Human’s Enlightened Core

A person whose mind has not been developed spiritually can be likened to a wild monkey. A monkey can never sit still: the moment it has nothing to occupy itself with, it does something to distract itself. A monkey’s mind is so restless that, even when there is no problem, its busy-ness will create a problem. Monkeys are always creating mischief and trouble. If a monkey were put inside a shrine-room, it would drag the cushions around the room, pull the sacred paintings down from the walls, and so on. At some point, it would find a place to rest for a moment but, as it was sitting there, it would feel thirsty so would drink the water from the bowls on the shrine, then it would feel hungry so would get up and eat the shrine offerings. In this way, it would keep itself occupied and satisfied but cause a lot of problems at the same time. Likewise, the ordinary person’s mind, which jumps around like a monkey, creates many problems and hardships for the person. The average person does not have a very satisfactory existence because of it.

Is there a real kind of peace for the average person and, if so, where would the peace be found? Peace, real peace, a final kind of ease can be found. The one place that it can be found is in relation to the root of the problems, which is mind. Everyone does try to find lasting happiness but most people try to find it outside of mind. For example, there are people who are very wealthy and famous. At first sight, it seems as though they have a good situation and are happy because of it. However, when you talk with them, they will tell you about their various problems and some will even say that they have many problems. I have met many people like this —movie stars, and so on.

The root of all happiness and unhappiness is in your own mind. If you can find happiness in connection with your own mind, it will improve your general situation in this life, it will help your later lives as well, and on top of that, it will lead you towards the final state of ease, buddhahood itself. Therefore, you do need to obtain peace based on
mind.

This begs the question, “Do I really have peace in mind as part of my nature?” The answer is yes, because your basic nature is what is called “complete purity”. This is a purity, a kind of basic goodness. Every sentient being, that is to say, every being with a mind, has, at the core of their being, this purity which is basic goodness. This begs the question, “If I have this kind of very special nature, why is my experience not always satisfactory? Why do I have unsatisfactoriness, why do I experience problems? Why am I caught in the vicious cycle of existence?” The answer is that you have not recognised this complete purity, the basic goodness which is your own essence. That is the problem.

You and all other beings do have this good essence and it is the same as the essence of every buddha. It is the potential that can be developed into the peace that belongs to a buddha. However, just having it as a potential is not enough, you have to bring it forth and manifest it fully. To do that, you first have to recognize this essence. Then with that recognition as a basis, you practise meditation. Through that kind of meditation, you can become a buddha, which is the fruition of the path.

The essence of mind is not recognized by ordinary people and they do not advance spiritually because of it. If they did recognize it, they could develop themselves spiritually all the way to enlightenment. These two situations of non-recognition and recognition resulting in spiritual development can be explained using the metaphor of a watch. In this metaphor, you have a very fine watch —one made of diamonds and platinum which keeps the time perfectly— and have it with you twenty-four hours a day. The value of the watch is that you can use it to tell time. However, you do not know that you have such a watch. It is right there for you to look at but, not knowing that you have it, you do not know to look at it. Since you do not know to look at it, it cannot tell you the time and you cannot use it to find out the time. In short, it is of no use to you because you do not recognize the fact that you do have such a watch. Now a good friend of yours, a helpful friend, comes along and says to you, “You do not know the time according to your watch, do you? You have a watch and it is showing the time but it is of no use to you! However, I do know how to look at a watch and tell the time with it and I will show you how to do that”. With your friend’s help, you first recognize that you do have a watch and after that gradually learn how to look at it. In the end, you are able to use your own watch to know the time as soon as you look at it. At that point, you not only know that you have a watch but you also fully know how to look at it and make use of it.

In the metaphor, the watch is the equivalent of the complete purity which is our essence. In Buddhism, we call this essence the sugatagarbha. Your sugatagarbha is a very precious thing, just like the valuable watch. It is valuable because when it is recognized and brought to full use, you can know everything perfectly, just like a good watch tells the time perfectly. However, at present, just like not recognizing a watch that you are wearing twenty-four hours a day, you do not recognize your own reality, the sugatagarbha, which is with you all of the time. Because you do not recognize it, its value is not available to you. However, you could be introduced to it and be made to recognise it. Just as your helper introduced you to the watch you were wearing in such a way that you recognized the watch, so someone could introduce you to your own sugatagarbha in a way that would allow you to recognize it. The person who can make that kind of introduction is the person who becomes your guru. That person says to you, “Your essence is the complete purity”, and introduces you to the reality of your own mind.

Furthermore, when you are first introduced to the idea of having a watch, although you know that you have it, it is not so easy to use it to tell the time. However, if you gradually train in using it, you eventually do understand how to use it and then, in the end, can use it to tell the time immediately and precisely. Likewise, at first, because your guru introduces you to your own reality, you do come to recognize your own reality. However, at that time it is hard to bring it forth into constant manifestation. Nonetheless, if you gradually train in gaining experience of it, it manifests more and more in your being. In the end, when this reality is fully manifest, it is the all-knowing mind of a buddha.

There is another key point here. At some point you have understood that you have a watch and do know how to tell the time with it. However, that did not happen because of a change in the watch; the watch is just the same as it was before. Rather, you have recognized that you do have a watch, and have then learned to use it. The difference in the two situations is that at first you did not recognize that you had a watch and later you did recognize that you had it. Similarly, when you progress along the Buddhist path and finally become a buddha, the essence of mind is not changing, rather the degree to which you recognize it is changing. At first you did not recognize that you had sugatagarbha. Then someone gets you to recognize it momentarily. Then you do the work of following the path: through the practice of meditation, you remove more and more of the obscurity of mind that has been covering it. As you do so, it is revealed more and more and so manifests more and more in your being. When it has been fully revealed, it is fully manifest and that is buddhahood. At that time, all of its qualities—which were initially very hidden —become fully functional, like the watch becomes fully useful after you have trained in learning to use it. At that point, as a buddha, you have all of the qualities of a buddha in a fully functional way.

What is the value of recognizing your own, pure nature and then meditating on that? Because it is your very basis, the very ground of your being, meditation done without an understanding of it cannot be beneficial, ultimately speaking. Meditation done without a proper understanding of it might bring some temporary effects, such as becoming a little more happy or peaceful, etc., but cannot bring about ultimate peace, happiness, and the other qualities of enlightenment. Thus, the first step of Buddhist practice altogether is to understand your basis, the ground of your being. The very ground of your being is this pure essence, the sugatagarbha. It might be covered over at present but you can recognize it and then remove its coverings. In doing so, you change from being someone with the potential for ultimate peace to a being that is ultimate peace and moreover, a being who constantly works for the benefit of others in the most effective ways possible.

To summarize, first you recognize your own sugatagarbha then, with that as a basis, you work at gaining experience in it, and eventually you do gain the rank of a buddha. The classical way of saying this in Buddhism is that first you recognize your own ground, then you bring it into manifestation by following the path, and you do that until it has been brought into full manifestation which is the end and fruition of the path and which is none other than buddhahood.