We can mold our mind into any shape we like

Sep 16, 2021


What is it that we are trying to achieve? What is the result of this graded path, this lamrim, what’s the result of this course? Well, it’s an accomplishment called “enlightenment” or “buddhahood.” This term “enlightenment” is used by lots of people in lot of traditions in lots of different ways. 


And which part of us becomes this? Our mind. As Lama Zopa Rinpoche says we can mold our mind into any shape we like.


The etymology of the Sanskrit word “buddha” is very tasty. It tells us exactly the result, which in turn tells us exactly the methodology. “Budh” implies the utter eradication from our mind of all ego, all neuroses, all the attachment, anger, depression, etc., etc., that we assume are at the core of our being. For Buddha, they are not, thus can be removed. 


“Dha” implies the development to perfection of all the goodness, the virtue, the wisdom within us: these are at the core of our being. 


According to the Mahayana interpretation, this is the natural potential of all sentient beings – all “sem-chens”: the Tibetan word that we translate as sentient being but which literally means “mind-possessor.” 


This is radical! And there’s no view like that in neuroscience, in modern psychology. We give equal status to all these parts of us and just assume they’re normal — so normal that we think we’d be abnormal if we didn’t have attachment, anger, jealousy and the rest.


None of us would think we can totally get rid of anger, ego and the rest because we just assume that we are born a certain way and that’s just the way we are. You just have to do your best, you know. We don’t think in terms of growing the positive qualities and getting rid of the negative. 


We do think this way when it comes to cake-making, for example, or any other skill: you are not born as a cake-maker, but you’ve got the potential and you go learn how to become a cake-maker in a course. You’re not born as a mathematician, but you can learn it. You’re not born as Bach, but, hey, you can become like him. We have courses, don’t we? 


In other words, we know we can mold our mind into the shape of a cake-maker, a musician, a mathematician. But we don’t have courses on how to become more loving, more wise, more compassionate. We don’t have confidence that we can turn our minds into a happy, wise, fulfilled, compassionate person.


I mean, the courses on Buddhism should be packed with people! We mightn’t all want to be mathematicians, and we don’t necessarily suffer because we are not a mathematician, but we all suffer in terms of jealousy, and confusion, and depression and the urge to kill and lie and steal, you get my point here. We all definitely want to be happy but don’t want to suffer. Buddha’s expertise is the mind, and the capacity of the human to rid the mind of all the rubbish and develop to perfection all the goodness. 


“Enlightenment” is the term used to refer to the mind of the person who has done the job of perfecting their own positive qualities and absolutely removing the negative. Now those words themselves are kind of understandable, nothing shocking about the words; but when I tell you more precisely the qualities of the person who has achieved this, then it really sounds like science fiction – like “religion.” A mind that has removed all delusions and perfected all goodness would necessarily pervade the universe, know that which exists as it exists, and have infinite empathy with all beings. 


What Buddha is saying is that this is, just naturally, the potential of every being. An acorn, for example, just naturally is a potential oak tree. It’s not as if you come along and you force oak treeness into it and now suddenly your acorn becomes an oak tree. It is just naturally, by its existence, a potential oak tree; an acorn in its nature is a potential oak tree. If you are a living being, you are just naturally a potential buddha. It’s what defines us, Buddha has found. 


The culmination of this course, this lamrim, this graded path, this A-Z course to enlightenment, is this perfection, is this enlightenment. Naturally, you start in junior school. Then, when you have accomplished this, you go to high school, and so on and so forth until, eventually, you have achieved it. It is as practical as that. The Buddha’s approach is that type of practicality. It’s not this mystical, cross-your-fingers-and-hope-for-the best sort of hit-and-miss affair that we think of as spiritual. Do you see what I am saying? And it’s extremely important to think this way; it’s really a sigh of relief, actually. 


We all know we want to be loving and kind, we all know we don’t want to be mean and depressed, but we kind of don’t really know how. We sort of think well, we’ve heard about this thing called meditation and somehow, if you close your eyes, and put the incense on, and make the light low, and the music’s sweet, somehow something will happen inside called spiritual. You understand what I’m saying? 


It’s not like that. The Buddha’s approach is not like that. He says it’s a really tough job, but it’s a do-able job and you start at the beginning and you just keep going. You just keep going and you will get there. We all know practice makes perfect. Actually, the Tibetans have a nicer way of putting it: “Nothing gets more difficult with practice.” What a relief! It should give us great courage. 


It’s good to know as a starting point that the goal of all of this is to achieve this buddhahood. Because why? Because you’re a living being and this is the potential of your mind. They say we possess buddha- nature. We don’t talk like that, right? We don’t say, oh, yes, an acorn possesses oak tree-nature. But we know exactly the meaning, don’t we? It’s a quaint way to put it. 


Well, you’re a potential buddha. Very simple. That’s what it means: you possess buddha-nature. It’s not a little Buddha in there, hiding from you, for you to find. Like there’s not a little oak tree in there that, when you find it it’ll suddenly explode into life. We know that. You understand. An acorn is something that when you give it the right causes and conditions – the sun, the water, the soil, and time and patience – it will just naturally become an oak tree. 


The same here. These techniques are all there, tried and tested, for molding our mind into the mind of a buddha. 



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