Introduction to Buddha Nature

It is the Buddha nature within us that makes it possible to free ourselves from samsara and attain lasting peace & joy, using our good qualities for the benefit of others. Our precious human lives give us the opportunity to actualize our Buddha nature.

Taken together, these two topics (Buddha nature & precious human lives):

  • Help us appreciate what we have going for us in this life, and to see our potential and the conducive circumstances we have for actualizing it.
  • Are the antidote to depression, to putting oneself down, to feeling helpless & worthless. They help us have a sense of enthusiasm & energy about the possibilities that our life affords us, giving life meaning & purpose.

Blue Sky Analogy

Our minds, pure & undefiled, are analagous to the clear, blue sky.

  • The disturbing attitudes (and their karmic imprints) are the clouds that keep us from seeing the real nature of our minds.
  • These are just temporary obscurations; it's possible to eliminate them completely & forever because they're based on misconceptions, projections, exaggerations, etc.
  • Wisdom is the antidote to the disturbing attitudes.

Two Kinds of Buddha Potential

There are two types of Buddha potential:

  • Natural Buddha potential
    • It's empty of all false projections of being unchanging or independent; our minds (and all phenomena) are free from inherent existence, i.e., they lack their own permanent, inherent nature.
    • There's no fixed essence (e.g., a soul) that traps who we are or limits what we might become.
    • It's untainted by the disturbing attitudes, though they presently obscure our natural Buddha nature.
    • This empty nature of mind is our birthright and cannot be taken from us.
  • Evolving Buddha potential
    • This refers to all the aspects of us that can be increased, developed, & transformed until they become the omniscient mind of a fully enlightened one.
    • It includes both the conventional nature of our minds (their clarity & awareness) and the positive mental states (e.g., compassion).
    • The mind is a formless entity:
      • It's clear in that it illuminates or makes objects clear.
      • It's aware because it has the ability to cognize or perceive objects.
  • This nature of clarity & awareness is one of our evolving Buddha potentials.
  • Good qualities (e.g., compassion, patience, love, non-attachment, joyous effort, etc.) evolve & expand as we follow the path.
  • At the end of the path, they'll transform into the minds of the Buddhas that we'll become; thus, they're also called the evolving Buddha nature.

These point to Buddhism's positive & optimistic view of life & human nature:

  • We each have within us the natural & evolving Buddha potentials.
  • These seeds of perfection cannot be stolen or destroyed.
  • So there's no reason to feel hopeless or helpless; our Buddha potential provides a basis for self-confidence & positive aspiration.
  • We can remove the temporary obscurations (disturbing attitudes & their karmic imprints) by following the path, i.e., cultivating wisdom & compassion.
    • The wisdom realizing emptiness enables us to perceive our natural Buddha potential, which is empty of fantasized ways of existence.
    • Compassion is a realistic attitude wishing everyone to be free from all unsatisfactory & miserable conditions.
  • We tend to have a very narrow, limited view of our own potential.
    • Fully enlightened beings were once just like us, with the same mental afflictions & obscurations.
    • They practiced the path, developed their good qualities, purified their minds, and transformed into Buddhas.
    • There's no reason we can't do that too.
  • We think we're inherently selfish, so we don't try to do anything about the selfishness. But we do have the ability to cooperate, to be kind to each other, to overcome the self-centeredness that plagues our mind.
  • We can eliminate the mental afflictions & wrong views because they're all based on misperceptions; in contrast, the beneficial attitudes & views are based on perceiving reality as it is, and thus can be developed limitlessly.
  • Wisdom can completely eradicate the ignorance at the root of our problems.
  • Because of our Buddha natures, we have this hope: we don't have to be limited by all the conditioning we've received in our life, or even by the mental afflictions that have come with us from previous lives.

Our precious human life gives us the ability to actualize our precious Buddha potential.

  • We have the conditions in our life to cleanse our minds, to develop our good qualities, to transform into a fully enlightened being:
    • We have spiritual yearning & inclinations.
    • We have human intelligence to understand the teachings.
    • We have religious freedom.
    • Our faculties are intact.
    • We have access to teachers & teachings.
  • We have to make sure we don't take this opportunity for granted and/or waste it.
  • Realizing that all these conditions came together to create this opportunity helps rid us of our complaining, "poor me" mentality. We have so much going for us in this life.