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29 Jan 2010

The Buddha nature within

A pure Buddha nature exists within all human beings and it's up to you to banish all negative behaviour, such as anger, selfishness, miserliness in order to discover and cultivate that connection.

Buddhists always talk about the Buddha nature within. It doesn’t mean that we are Buddhas already, it just means that the potential to be a Buddha is there.

How we activate the potential is by positive actions, such as being selfless and helping others. Negative behaviour, such as anger, selfishness, miserliness, will keep the potential down.

H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche said that the ultimate nature of our mind is clear and clean. Like water. The nature of water is clean. However, if there is mud in there, the water becomes dirty. But when the mud is completely removed, the water becomes pure again. Likewise, our minds have the Buddha potential there, mixed with piles of crap but we think that the pile of crap is us, when it is not.

So how do we define ourselves? Do we define ourselves by our achievements? Our material wealth? Which family we belong to? Our sexuality? Our political affiliation?

One of the most enlightening moments I have had was when I realised that only I define myself. I used to tell my partners and myself that I could never be monogamous. I said very arrogantly, I’m just like that! Take it or leave it. And when they took it, it was a huge boost to my ego and I never thought of the hurt I would cause and the prospect that I had to change never even crossed my mind. Don’t you know people who say, I’m impatient, I’m loud, I’m direct – I’m just like that, okay?

When we say I’m just like that – it means we are not willing to change. It also means I don’t care about you because I am MORE important hence why should I change to make you feel better. It’s pure selfishness.

When we are fixed in our minds that we are like that, things will go wrong for us – people leave us, so we change partners. Colleagues don’t like us, so we change jobs – and the cycle goes on and on. Then, when we are alone, we keep wondering why and how unfair life is.

How our mind works depends completely on our motivation. If we are motivated by selfishness, we will move backwards spiritually. If we are motivated by selflessness, we will move forwards.

If we always think we cannot do more, we cannot be better, because we are like that, then we will not do more, we will not be better and yes, we will remain like that.

Everything comes from our thoughts. Everything that we are came from choices we made. So whatever we are or have now, we are responsible.

I’ve often asked friends to help out at charity events, some of them say they have no time. They have their work, their family commitments, they need to feed their cat. Or I’ve invited them to Dharma teachings and they say they cannot make it because they have dinner plans! I’ve often thought – you can eat dinner tomorrow! Rinpoche is only giving teachings this evening and we don’t know when he will teach again! You have a hot date – so what? You go out for dinner, end up in bed if you’re lucky (you think) and then tomorrow – what is the result? Sure it was fun. Then what? What change did it make in your life? It’s all a question of value. Our choices are a great insight to see how we prioritise.

People have flown in from Australia, from UK, to volunteer in our Dharma organisation but I can’t even get my friend to cross the great divide from Bangsar to Petaling Jaya to attend a talk.

If I said would you like to meet Brad Pitt or Robert Pattinson or Angelina Jolie or whoever tickles your tonsils? Some of you might immediately cancel your dinner plans, beg off sick from a conference call with your HQ in San Diego, delay your work deadline and say yes. So it’s not a question of whether you can or not. It’s how badly you want it. I guess people choose NOT to attend a Dharma teaching because they don’t see the value or benefit to themselves. It’s like if you offer a 50-carat flawless diamond to a man who lives under a tree in deepest Africa. To him, the diamond is just a rock and is of no value. He wouldn’t give a toss about it while in the so-called civilised world, people would kill for far less.

If you are reading this column, it is likely that you have an interest in Buddhism, or at the very least, an interest in a higher self that you can be. Whether it remains an interest or it develops and grows so that you begin to discover the Buddha nature within is completely and only up to you.

Sharon Saw is a writer / editor at Kechara Media & Publications, which focuses on publishing the teachings of H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche, a high incarnate Lama of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. You can follow Sharon on Twitter. This column will appear every other Friday.

Reader's Comments

1. 2010-02-01 21:33  
Our mind determines our actions. Our actions tell who we are. It is so important to take care our mind, away from greed, hatre, selfishness and all other negative thoughts. With Metta, may you well and happy.
2. 2010-02-03 12:45  
Perception is something we all need to work on though out our lives to think one knows everything is to stop growing, to forget where we came from "nature" is to forsake nature and be left behind by the every changing laws of nature. True knowledge is knowing what one does not know, and try to learn more each and everyday with open eyes.
Our minds are reflections of out perceptions / awareness / and past learning.
just some of my thoughts...
3. 2010-02-09 00:04  
Believe is one thing; manifest the potential is another
4. 2010-03-21 17:13  
Sharon, I think the problem regarding your friend's attitude is that most of us are so caught up in the affairs of life on this earth that we get used to thinking that this is all there is to it.

We are like bus travellers who develop such an attachment to their bus that they are focussed on things like how to grab the best seat, how to help themselves to some light bulb or some fittings on the bus, how to steal food from some fellow traveller, and so on. We forget that we too are on a journey; one in which we have idea when we will be reaching our destination or even what that destination is going to be like.

The problem with realizing this situation can be explained with the example of the clean and dirty water that you've used. Out of our attachment to life and our identification with daily occurrences, our minds are in a state of constant agitation; as with the muddy water the Truth is obscured from us. If the water can clear up somehow, we can perceive the Truth through it. But, for the water to clear, our minds must be calm. It's a cycle that needs to be broken somehow.
Perhaps the necessary catalyst for that will arise some day in your friend's life.

But, we must also remember that it is not our task on this planet to "develop" others. Some religions tell you that that is precisely our task as a "true believer"; that we are granted brownie points in heaven based on the number of converts we make down here. You and I know that that is rubbish. Cleverly marketed, no doubt, but rubbish all the same.

So, I think it is really up to your friend to find his destiny on his own. As long as he is law abiding and doesn't create hell for others or lay havoc on the environment, we can all be happy, right?
5. 2010-05-10 01:56  
nicely written, Sharon. do continue your great work. :)

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