When we begin to explore the nature of the mind we will inevitably encounter the wild and uncontrollable aspects of our normal, somewhat overcrowded, habitual mind. Only with guidance and skillful practice will we begin to recognize that the mind has an undercurrent of clarity and luminosity that is of a very different order.
This state of “Buddha nature,” or awakened potential, is possibly the single most important recognition at the beginning of our journey. Within each of us, our nature is primordially pure, even though the vessel may be flawed.
A number of metaphors for the presence of Buddha nature are given. It is like a golden statue wrapped in filthy rags; a jewel buried beneath the house of a pauper; honey surrounded by a swarm of bees; a seed contained within rotting fruit; gold buried in mud.
Our Deepest Nature is Pure
These metaphors are a way of conveying the notion of an intrinsic primordial purity that is temporarily obscured from view. When I first encountered these metaphors I found they had a surprisingly profound effect upon my mind. Until that time I don’t think I had ever been given the message that my innermost being was healthy.
Rather, I had somehow learned to fear that if I revealed my deepest nature, it would be found unacceptable and even dangerous or evil. To then begin to trust that something positive could be revealed dramatically changed my self-perception.
I could begin to let go of my tight self-control and trust that within my chaos and confusion was an innate potential for something positive and healthy. So long as I failed to recognize this, my sense of self-value was indeed like a golden statue hidden within filthy rags, and I was completely identified with the rags.
The freedom this life can offer us is the capacity to understand this intrinsic value. Regrettably, much of our time is caught up in a preoccupation with life struggles and emotional insecurities that distract us from what might be possible. Even in the West, where we are much more materially fortunate than many parts of the world, we are still dogged by psychological habits that block our potential.
Far from using this human potential meaningfully, we use it to indulge our insecurities and exploit the natural environment around us. Blindly, we create more suffering and harm in the world rather than truly recognizing our potential. As Shantideva points out, we all wish to have happiness but constantly create the causes for suffering. While this is so, only when something wakes us up do we start to take responsibility for this remarkable gift of life.
The Call to Awaken
This call to awaken may in part come from an experience of suffering; it may also come through the experience of what we might call a vision of our innate wholeness.
An absence of this kind of vision can be a terrible experience in people’s lives. It can leave some feeling desperate and hopeless and that life lacks all meaning. At such times, the pull towards anesthetics to deaden the feeling of emptiness may be very tempting, but this only prolongs the agony. If we give ourselves time and allow ourselves to wait and remain open to the process we are going through, a change can occur.
Renewal of Vision
The germ of a renewal of vision and a sense of purpose grows gradually from within; it cannot be implanted from outside. Forcing this process by fabricating something that is not genuinely emerging from within seldom works for long. This “dark night of the soul” is not resolved by someone trying to make us feel positive and give us hope.
A vision of the goal helps to generate the inspiration and strength of motivation to venture out on the journey of awakening. This journey asks us to gradually surrender to and serve the Self, our Buddha nature. Such service is an act of loving-kindness and compassion for the welfare of others, which is like the moisture of nourishment that makes the journey worthwhile. Without this love and compassion, the journey would become arid and dry.
However we choose to engage in the journey, a vision of the goal will be a guiding light that provides hope when we are struggling. If we lose this vision, we may find ourselves snuffling around in the dirt with no idea of why we are there. We can become so ground down by the demands and responsibilities of life that our world comes to lack vision and inspiration.
Responding to Our Inner Visions
Inspiration is a vital part of the path, particularly at the beginning. While the call may come from painful circumstances that need to change, we may also need to listen to our inner visions and respond to their inspiration.
Our vision may not be as grand as the idea of enlightenment. It may, however, be an instinctual sense that there can be something different. The seed or germ of our capacity to change is often found in the darkest moment.
The goal of the vision is not something outside of ourselves that is unreachable; it is our own true nature, the nature we can easily lose sight of in our complicated, high pressure, and often destructive materialistic culture.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Snow Lion Publications. ©2010.
The Wisdom of Imperfection: The Challenge of Individuation in Buddhist Life
by Rob Preece.
About the Author
Psychotherapist and meditation teacher Rob Preece draws on his 19 years as a psychotherapist and many years as a meditation teacher to explore and map the psychological influences on our struggle to awaken. Rob Preece has been a practicing Buddhist since 1973, principally within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Since 1987 he has given many workshops on comparative Buddhist and Jungian psychology. He is an experienced meditation teacher and Thangka painter (Buddhist icons). Visit his website at http://www.mudra.co.uk