Annual India Tours
These lectures were transcribed by T Vd Broek. Heartfelt
gratitude is offered for all the hours of work spent on this Dharma activity.
These talks are offered free of charge. They have been slightly edited.
April 14 1991
To continue with the teachings on refuge, I want to also deal with what goes on in ones mind and what for a person trying to become more integrated, what are the essential points of that. Why one does any meditation practice, why one strives to become more integrated and positive about life, is based on what is termed Buddha nature. It says, for all of us as living entities, we have an essential nature termed Buddha nature, and on the basis of that, one pursues one's practice.
The benefits of being involved in this sense is the recognition that it benefits you, you benefit by your own realizations of your own self. In developing your meditation, it is to give you a greater sense of tranquillity, and also to give you a greater understanding of yourself and the world you are involved with. In the first, if you sit, observe the breath, try to relax and become more one with yourself, that applies to the first aspect of meditation of tranquillity. The second aspect, if during the sitting you ask yourself why, to be able to answer those questions is the issue because then you have reasons of being involved with what you are doing. For a Buddhist, the basis of the practice is called the Buddha nature which is said to the same as the continuity of one's mind.
If when you think of Buddha nature you think of the chest and a little Buddha sitting there! Well, it's not that at all. The Buddha nature is your mind. When we speak of that, we say you have a continuity of mind. That continuity, for example, why when you went to bed last night and you got up this morning and you remember who you were, is because there is a continuity there. It sounds silly, but often we do not think about ourself very much. We think of ourselves as an immediate experience. But that immediate experience we have of the world around us is based on that continuity of experiences which we go through and that builds the person we are. If we are a more conscious person, then of course, we can build on our experiences and become a more wise or knowledgeable person which of course is of benefit. If we are very unconscious, then of course, we go through life, we make mistakes, we hopefully learn, and we hopefully realize the right way way to do things and the wrong way to do things, or what appears to be a wrong or right way or such.
The basis of your practice is to develop yourself to be a more centered person and secondly, the basis of why you are doing that is on the basis of your continuity which we could term as buddha nature. Buddha nature is not the gross level of mind you have, by that I mean when you sit there are are thinking individually to yourselves, those thoughts of yourself, you are in this lifetime, your wife or husband, children house, job, all of those are on a coarse level of consciousness, it is said. They are done with the intellect. If that was the basis of your Buddha nature, then you could loose it if you decided that you do not want to have Buddha nature, because you would think I do not have Buddha nature and it would disappear. That is not the case.
Buddha nature refers to the subtle level of mind which is the continuity of consciousness. Because, even when you go to sleep and your mind is not functioning on an intellectual level, even at that time your Buddha nature is very much there. In that way, it has to be something which is pervasive to ourselves as human beings, but also to animals, insects and so on. All that have mind or the capacity to discriminate, all have Buddha nature because their mind has continuity to itself, taking itself from one day to the next.
So when you do meditation, and in peaking of refuge, when you take refuge and develop yourself in the context of refuge, you are trying to develop that continuity of mind you have which re-phrased is developing your own Buddha nature, and when I spoke of the benefits of taking refuge or starting to become a more centered person, the benefits are directly for you. You cultivate yourself, you try to become positive, you try to resolve issues, you try to become more centered. In that way you are benefitting yourself directly, and that is the emphasis of the whole practice. When you ask what it means to be involved in meditation, it means I am involved in trying to become more at peace or realized about my own Buddha nature.
Buddha nature, from the Buddhist perspective, has to be taken on a universal level. It is not something just had by Buddhists. The Buddha nature is pervasive for all beings with mind. Secondly, you could ask, is that Buddha nature good or bad? If it were only good, then how is it that there are negative people? If Buddha nature is the very subtle level of consciousness in my mind, is it intrinsically good or bad, or pure? Buddhists say that the most subtle level of mind in intrinsically pure and neutral. If it were otherwise there would be for example that one could not be bad because of the eternal seed of good in your mind. Then how could someone become bad?
For example, if you planted an apple seed, you would get an apple tree. The tree is according to the seed. You cannot expect from the seed to produce other than an apple. In that way, if Buddha nature were intrinsically good, you could not expect it to produce bad things. On the other side, there are philosophy which state we have a negative mind such as original sin. Again that would not be valid because if it were the case, that what is the use of any practice? Then basically you would be marked from beginning and then there would be no reason to do anything! For example if you were black and wanted to be white, if you did not have the potential to become white within you, it would be an impossibility. It would be foolish to think that way.
So the Buddhist philosophy says the most subtle level of mind is neutral because it allows all potentiality. In that way, it is related to the sky in the sense of being the vacuity of space. The openness of space. In that way, when clouds or pollution goes through that space, the space does not complain about it. Space is just neutral. It allows whatever happens to happen in it. They say that is much like our Buddha nature. It remains neutral. In this way a very negative nature does not make Buddha nature unhappy. Again if the person is terribly virtuous, it does not make the Buddha nature happier.
You could say that the nature of whatever is manifesting, the person, or black cloud which means a person with a lot of negativity, what the individual would experience would be a lot of unhappiness. They have a negative mind which looks at deceit, further it's own ends, and draws lots of suffering proportionately because of the negative mode of negative activities. They would suffer a great deal. In contrast, a person with good qualities does not suffer a great deal because their nature is warm. I relate it to a negative person who draws all energy to themselves, and a positive person as emitting energy by their kindness, consideration. Their energy is open that way.
You can say a more positive person is more in harmony with Buddha nature than a person who is negative. This is a subjective way of looking at it because a Buddhist would say on the ultimate plane, everything is just as it is, nothing is good and bad. You can say if a person expresses positive quality about themselves, they have a certain glory of being which is related to the fact that their nature is warm, friendly and open. That is in harmony with one's Buddha nature in the sense that Buddha nature is open and expansive and not tight and closed minded.
If an individual thinks they would like to practice and be dedicated to my practice and want to work sincerely on myself, with that mind, we have to be aware of the benefits. Why am I doing this sort of practice. You are doing it because you are basing your practice on the continuity of your mind. So it is something directly related to you. Not because if you are part of this group you are going to receive benefits like clothes, car, house etc. It is not like that. It is personal integration and relates to my mind will develop and become better mind because I am working with the continuity of my mind, working with that which is my Buddha nature.
Secondly having done that, what style of activity should I undertake, you should undertake those which are positive or or of a good nature which benefit you, because they are expressive of being open minded, warm supportive, helpful for the world around and such things. In contrast to being a selfish person who has a negative attitude thinking of what I want in the world and how can I get it, and taking advantage of other people to get it. This is a self centered attitude which sets the person up in a very difficult position, very un-accomodating, very brittle. Because they are very rigid in their mind, any not in accord with the way they want reality to be, freaks them out and they get angry, hostile, aggressive and so on because their wishes are not being met. So negativity which establishes a strong grasping for self really is the cause of suffering.
A positive person, although they might suffer because the world is a difficult place, has love there and could choose to do something for the suffering people in the world, and it would be an expression of being positive. If you were really positive, you would work with the situation and find ways to accomplish that which seems difficult. If they truly have a positive nature, even with difficulties, still they are positive, still they work with what they have.
You could say that is literally the definition of what a Buddha is. We say the Buddha works for the benefit of all sentient beings. We mean, the individual that attains enlightenment does not just work for Buddhists. That would be a limited entity, wouldn't it? A person who receives enlightenment works for the benefit of all sentient beings because their mind is of a compassionate nature equally looking on all. The quality of the Buddha is to look at the sentient being from where the being is at, and what that individual needs in his situation! Looking at what that person has and what is the potential for some positive growth.
Coming back to looking at our continuity of mind and with the premise that we want to meditate, why we are meditating is to develop positive qualities, become more peaceful, become a nicer person whatever, if we have that as the basis of our practice and then we sit and meditate and go to what that means if you do that, it means you become a nicer person. And if you grow and actually accomplish that, you would be more compassionate, considerate, generous, all those positive things which if taken to the nth degree, would be the Buddha.
The Buddha is not something not related to being a kind person. That is the basis of what makes you the Buddha. So you should not think of enlightenment as being something completely unrelated to you. That you are a stupid person sitting here and don't even know how to meditate, that is not appropriate. The basis of your personal enlightenment is based on the continuity of your mind, the generation of positive qualities, and this means getting in touch with yourself. Just being able to sit down, be at peace with yourself, and then to work with whom and what you are, just as you are. Not thinking you are something that I am not.
For example to think of yourself as a paragon of virtue when you are not. You should think of yourself as you are, a seedy rotten lousy person with lots of hang-ups and problems. And if you do that, you are more realistic. And if you work at the level of trying to be a better person and in each day have that intention about yourself, that is a realistic way to develop yourself. When you sit down to meditate, you don't disappear with all the badness and you are this wonderful person, and when you are not meditating, you are something different, that would be split personality and meditation would not be effective for you.
You need to have when you meditate that you allow yourself to be open minded and at peace with yourself. And from that position, you work on trying to develop positive qualities. So it works in meditation and out of meditation. That you draw some of that positive attitude that you have generated into day to day activities.
The main emphasis of what I have talked about is the continuity of your mind is the basis of refuge. It is the Buddha nature. When one works at becoming a practitioner, one is basing it on the continuity of the mind and the development of that into a more positive person. Also you could say, realizing the nature of one's own mind. With meditation and development of tranquillity of mind, it is said Buddha nature nature reveals itself on it's own almost.
For the meditation, relax, say, I am here, this is what I am. If I cannot be comfortable being here and now, it is important that we accept ourselves for who and what we are. And our internal dialogue, if it is conducive is benefits. But if we are not comfortable with ourselves, we need to become familiar with ourselves.
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