We all possess buddha nature

Sep 14, 2023


All beings just naturally possess the potential to become a buddha – free of all delusions and perfected in all goodness. Which part of us has that potential? The mind.


From the Buddhist perspective, mind is the basis of everything: all our happiness and all our suffering. If this is so, we’d better understand what the mind actually is – because Buddha’s view is mostly certainly not the view of neuroscience and modern psychology!


Before we understand mind’s ultimate nature, its buddha nature, we first need to understand how it exists conventionally.


First of all, it is not physical, not our brain, not even a function of the brain. You could say that what goes on in the brain is a physical indicator of what goes on in the mind.


Mind is the name given to the subjective cognitive process of thoughts, feelings, emotions, unconscious, subconscious, intuition, instinct – you name it. 


Mind is beginningless; you can’t track it back to some first cause. If everything is governed by the natural law of cause and effect, by definition there cannot be a first cause, as nutty as it sounds to us. We all desperately want a first cause; but it’s absurd. As soon as you say it began back there somewhere, you’re saying that there is a first moment that itself didn’t have a cause. Not possible.


Therefore it is not the handiwork of anyone else: this is huge: it clearly contradicts the views of both materialism and creator religions. As His Holiness joked in one of his conversations with scientists: Big bang? No problem. Just not the first big bang, that’s all!


We either think that we come from a creator or our parents. Sure, our body comes from our parents, but not our mind. For the Buddha, the idea that our mind, our thoughts and feelings and emotions and our various tendencies come from someone else is pretty weird.


Our mind is its own continuity: it’s referred to as a “mental continuum”: a river of mental moments, each moment of which finds its main source in the previous moment, and so on, back and back and back. 


Buddhism asserts far subtler levels of cognition that can be accessed by achieving single-pointed concentration, samatha. The only levels of mind that the prevailing views posit are conceptuality and sensory. 


Mind, being impermanent, can change; it’s not set in stone. This is incredibly encouraging and can lead us to understand the subtler fact that it lacks an intrinsic nature: its emptiness.


And its emptiness is what is meant by its buddha nature. Because the mind is empty of existing in and of itself, from itself, as Lama Yeshe puts it, it can 1. be removed of all delusions and 2. be perfected in all goodness. 


Every mind possesses buddha nature in the same way that every acorn possesses oak-tree nature: it’s a simple way to say it. As long as there is an acorn, by definition it is a potential oak tree: that’s its nature; it’s what it is in its very being. That potential defines its existence.


Of course, it won’t happen on its own. It’s a dependent arising. So give it the appropriate conditions, such as soil, air, warmth and time, and it will just naturally manifest its true nature, an oak tree. 


That’s Buddha’s view about mind. Our mind, beginningless and endless, just naturally possesses the potential to be a buddha mind.


It too needs the appropriate conditions: first subdue the servants of the delusions, the body and speech, by living in vows; then subdue the delusions such as attachment and aversion and the rest; then enhance the virtues by practicing love and compassion and bodhichitta; then, in the subtlety of single-pointed concentration, using much logic to argue with the primordial misconception that utterly believes in the inherent me, finally see for the first time that there never has been, isn’t, and never could be the self-existent I that we’ve believed in since beginningless time.


By perfecting this realization in combination with perfecting bodhichitta, our natural potential for buddhahood will finally manifest.


Then we will never give up manifesting in countless bodies in countless universes for countless eons to lead countless suffering sentient beings to their buddhahood.


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