The master Ashvagosha says:
All these sources of good that I have accomplished
I dedicate as the cause of the state beyond the world,
Without thoughts related to cyclic existence, or hopes
Of any resulting fame, praise, or happiness, celestial or human.
Unless all our meritorious actions are backed by the skillful means of compassion and the wisdom of emptiness, they will merely become causes of cyclic existence resulting in cyclic existence. So it is extremely important that our actions be exclusively backed by the wisdom that realizes the profound meaning.
As we find in The Way of the Bodhisattva,
When something and its nonexistence
Both are absent from before the mind,
No other option does the latter have:
It comes to perfect rest, from concepts free.
When we do not have in mind any characterizing thoughts, nor even think of emptiness, which is absence of characteristics, but remain, without remaining, in the state of emptiness — the ultimate nature that transcends both things with characteristics and the mental image of absence of characteristics — the accumulation of merit becomes perfectly pure, as indicated in Introduction to the Middle Way:
Giving, void of giver, gift, receiver,
Is called a perfection that transcends the world.
The object to which you are offering the Buddhafield, the things you are
offering, and you yourself, the offerer, are from the beginning devoid of real
existence or characteristics, so rest in evenness in the natural state completely free of elaboration, without any concept of subject, object, and action.
Offering in this way, as an unceasing manifestation of the merely illusory appearance aspect of interdependent arising, will become an unsurpassable source of good, in which generosity and the other transcendent perfections are performed with the eye of wisdom and the two accumulations are united.
We have a choice. We can spend our whole life suffering because we can’t relax with how things really are, or we can relax and embrace the open-endedness of the human situation, which is fresh, unfixated, and unbiased.
We have a tendency to think in terms of doing and not in terms of being. We think that when we are not doing anything, we are wasting our time. But that is not true. Our time is first of all for us to be.
To be what? To be alive, to be peaceful, to be joyful, to be loving. And that is what the world needs most.
If you want to know about buddhanature, then Maitreya’s Uttaratantra Shastra is the text you have to study. It’s important to be careful when establishing the idea of buddhanature, because otherwise it might end up becoming something like an atman, or a truly existing soul. The Mahayana shastras talk about the qualities of freedom, or elimination, such as the ten powers, the four fearlessnesses, the thirty-two major marks, the eighty minor marks, and so on. If you’re not careful, you might start to think about buddhanature theistically — that is, in terms of the qualities of a permanent god, soul, or essence. But all these qualities talked about in the Mahayana shastras are simply qualities of the absence of dirt.
When we talk about the result of elimination, we automatically think we are talking about something that comes afterward: first there is elimination and then comes its effect. But we are not talking about that at all, because then we would be falling into an eternalist or theistic extreme. “Elimination” means having something to eliminate. But in the Prajnaparamita, we understand that there is nothing to eliminate. And that is the big elimination. The result of that elimination isn’t obtained later. It’s always there, which is why it’s called tantra, or “continuum.” This quality continues throughout the ground, path, and result. The window continues from before the dirt was there, while the dirt is being washed away, and after the cleaning is complete. The window has always been free from the concepts of dirt and freedom from dirt. That’s why the Mahayana sutras say the result is beyond aspiration. You cannot wish or pray for the result of elimination, because it’s already there; it continues all the time, so there’s no need to aspire to it.
The aim is to be able to feel the extent to which others are extremely important and integral to you and also to gain an emotional awareness that you are never, ever really separate from them. Others are part of you, just as you are part of them. You exist in connection with others. When you see this, you can also see that your happiness and suffering depend upon others. If you think solely in terms of yourself and your own happiness, it simply does not work. There is no happiness without relying upon others.
The essence of all of the Buddha’s teachings is emptiness, or interdependent arising. Nothing arises, dwells, or ceases independently. Therefore, there’s nothing permanent. There is no truly existing self. Everything that we think exists, or does not exist, or both or neither — all these things are fabrications of our mind. We fabricate them and then we become attached to our fabrications. But we don’t realize they are our own fabrications. We think they are real, but basically, every single conception or clinging that we have is some kind of fanatical process. The Mahayana sutras teach emptiness, or shunyata, to lead us beyond all these extremes and fabrications.
When we talk about emptiness, something beyond fabrication, we immediately think of a state of being that has no function, like a couch potato or piece of stone, but that is absolutely not correct. It is not merely a negation, elimination, or denial. It is not like the exhaustion of a fire or the evaporation of water. It is full of function, and we call this function buddha activity, which is one aspect of buddhanature. This buddhanature has an aspect of uninterrupted wisdom. This is the difficulty, because as soon as we talk about wisdom, we think in terms of cognition and the senses and their sense objects. We are curious about how a buddha perceives things. But although buddhanature is seemingly a cognizer, it has no object, and therefore it cannot be a subject. Furthermore, it’s not inanimate, nor is it animate, in the sense of mind. This is why the Uttaratantra Shastra is really complementary to the Mahasandhi (Dzogchen) teachings, which always say that mind and wisdom are separate — the dualistic mind of subject and object is separate from the nondual wisdom, which is not other than buddhanature.
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