Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Buddha Nature and Self-Reflection

Thich Thien An, Zen Philosophy, Zen Practice, (IMBC.info via UrbanDharma.org) .See Part II
To know ourselves is first of all to know that our own true nature is the Buddha nature [our innate potential for enlightenment].

Just as the sun and moon are always shining but may not be visible because they are obscured by clouds and mist, so the Buddha nature is ever present within us, though it may not be apparent because it is covered over by the clouds of lust, hatred, and delusion.

To practice meditation is to remove the layers of clouds that conceal our true [potential] so that our Buddha nature may appear again, wonderful and radiant in its intrinsic [luminosity].

When the Buddha attained supreme enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, he laughed. Why? Because before he was enlightened he thought the truth he was seeking was something distant from himself. But when he achieved enlightenment, he realized that the truth he sought was nothing other than his true nature, which was ever with him before the beginning of time. 

The whole process of samsara, of [beginningless] wandering through the painful round of birth and death, [in a sense started] merely because he had lost sight of his original nature. But his true nature had never departed from him. And when he became enlightened, he discovered that is was ever present, only needing his recognition to become apparent. 

To illustrate this truth, the Buddha [is alleged by later writer to have] related the following story in the Lotus Sutra:
Once [upon a time] in India there lived a family which consisted of a man, his wife, and their son. The parents were very rich; they owned many acres of land and had a large sum of money in the [vault] and great quantities of gold and jewels. 

However, their son was not very intelligent. The parents often worried about what would happen to him after they died, for he was so simpleminded that they did not think him capable of managing his own affairs. Then one day the father had an idea.

He gave his son a precious jewel of inestimable value and told him to keep the jewel tied up in his clothes. He was never to take it out until they died. Only then could he remove it, sell it in the marketplace, and use the money he received to support himself. 

The son bore his father's words in mind and kept the promise. Then one day, as the years passed by, his father died; several years later his mother died, and the son came by his full inheritance.

In his ignorance, however, the young man foolishly squandered his wealth on fruitless pursuits. He sold the furniture, the houses, the rice fields, the granaries, and all else. But while he spent, he did not earn. Thus before he knew it, he found himself a poor man, without a penny to his name, without even a roof over his head. He was reduced to the state of a beggar, wandering from house to house and from town to town begging for his meals. 

Some days he got enough to eat, but on other days he got no food at all. One day, overcome by hunger and exhaustion, he lay down in the middle of the street, too weak and tired to move.

Just then a Buddhist monk walked down the street and saw the young man lying on the ground. The monk began to help the man to his feet when suddenly a wonderful precious jewel fell out of the shredded clothing.

"Why are you begging for food," the monk asked, "when all the time you have had this precious jewel? Go sell it, and use the money to support yourself." The young man was struck with wonder and amazement at seeing this jewel he had forgotten about for so long. He sold it in the market, and with the money he got for it he was able to buy back all his former possessions. 

Never again did he have to suffer from poverty. The young man in the story always carried the jewel with him. It was only because he had forgotten about it that he had to suffer from poverty, hunger, and disease. When he discovered that the jewel was always with him, he was able to wipe out all his troubles. 

In the same way, we always carry about within ourselves the precious jewel of the Buddha nature [our own potential to realize the highest knowledge]. But because of our ignorance we do not perceive it and so undergo the sufferings of birth and death.

But when suddenly we become enlightened, we realize the Buddha nature was with us from the very beginning, and thereby we wipe out all the afflictions that have troubled us since we began the [beginningless] round of birth and death.

The Buddha nature [which sounds an awful like Brahmanism's concept of a permanent soul, self, or essence (atman) transmigrating through samsara inherited by the Mahayana school] is not something distant: it is the bright and precious substance of our original mind.

But though the Buddha nature is present within us, we are not yet Buddhas. The reason we are not is because we are still victims of the ego-delusion. Our minds are continually dominated by a seemingly endless train of egocentric thoughts -- greed, attachment, anger, pride, envy, and passion.

Self-reflection not only awakens us to the immaculate Essence of Mind, abiding silently in the mind's depths, but also brings to our attention the hordes of deluded thoughts that clutter its surface. It is only by becoming cognizant of our Weaknesses through self-reflection that we can work to remove the roots from which they spring.

It is only by careful analysis of the functioning of our minds that we can discover in ourselves the negative factors which hinder enlightenment and the positive factors which are conducive to enlightenment.... More

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