From the Buddhist point of view, there is really a big tragic that is happening all the time. The fact that all beings, like you and me, and specially those who are walking outside here, you know, sentient beings, even so they are adorned with buddha-nature – wherever they go, buddha-nature goes – they just miss it all the time. That is the biggest tragedy. It is so near, it is just so closed, it is right here in front, even closer than in front of you. But most of us, we miss it. That is the biggest tragedy.
Buddha taught emptiness, for instance like on the Vultures Peak he taught prajnaparamita. But also Buddha taught buddha nature. And at glance, you will see a little bit of a contradiction. One is totally non existent and all of that. The moment the buddha nature is taught, there is an element of something does exist. I mean if you read the Uttaratantra, very heavy words like “it is unchanging”, “it is indestructible”, the buddha nature is almost like a Hindu atman. This is again, as I was telling you earlier, to cancel each other out. Maybe I should not be using all this kind of inauspicious language like “canceling each other”. I should use more holy language, such as union of the emptiness and the clarity. But actually, it actually means canceling each other out. Did you know that? ??? or the union is exactly canceling each other out. It is purposely done, even the way he taught. In the Avatamsaka, a very beautiful example of a mother nursing a baby. And the doctor says: “Milk is not good for this baby.” So the mother applies something very bitter on her nipple. And then when next time when the baby comes and want to drink, it tastes really bad and not good, so shies away. After a period of time, the doctor says: “Oh the baby now is enough of refraining from the milk, he has to drink milk.” Now she has to win back the baby to her milk. So then she has really coach the baby to how you know – see both are trick. There is something bitter. Trying to lure the baby. This is what the Buddha does, its a game that they play. It is.
Because of our innate buddha quality or the buddha nature, many times when it is accompanied by merit, even a small incident or small slice of life can actually spark inspiration, compassion, love, bodhicitta. This can happen to many people. Sight of a horrendous killing and mass murdering, for some people, some of us, when you look at it, if at that point if you are accompanied with some kind of a merit, that sight can really spark renunciation mind, love and compassion towards the ignorance of the sentient being. And you can take of from there. In this case, ugly it may be, that horrendous picture of somebody mutilated, somewhere in Gaza or Iraq, Bagdad, actually has done what Bodhisattva’s manifestation does. It sparked, it triggered that, it was the leader, that thought became the leader that which leads all the enlightened thought.
Now to the Mahayana. For the Mahayana, historically bound, the physically bound Buddha is actually a manifestation, meaning is not the real one so to speak. It’s manifested. So the real Buddha is usually out of lack of choice of words, we choose the word, many words, like dharmakaya or buddha nature that we talked this morning. And buddha nature is a very big subject, I was just hitting on very small aspect of buddha nature which was, remember, the defilements are removable. I think that much understanding is good enough to begin. And to this truth, to this nature of, nature that although defilements are so blatantly, obviously there, our defilements are so thick and large and long and tall and completely vivid and very much there. But. And big, and many. But no matter, they are all removable. And that, what we call it ???, which is quality of absence, we call it. It is a quality that is an absence of dirt, remember the dish washing example I give you. That is the ultimate object of refuge and that, you know if you take refuge to that, nothing can go wrong. It’s undeceiving.
Student: When you are speaking the other day in Oxford you mentioned that meditation is a bit of a trick in the sense that you use it to make sense as though I guess to work with relative reality. Would you say taking refuge in buddha nature is also a bit of a trick?
For now yes yes, very much. Anything that is a path is a trick. But that is a necessary trick so. Very important. That is a very important trick. Very very important. Because if you don’t have that, it is a bit like you have to want the oil right. First you have to want the oil. Then you have to believe that the sesame seed will do the trick. You have to also, together you have to believe that this piece of paper won’t do the job. All of that is necessary to build the path. And once the oil is extracted, oh sesame seed you get rid of it. No need.
Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge, London 2010
And Jamyang Khyentse Choekyi Lodro said: If you want to see the buddha nature, the closest, the closest reflection of this buddha nature is this physical human guru. Other than that, there are many distant reflection like the Shakyamuni, you know Avalokiteshvara. Those are distant though. Those are distant. And this is a big point. See this is also why the guru path makes the path short. Because you know, with Shakyamuni Buddha and all of this, they will never come and correct you, you understand. You can do anything. You can basically interpret your path. This is the problem with the guruless path.
We have the buddha nature. All he has to say is: “Hey, you are Buddha.” That is all he needed to say. But simplicity is not something we are used to. We need complication. That is why he said eighty four thousand teachings, hundred thousand prostrations, mandala offerings, incense, lamps, Tibetan rituals, bell, damaru. All kinds of complications and we love it, we love it, we love it.
This question has been asked by myself to many lamas, whether there is any difference between atman and buddha nature. Very very difficult to answer this in one way. On the other hand, the Buddhist fundamental view of emptiness always helps. buddha nature is emptiness, emptiness is buddha nature. Emptiness is not other than the buddha nature and buddha nature is not other than the emptiness. That’s quote Heart Sutra. So basically buddha nature is not a phenomena. It is not a phenomenon. Whereas atman, the way the Upanishads talks about atman, it seems to be indicating that it is a phenomenon. And that maybe one of the biggest difference between the Hindu concept of atman the Buddhist concept of buddha nature. I will tell you, see, buddha nature is actually what we call dande. It is a result of elimination. You got it? Result of elimination. If you were to ask me: “How can you prove that buddha nature exist? Show me buddha nature.” Very difficult. Right? But there is something I can do and that is I can prove that defilements is destroyable. You got it? That ignorance is destroyable. Aggression, passion, ignorance, pride, jealousy, all these are destroyable. They are temporal. They are dependent. They are caused. They are conditioned. With effort we can destroy all of them. That I can prove. Easily. Let’s say you are an angry person. Right. Even without using the Buddhist method, somebody can pad you shoulder. Calm down. Calms down. So we know that anger is not a permanent entity. It is something that can be manipulated. It is something that can be destroyed. Now so I can prove that all these negative emotions can be destroyed absolutely. So what I am saying is I can proof the existence of absence of ignorance. And that proving, that absence of ignorance is presence of the buddha nature. Other than that, if you want me to show you buddha nature with light glowing from its head, six arms, eight legs. It doesn’t exist. And if it does exist then it becomes an entity and then it is very dangerous. Then Buddhist concept of buddha nature will become like a Christian concept of soul. See the Christians talk about saving the soul. Isn’t it? Save my soul, save his soul. You don’t save buddha nature. Buddha nature itself is a savior. It is the Buddha. Buddha cannot be saved. Two different thing.