Our essential aim in practising the Dharma is to create happiness and inner peace within our minds, and to transform our minds. This goal of transforming our minds lies at the very core of Dharma practice. It is the basic aim and reason for practising the Dharma, and everything else gets taken care of along the way. However, this is not to say that when you practise Dharma you should not engage in any worldly activities, or that there is no need to do so. That is not the case.
Buddhanature is pure and free from all kinds of compounded phenomena, right from the beginning.
The ultimate true nature is always devoid of anything compounded, so it is said that defilements, karma, and their full ripening are like a cloud, etc. (Uttaratantra Shastra, Stanza 158)
Therefore, buddhanature is free from the three kinds of emotions: desire, aggression, and jealousy. It is free from the emotions of karmic formation, such as virtuous actions and non-virtuous actions. And it is free from the result of emotion, the five aggregates. Therefore, the emotions are like clouds.
The defilements are said to be like clouds, karma is likened to the experience in dreams, and the full ripening of karma and defilements—the aggregates—are likened to conjurations. (Uttaratantra Shastra, Stanza 159)
The nature of beings is primordially pure; that’s why we call it buddhanature. Although emotions are seemingly apparent and seemingly stubborn, seemingly like a second nature, they are never a second nature. They are like clouds—they are adventitious, and not a true part of you. This point is quite important. In Buddhism we always come to the conclusion that these emotions and defilements are temporary. When we’re looking at a gray cloudy sky, we might call it a cloudy sky, but it’s not really a cloudy sky. The clouds are never the sky. The clouds are temporary or adventitious.
When we are with people and feeling bored, can we listen a little more carefully, stepping off the train of our own inner commenting? If we are sitting in meditation and feeling uninterested, can we come in closer to the object, not with force but with gentleness and care? What is this experience we call the breath? If someone were holding your head under water, would the breath be boring? Each breath is actually sustaining our life. Can we be with it fully, just once?
It is said that we must recognize the mind as it is, in other words as completely naked. “Naked” here means that the mind is not covered or obscured by anything. If we can really immerse our self within this original, bare state of mind, we will automatically understand the right view, and everything that is not part of the mind will automatically disappear.
Our inner world is the pivotal domain for bringing about real change in the world that we all share. Neither social nor environmental justice is possible without significant changes in our attitudes and the intentional behavior they give rise to. The transformation of our social and material world must begin within us.
The Mahayana path is like peeling layers of skin and finally finding out that there’s no seed inside. We have to obtain liberation from the skins, but this is difficult to do — we love our skins. When we’re children, a sand castle is very important to us. Then when we’re sixteen, a skateboard is very important, and by then the sand castle has become a rotten skin. When we’re in our thirties and forties, money, cars, and relationships replace the skateboard. These are all layers of skin. More important, even the paths that we practice are all layers of skin, which we use to help us peel the other skins. The inner skin helps us think about the outer skin and motivates us to peel it. But ultimately in the Mahayana path, you have to be free from all systems, all skins.
So what happens when all these skins have been peeled off? What’s left? Is enlightenment a total negation, like the exhaustion of a fire or the evaporation of moisture? Is it something like that? No, we’re talking about something that is a result of elimination. For example, if your window is dirty, you clean it, you wash the dirt; then the window, in the absence of dirt, is labeled a “clean” window. There’s nothing else. The phenomenon that we are calling a clean window, the quality that is the absence of dirt, is not something we produced by cleaning the dirt. I don’t think we should even call it a clean window, because the window in its original state has never been stained by the extremes of either dirty or clean. Nevertheless, the process of getting rid of the dirt can be labeled as the emergence of the clean window.
Cultivate faith and devotion to the Three Jewels and to your teacher. Strive in the ten virtues and combine clear intelligence with extensive learning. Nurture a sense of personal integrity and propriety regarding others. With these seven sublime riches, you will always be happy!