samsara. Although we cannot renounce the whole of samsara physically right now, we must cultivate a genuine wish to be free from it grip. In order to develop such a genuine wish, we need to remove our attachment to samsara, by realising the suffering inherent in it. We need to fully realise that it is full of suffering.

For example, there are many countries in this world, and billions of people. But whether we are in a developed country or in one that is less advanced, we will never find a single place where there is no suffering at all. Wherever we go, east or west, we experience suffering – mental stress, or physical pain, for example. This means that the whole world is in the nature of suffering. The whole of samsara is in the nature of suffering. After careful examination, we’ll discover that having attachment to samsara is synonymous to having attachment to suffering, because samsara is of the nature of suffering, nothing but suffering.

So if we understand the nature of samsara, it becomes easier for us to remove our attachment to it. Once we no longer have attachment to it, then we can easily develop a genuine wish to be free from the whole of samsara. This is what is called the renunciation thought, and this is what we need to cultivate. Then based on this, we must develop infinite loving kindness and compassion, which means the genuine wish to gain happiness and the cause of happiness for the sake of all sentient beings, and the genuine wish to free all sentient beings from suffering and the cause of suffering, which are negative actions and defilements.

Though it is easy to understand the meaning of infinite loving kindness and compassion, it is difficult to practice them in our daily life. Therefore we must remember their meaning again and again until we can practice infinite loving kindness and compassion towards all beings, at all times, anywhere, and towards everyone alike. We need to develop such thoughts because, just like ourselves wish to gain happiness and be free of suffering, all sentient beings also wish to gain happiness and be free from suffering. We all have the same aspiration, and it is very wrong to ignore others and think of ourselves alone. As Buddhists, especially as Mahayanists, when we generate Bodhicitta, we promise to help all sentient beings. If, after making such a promise, we don’t take care of others, then we have made a false promise. We must keep our promise.

And also, it’s not only our aspiration to be free from suffering that we have in common with all beings; we have much more in common. All beings have, at one time or another, been our very own parent or dear one. We are born in this samsara not only once; we are born in this samsara countless times. We don’t have the same parents or dear ones over and over again every time we are born. Every time we change lives, we change dear ones. So all beings were once our own dear ones, either in this lifetime or in our past lives. When one of these beings becomes our parents in a particular lifetime, they take care of us, and they rescue us from many dangers. Just as we need to repay the kindness of our parents or dear ones in this present life, similarly we also need to repay the kindness of our past lives’ parents and dear ones, whom we now see as either friends, indifferent beings or enemies. Due to this, we need to develop infinite loving kindness and compassion towards all beings without exception.

To think only of oneself is very limited – ‘oneself’ means one person and ‘others’ means an infinite number of beings. For example, if someone gives food to one person and another one gives food to billions of persons, it is obvious that the person who gives food to billions of people will earn much greater merits than the one who gives food to only one person.

Similarly it is far greater to help others than oneself alone.

If one thinks of oneself alone, then one can not even fulfil one’s own wish, which is to gain happiness and remove one’s suffering. This is because the very cause of happiness is altruistic thought or mind, and not selfish thought. The whole cause of suffering is selfish thought. Selfish thought will only produce more and more suffering and will not fulfil one’s own aspirations. Therefore, we must develop and practice loving kindness and compassion towards all beings without any exception. Then we must develop Bodhicitta. It is said that without having genuine loving kindness and compassion, we cannot develop a genuine enlightenment mind. Infinite compassion is the cause of the generation of a genuine enlightenment mind, or Bodhicitta. Bodhicitta means that one wishes to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings, and for that purpose, one is practicing the Buddha Dharma. This is particularly relevant this morning, as we are receiving a teaching on Buddha nature.

In short, having proper motivation means to develop renunciation towards samsara, to cultivate loving kindness and compassion, and then to generate Bodhicitta. It is with this kind of motivation that we must practice the Buddha Dharma and receive the Buddha Dharma teachings.

The source of the Buddha Dharma is Lord Buddha. Lord Buddha performed many noble activities, and His most important noble activity was the turning of the Wheel of Dharma for fortunate disciples. Lord Buddha gave an enormous amount of teachings in order to suit different levels and different mental dispositions of sentient beings.

The reason why the Buddha gave all these different types of teachings is not for followers to merely gain an intellectual understanding of them. The main purpose of all these precious and profound teachings is to help disciples tame their mind. In other words, their principal aim is to remove the defilements that have been in our mind stream for a long, long time, and to help develop positive qualities in our minds, eventually helping us gain Buddhahood. This is the real purpose of Lord Buddha’s teaching. So, we should not be content with intellectual understanding of the Dharma. We must meditate on what we have learnt, and we must apply these teachings to our life.

The Buddha guides us by showing us what is the right path and what is the wrong path. If we follow the right path, we can gain positive qualities and eventually Buddhahood. If we follow the wrong path, then we are bound to experience more and more suffering, and eventually the inconceivable pain of the hell realms.

If we commit a lot of negative physical, verbal, and mental actions, we won’t be able to remove all our suffering just by praying to the Buddha, because we have already created the cause of our suffering, through our negative actions. Even if we implore Him, the Buddha cannot miraculously remove our negative actions, the cause of our suffering, nor is He able to cleanse our negative actions. So whether one can gain liberation or enlightenment depends mainly on oneself, and not on the Buddha or on the teachings alone. If we do not follow the Buddha’s instructions, we cannot be liberated from samsara. In the sutras it is said that oneself is one’s own saviour, and oneself is one’s own enemy. Our worst enemy is not outside of us. Our external enemy is not our worst enemy, because he or she cannot inflict upon us the inconceivable suffering of the hell realm. But the internal enemy, our defilements, can lead us to the hell realms, where one can experience inconceivable sufferings. So the worst enemy is not outside; the worst enemy is within our own mind. We must therefore practice diligently in order to make this life very fruitful and use it to gain Buddhahood swiftly.

The teachings also say that we should perceive the Buddha as a doctor, and ourselves as the patient, our defilement as our sickness, and the teachings as the medicine. And we should perceive the receiving and practicing of the teachings as receiving medical treatment and following the doctor’s advice. For example, when we are sick, even if we consult the best doctor and go to the best hospital, we won’t get better if we don’t follow the doctor’s advice. However skilful the doctor is, if we don’t follow his instructions, such as taking the prescribed food or medicine at the prescribed time.

Similarly, although the Buddha and His teachings are great, if we don’t follow them properly, then it’s our own fault if we suffer. It’s not the fault of the Buddha or of His teachings. So it is not enough to have the Buddha and His teachings. The main thing is that we must follow His instructions properly. If we don’t follow them, then no matter how great the Buddha or His teachings are, this will not help us.

The Buddha Dharma is the sole medicine that cures all kinds of ills, and it is the source of all happiness. And if we really want to practice it, then we have to learn what is to be adopted and what is to be abandoned. Due to our ignorance, although we wish to gain happiness and remove suffering, we don’t perform positive actions, and we commit negative actions. If we look carefully, we’ll see that in the span of 24 hours, the better part of our actions are negative rather than positive. We need to change this. We need to analyse what is the cause of happiness and what is the cause of suffering. Then we will come to understand that the cause of happiness is performing virtuous deeds, and the cause of suffering is performing non-virtuous deeds.

Although in this world, everyone tries very hard to gain happiness and get rid of suffering, what we are doing is to pursue mundane happiness, not genuine happiness. Mundane happiness is not something that we must aspire to. If we do attain mundane happiness in this lifetime, this means our happiness will last no more than 100 years or so. Also, the nature of mundane happiness is not genuine because it is not real happiness. Mundane happiness is actually the suffering of change, not genuine happiness. Also, the cause of mundane happiness is, more often than not, negative actions or impure virtuous deeds. So from a point of view of cause, nature, and duration of happiness, mundane happiness is not something we should aim for. What we need to aim for, is to attain Buddhahood, because Buddhahood is the ultimate state of happiness, the ultimate state of wisdom, compassion, knowledge, and power. This happiness will last forever. It’s not something that will last only for some 100 years. It will last forever. Once we gain Buddhahood, then ultimate happiness will last forever, and the cause of such ultimate happiness is not negative actions. The main cause is uncontaminated virtuous deeds. For this reason, we should not aim for mundane happiness, but we should aim for ultimate happiness, genuine happiness.

In order to develop inner happiness, we shouldn’t think that material development is its real cause. We can see that in the last few decades, there has been a lot of development in the material world, but we cannot say that there has been much development in our inner life. We cannot say that nowadays people experience less mental stress, pressure, or physical pain. This clearly indicates that material development can bring temporary comfort, but not real peace and happiness.

To achieve inner peace and happiness, we should focus on the mind. We should try to develop our inner world, our inner mind. And this mind is not separate from Buddha nature. The texts say that Buddha nature means the non-duality of clarity and emptiness of the mind. So in order to talk about Buddha nature, first we need to talk about the mind.

Actually we know that happiness and suffering are caused by actions. We can classify actions into three: physical actions, verbal actions, and mental actions. Out of these three kinds of actions, the most powerful action is mental action. For example, the dead body has no mind, it only has a physical body but it has no mind. Because of this the dead body cannot perform physical or verbal action.

Another way to explain how mental action is powerful is with the following example: we are currently receiving a teaching; our physical body is in the teaching hall, but if our mind is not focusing on the teaching, if our mind is focusing on something else, then no matter how long we attend the teaching, we cannot comprehend its meaning. Although our physical body is there, if our mind is not concentrating on the teaching, we cannot comprehend the teaching. So, mental action is very, very important.

Also, you can say that the mind is something very powerful because it is the mind that performs actions, positive or negative. It is the mind that experiences happiness and suffering, and it is the mind stream that will go on to the next life. Our body will not go into the next life. Our mind stream will go from this life to our next life, and also our mind stream came from our past life to this life, not our body. Also it is mind that develops positive thoughts such as loving kindness, compassion, and it is mind that develops negative thoughts such as anger, attachment, jealousy and pride. It is mind that will experience the results of our thoughts and actions, both positive and negative. It is mind that will experience liberation and attain Buddhahood. Also it is the mind stream that can go down to the hell realms and experience their suffering. So everything is based on this mind or mind stream. Mind is the one that performs actions and that experiences their results.

In Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosa, it is said that all of the content and container of samsara is produced by our actions, which means that everything animate and inanimate is produced by actions. Inanimate phenomena such as mountains, forests, and so forth, are also a product of our actions. There are two kinds of actions: individual actions and collective actions. Mountains and forests are the results of our collective actions.

For example, in our dreams we can see many different inanimate objects such as mountains and forests and, although they seem very real at the time, they are a projection of our own mind. We can see these inanimate objects in our dreams due to our own actions, our own karma. Similarly, in our waking life, we can see many inanimate objects – and all that we can see is a result of our own karma, these inanimate objects are also the product of our own actions.”

We can classify the mind into two aspects: relative and ultimate truth. In the relative truth, there is mind; in the ultimate truth, or absolute truth, there is no mind. It is important to differentiate between these two truths. If we confuse these two truths, we cannot understand their actual meaning. .

And then, we can also classify the relative mind into two aspects. One is the mind that focuses on external phenomena; this aspect of the mind is very active, very involved with sense objects. The other aspect of the relative mind doesn’t focus on external objects, but rather focuses inwards; it is very clear and calm, free from dualistic thoughts, free from subject and object. So there are two aspects of the mind in relative truth: the external aspect of the mind and the internal aspect of the mind, or the mind that focuses on external objects and the mind that is free from dualistic thoughts; one mind with two aspects.

The mind that focuses on external objects is very busy, full of thoughts, full of movement. The internal aspect of the mind is clear and calm, and it is called the clarity of mind. This is one aspect of Buddha nature.

If we examine this clarity from the perspective of ultimate truth, we cannot find the mind at all. Actually, even in relative truth, we cannot find the mind in any shape, colour or size, and yet there is mind. There is no mind that is inherently existent or truly existent, but there is mind. It is like a dream, or like a mirage. But in ultimate truth, there is no mind at all. After careful examination and logical reasoning, we cannot find the mind at all. The nature of the mind, the natural clarity part of the mind, is emptiness, which is free from the four extremes: extreme of existence, of nonexistence, of both, and of neither. So the real nature of the mind in the ultimate truth is something that we cannot describe through words; it is beyond words. But in order to explain it, ultimate truth is given a name, for example ‘emptiness’. When we say that the nature of mind is emptiness, it does not mean that the mind is empty. Actually it is beyond emptiness. The Madhyamakavatara explains different kinds of emptiness, and one kind of emptiness is called the emptiness of emptiness. Although we use the word ‘emptiness’ to qualify the mind, we shouldn’t think of the nature of mind as emptiness. The real nature of mind is inexpressible; ‘emptiness’ is just a word to help explain the nature of mind.

So, there are two aspects of mind; one is relative truth, and one is absolute truth. In the relative truth, the mind is clear and calm; it is the clarity of mind. In the absolute truth, there is emptiness of mind.

These two truths, clarity and emptiness, are not separable. They are inseparable because the clarity of the mind is none other than the emptiness of mind and emptiness of mind is none other than clarity of mind. These two are inseparable, and this is called the non-duality of clarity and emptiness of mind. This is Buddha nature.

All beings are endowed with this Buddha nature, whether they are noble beings, ordinary beings, or hell beings. The nature of mind is the non-duality of clarity and emptiness. So this Buddha nature, the non-duality of clarity and emptiness, prevails in all beings.

Although the clarity of mind itself changes from moment to moment, the mind stream, the stream of this clarity, does not cease; it will go on uninterrupted right through to Buddhahood. And Buddha nature, the non-duality of clarity and emptiness, is pure from beginningless time. The nature of the mind is pure from beginningless time. It is never stained by any obscuration, all its obscurations are merely temporary, and because of this, all its obscurations are removable. As an example, we look at a cloth that has dirt or dust on it. The dirt or dust is not the nature of the cloth. And, if we use the right method, we can remove the dirt and dust from the cloth. Similarly all these obscurations, such as the obscuration of knowledge and the obscuration of defilements, are not the nature of mind; they are temporary, like dirt or dust on a clean cloth. So if we use the right remedy or method, we can remove all these obscurations. All beings have Buddha nature, and all obscurations are removable, and Buddhahood is attainable. We all have the potential to attain Buddhahood because we have this Buddha nature, and Buddha nature is pure from beginningless time, although this Buddha nature, with which all sentient beings are endowed, is temporarily obscured by defilements. The scriptures explain this through these nine examples:

First example: if a magnificent Buddha, adorned with the 32 signs and 80 qualities, is in the bud of a lotus flower, then we cannot see this Buddha because He is covered or obscured by the bud. Similarly, Buddha nature is like the magnificent Buddha, and the bud of the lotus flower is like the defilements that obscure our Buddha nature.

Second example: Buddha nature is like delicious and wholesome honey, which is covered by bees. The honey is like Buddha nature, and the bees are like the obscurations.

Third example: Buddha nature is like rice in the husk. The husk prevents us from seeing the grain of rice itself. The actual meaning is the same: Buddha nature is like a grain of rice, and obscurations are like the husk.

The fourth example is like a gold coin that is dropped in mud.

The fifth example is a large treasure chest full of jewels lying under a poor family’s house. The family does not know that there is a great treasure under their house. And, because of their ignorance, they live in poverty.

The sixth one is like rice seeds kept in a dry box or in a container. Given the right conditions, these seeds have the potential to produce a crop, but without meeting the right conditions they cannot turn into a crop.

The seventh example is a magnificent Buddha statue made out of precious jewels wrapped in a rotten cloth. Although that rotten cloth has a Buddha statue in it, and it is lying on a busy road with many people passing by it, nobody can see the Buddha statue inside the rotten cloth.

The eighth example: in a poor and destitute mother’s womb, there is a baby destined to become a universal emperor, but at the moment no one, not even the mother, knows that she is pregnant with a future universal emperor. So for the moment, the mother still experiences suffering and humiliation. The baby who will become a universal king is like Buddha nature; the mother’s womb that covers the baby is like an obscuration.

The ninth example: a statue made of precious jewels is covered by mud, and we cannot see the precious statue for the mud.

So through these nine examples, we see that although we have Buddha nature, the potential to become a Buddha, we cannot see it at the moment, due to our own obscuration of knowledge and obscuration of defilements. But if we practice the Buddhadharma properly, then we can reveal this Buddha nature and finally attain Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings.

After receiving a teaching, such as this one on Buddha nature, we should dedicate all our merits to attaining Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings.

What you think about, creates your life around you

The truth of realizing what you are projecting out, from within.
2: The clarity to to see what it’s trying to teach.
3: The ability to see what will manifest as a result.
4: The wisdom to use all manifestations as tools for your future.
5: The inner power to manifest something even better!

Holy Fuck.

This card is associated with attained knowledge. An infant rides a white horse under the anthropomorphized sun, with sunflowers in the background. The child of life holds a red flag, representing the blood of renewal while a smiling sun shines down on him, representing accomplishment. The conscious mind prevails over the fears and illusions of the unconscious. Innocence is renewed through discovery, bringing hope for the future.
  •     Optimism—Expansion—Being radiant—Positive feelings
  •     Enlightenment—Vitality—Innocence—Non-criticism
  •     Assurance—Energy—Personal power—Happiness
  •     Splendor—Brilliance—Joy —Enthusiasm

This card is generally considered positive. It is said to reflect happiness and contentment, vitality, self-confidence and success. Sometimes referred to as the best card in Tarot, it represents good things and positive outcomes to current struggles.

(font: wikipedia)

And the reversed meaning:

The Sun reversed indicates that finding the positive aspects to a particular situation may prove to be difficult. The clouds may be blocking out the warmth, and preventing you from feeling as though everything is on track. You may have experienced setbacks that have damaged your enthusiasm and optimism and have perhaps led you to question whether you can really achieve what you have set out to achieve. You may be feeling depressed, sad or left out. You may be reluctant to proceed and you are no longer enjoying what you are doing. Your direction and path ahead may have become clouded or distorted in some way. Nonetheless, the Sun is never a negative card, so this is only temporary. The obstacles you see can be easily removed if you put your mind to it. It may just take a little more effort than usual.On the other hand, you may be being too positive. That is, your perception of a particular situation is overly optimistic and unrealistic. You do not have a good sense of yourself and what you are and are not capable of. You may have become egotistical and out of touch with whom you really are. You may not be being truthful to yourself and to others, instead trying to talk yourself up when you know you cannot deliver. If this feels like you, then ask others for feedback and to give you a ‘reality check’

(font: biddy tarot)
I don’t even know what to think.. if anyone wants to discuss it here, please, fell free to do so
Now let your spiritual practice be this: As you go about your life, don’t give 100 percent of your attention to the external world and to your mind. Keep some within. Feel the inner body even when engaged in everyday activities, especially when engaged in relationships or when you are relating with nature. Feel the stillness deep inside it. Keep the portal open. It is quite possible to be conscious of the Unmanifested throughout your life. You feel it as a deep sense of peace somewhere in the background, a stillness that never leaves you, no matter what happens out here. You become a bridge between the Unmanifested and the manifested, between God and the world. This is the state of connectedness with the Source that we call enlightenment.
—  Eckhart Tolle