Read an Excerpt
1: What Is the Heart of the Buddha?
"Fundamentally speaking, ladies and gentlemen, here is the really good news, if we may call
We are intrinsically buddha and we are intrinsically
Without exception and without the need for analytical studies, we can say that we automatically have buddha within us. That is known as buddha nature, or bodhichitta, the heart of the buddha."
Buddhism, there are three codes of discipline, known as
is discipline or conduct, a certain meditative way of behaving.
is the practice of mindfulness/awareness: the totality of your state of mind can be experienced without distraction. And
or discriminating awareness, is the state of clarity in which you are able to distinguish different states of mind; you are no longer excited or depressed by particular states of mind. These three disciplines bring us to the next stage—of finally transcending the deception of ego, which is the experience of egolessness.
Egohood is the state of mind in which you are either repelled by or attracted to the phenomenal world. What you would like to see depends on your mentality, on what you think is desirable in order to maintain your "I am-ness," your
"me-ness." We are talking about transcending "I am-ness,"
"me-ness," which is called egolessness.
Egolessness doesn't mean that you are going to be completely dissolved into nothingness. In
Western literature, Buddhism is often accused of saying this, especially in early Victorian Christian literature, as well as in various high school courses on Buddhism. They say Buddhists believe in nothingness, which is certainly not the case.
Egolessness means less "maniac-ness," in some sense—free from being an egomaniac. Egomania has several levels of subtlety. Ordinarily people think of an egomaniac as an obvious maniac, but if we study enough and look enough, we will see that there are subtleties of egomania. The dictators of the world could be seen as egomaniacal people, obviously, because they perform their functions in that way. But more ordinary people also function in that way,
including ourselves in some sense. We would like to possess our world, and so we act in such a way that whatever we see around us is completely in order,
according to our desire to maintain the security of "me,"
"myself"—which is egohood.
Inspired by means of shila, samadhi, and prajna—discipline, meditation, and discriminating awareness—we have freedom from egomaniac-ness, freedom from egohood. Beyond that, seeing through our own egomaniac-ness, we give birth to,
or awaken, our innate greater existence, which is known as
which is related to
literally means "awake."
is a noun;
is an epithet or an adjective for awakened ones, or for those who are in the process of awakening.
is a Sanskrit word meaning "heart" or, occasionally,
is the essence of the buddha, the essence of the awakened ones.
We cannot give birth to the essence of the awakened ones unless we train, to begin with, in meditation practice: the
discipline of mindfulness and the
discipline of awareness. Beyond that, it is necessary to fulfill the three disciplines of shila, samadhi, and prajna. That is, we know what to do and what not to do.
When we practice shila, samadhi, and prajna, we begin to be aware of the buddha in us. It is not that those principles
buddhalike awareness particularly; we have that essence in us already. But shila, samadhi,
and prajna bring us into the actual realization of who we are, what we are,
According to the Buddhist tradition, we don't get
nor does any foreign element come into our state of mind at all. Rather, it is a question of waking up and shedding our covers. We have those goodies in us already; we only have to uncover them.
The logic here is, if we have to transplant foreign goodieness into our system, it does not belong to us; it remains foreign. Because it is not part of us, it is likely to cease to exist at some point. Sooner or later, our basic nature is bound to reject that foreign transplant in our system. (Maybe this logic doesn't apply to heart transplants. These days they say if you have a foreign heart transplanted in you, you might live; you might survive.)
But here we are talking about awakening what we haven't already awakened. It is as if we have been kept in captivity and haven't been able to exercise our faculties properly; our activities have been controlled by circumstances.
Giving birth to bodhichitta in one's heart, buddha in one's heart, brings extra freedom. That is the notion of
Buddhism, altogether. Of course, when we talk about freedom, we are not talking about overthrowing the head of the state or anything like that: we are talking about freedom from the constriction of our own capabilities.
It is as if we were extraordinary children, possessing all sorts of genius, and we were being undermined by the society around us, which was dying to make us normal people. Whenever we would show any mark of genius, our parents would get embarrassed. They would try to put the lid on our pot, saying, "Charles,
don't say those things. Just be like an ordinary person." That is what actually happens to us, with or without our parents.
don't particularly want to blame our parents alone; we have also been doing this to ourselves. When we see something extraordinary, we are afraid to say so; we are afraid to express ourselves or to relate to such situations. So we put lids on ourselves—on our potential, our capabilities. But in Buddhism we are liberated from that kind of conventionality.
According to Buddhist terminology,
refers to belief in habitual patterns. Conventional realities are synonymous with habitual patterns; and the authors of habitual patterns are ignorance and desire. Ignorance and desire go against shila discipline; they go against samadhi mindfulness, because they prevent us from keeping our minds on the point; and they go against prajna, because they develop dullness rather than discriminating sharpness.
Fundamentally speaking, ladies and gentlemen, here is the really good news, if we may call it that: We are intrinsically buddha and we are intrinsically good. Without exception, and without the need for analytical studies, we can say that we automatically have buddha within us. That is known as
the heart of the buddha.
We might ask ourselves, "What is the heart of the Buddha like? Does it think the way we do? Does it want to have fish and chips or is it just a pious heart that does nothing but religious things alone? Would that heart be the most holy heart of all, from a Christian point of view?" The answer is no. That heart is not necessarily pious.
The heart of the buddha is a very open heart. That heart would like to explore the phenomenal world; it is open to relating with others. That heart contains tremendous strength and confidence in itself, which is called fearlessness.
That heart is also extremely inquisitive, which at this point is synonymous with prajna. It is expansive and sees in all directions. And that heart contains certain basic qualities, which we could call our true
We all possess those particular buddha-genes. Isn't it strange to say that the mind has genes? But it turns out to be true.
These buddha-genes have two characteristics. First, they are able to see through, as well as not be afraid of, the reality of the phenomenal world. We might come up with obstacles and difficulties of all kinds, but those particular genes are not afraid to deal with them. We just shed the coverings of such possibilities as we go along. Second, these genes also contain gentleness; they are ever so loving, which goes beyond just being kind. They are extremely tender and capable of reflecting themselves, even to those who don't want to relate with them. And they are absolutely free from any form of aggression. They are so soft and kind.
The buddha-genes are also full of a sense of humor and delight, which is referred to as
When you are able to experience that such genes exist within you, you begin to feel cheerful and smile and have a sense of humor.
There are two different kinds of humor. One kind of humor comes from not taking the world seriously: you come up with all sorts of jokes about other people's problems. The other kind is a general sense of joy. Nothing is regarded as downgrading; everything is uplifted, constantly. Here we are talking about the second kind of humor.
From the practitioner's point of view, we have all sorts of disciplines to awaken our enlightened genes. The main discipline is known as exchanging oneself for other. That is to say, we completely identify with others' pain; and we project out, or give away, pleasure altogether. In that way, we begin to see through,
and actually expose, the clumsiness of how we hold onto ourselves.