Emergence of our pure potential

In general I try to be mindful of training my mind in ways that make it more peaceful and positive, understanding this helps cause the pure potential in oneself to emerge. But knowing the best way to do this isn’t always easy. Having followed buddhist teachings for a number of years, I feel like I’ve got a good number of ‘tools in my kit’ to help me achieve this

Over time I’ve found that some of the teachings tend to be easier to put into practise than others. However recently I’ve had the experience of naturally and spontaneously engaging in practices which previously I’d struggled with, such as the three higher trainings

Teachings like cherishing others tend to be more straight forward. However others like the three higher trainings, which have more parts to them, can appear more difficult to apply in one’s daily life

Letting go of identification with the ‘I’

Lotus represents our pure potential

 

Yesterday I was walking in a park and contemplating how frequently it seems, pain arises in my body (whilst also experiencing it), and how I find it difficult not to grasp at it and push it away. I was really thinking about this, and trying to come to some sort of resolution

I was trying to figure out how I could ultimately overcome it (something I’ve been working on for years now). Of course the pain itself isn’t what needs to be removed because it’s normal for a body to give rise to pain, but it’s the response I realised that needed to be address

After having contemplated this for a while I came to the realisation that whenever I had the thought ‘I’, problems and difficulties naturally arose from that. Now it’s not like I haven’t heard many teachings on this before, but my experience of it was different this time because it was arising from my own wisdom

It’s one thing to hear something and understand it on a superficial level, but it’s another to realise it having reflected on one’s own experience. Upon reflection, my ability to gain this understanding had arisen in dependence on my own lack of grasping at an ‘I’ at times. When prior to this, the ordinary self or I was always appearing strongly, it wasn’t clear that this was the problem

I realised that when I wasn’t thinking ‘I’ there was no pain or problems, and when I was there they were, like waves in the ocean… arising effortlessly and unceasingly. For me this was very encouraging because it became apparent that the solution was simply to abandon the perception of my self as an ordinary being that grasps at an ‘I’ (maybe not easy to do, but at least clear for me at that time)

Of course if we’ve only ever known the thought ‘I’ in dependence on our ordinary body and mind, then it’s going to be difficult to develop the wish to abandon it, as from that perspective it would simply appear to be annihilation

So anyway, this experience naturally gave rise to the wish to abandon all my delusions, and having a clear understanding of how to do that was very encouraging. Thinking all this as I was walking in the park I noticed my mind become very peaceful and stable and I realised I was training in higher moral discipline and higher concentration

A little bit later on the walk I started contemplating my deep wish to know the truth… the truth of the way things really are. Whilst also holding the wish to abandon my delusions, I then realised I was training in higher wisdom (essentially a wish to abandon all delusions or negativity conjoined with a recognition that the things we normally see don’t exist, but rather are by nature illusory)

Each of the three higher trainings are made up of two minds – the wish to abandon all delusions, conjoined with their respective core essence, which is to be kind and respectful towards others whilst restraining from inappropriate behaviour (higher moral discipline), holding positive ways of thinking or virtue in the mind without distraction (higher concentration) and seeing the truth of the way things are (higher wisdom)

For a long time I had struggled to authentically engage with these trainings, so it was nice to experience them and train in them in a very organic and natural way. For me this further reinforced the fact that buddha’s teachings are guiding us on the course of the natural evolution of our mind, because with some training and familiarity these minds spontaneously arise, guiding us to peace and wisdom

Identifying my self as pure awareness

Pure potential represented in sunset

 

I’ve now started to become quite passionate about overcoming my delusions, and the practise of training in the three higher trainings seems to be a natural bi-product of this motivation. You’d think this wish to train in abandoning our delusions is something we’d have very naturally, seeing as the delusions are the cause of all our suffering that is. However unfortunately it seems that it’s not that simple or clear for most of us. But why is that?

Well until we’ve known what it’s like not to suffer greatly, that is experiencing what’s it’s like not to be strongly identifying with an ‘I’, then we have no way to gauge just how much it is we suffer in dependence on holding this ordinary, and seemingly harmless view. So if we’ve always strongly related to having an ‘I’, or we could say a self that appears very fixed and solid in time and space, then it wouldn’t be clear to us how painful it is to be clinging to it

In the previous article I talked about this experience of relating to what felt like a pure awareness and starting to identify with that as myself, rather than the body and mind that normally appear to me when I wake up in bed each morning. So what is this pure, all-pervading awareness I was talking about? This is a good question and something that needs to be contemplated carefully

To delve into it a bit more and give it some additional context, one of the qualities, or we could say conditions, that I noticed for it to arise was the experience of abiding at the heart. That is to say, I only ever experienced the pure awareness, which I would subsequently relate to as ‘me’, once my awareness had descended to the area of my heart

Practically speaking this means that it only arose in the absence of conceptual thought, because conceptual thinking only arises when our awareness is in our head…. when it descends to the heart all of the coarse thoughts would drop away and the more subtle experience of abiding at the heart centre would arise

Having contemplated this and become more aware of these qualities, it felt like this must be a good thing (and the absence of the ordinary self certainly felt good!). If you look at the practices we’re given in Kadampa Buddhism, it seems like nearly all of them are pointing us in the direction of this experience of abiding at the heart. If we check the contemplations given in The New Meditation Handbook for example, we’ll see that most of them begin with something like ‘from the heart we should think….’

I also noticed that when I was practising the three higher trainings that my awareness would naturally drop to the heart, as was the case for many other practices. Other qualities I observed whilst abiding at the heart was feeling an intimate connectedness with others (there wasn’t the same separation as when my ordinary body and mind was appearing and the thought ‘I’ arose) and that the most beneficial ways to act arose spontaneously and without effort

Beyond this, I observed that I was starting to connect much more deeply with and relate to what I identified with as the ‘inner guru’. Now I’m not necessarily trying to come up with my own vernacular here, as I don’t know that it’s a term I’ve heard used in the tradition I follow, but speaking from an experiential point of view, then this is what it felt like

So what was my experience of the ‘inner guru’? Well, previously I had related to it almost exclusively in a dualistic manner, that is to say that I would communicate with this aspect of my self as if speaking to another being (and not really knowing what it was). Going back a few years, this had become quite natural to do, but then over time I noticed I also started to connect with it much more intimately, and it felt like it was working through me as I tried to connect with and benefit others with more pure motivations

Fast forward to this year, 2017, and I had a much deeper experience still. In one particular meditation my mind absorbed into a deep state of bliss and emptiness, and after that point I felt much more connected and intimately a part of this ‘inner guru’. From that point it began to guide me in a much more inter-connected way, with the experience of separation and duality having been greatly diminished

Although certainly not a stable experience, more recently I’ve once again found myself identifying with it non-dually, that is imputing my ‘I’ on it, and relating from the experience of being it

Realising our buddha nature

Buddha is pure potential realised

 

Having studied, contemplated and meditated on these experiences I came to the realisation that I what I was actually relating to, what I had labelled the ‘inner guru’, was in fact my own buddha nature. We could say this buddha nature is our actual self, the raw pure potential that sits deep within all of us, and is simply waiting to be awakened…. and once it is, causes us to move relentlessly towards and achieve the ultimate goal of human life. That is – to find permanent and lasting peace for one’s self, and beyond this, helping everyone else achieve that same state

When I realised this is what it was, what it had been all along, it made sense. I don’t think I’d ever heard anyone talk about their own buddha nature from an experiential point of view, so exactly what it was hadn’t been all that clear

Thinking about it, it makes sense that our buddha nature would initially manifest as the experience of what might feel like an ‘inner guru’, because when understood it is, of course, the guru within us….. within all of us. Its very nature is to move towards an awakened state, to awaken within us, however it requires some causes and conditions to be able to do so

From an external point of view we can understand these causes and conditions as being whatever appears to us in our life as challenging or difficult. From an internal point of view they are the conditions we manifest in our own mind…. our willingness to apply effort to work through them and to, we could say almost unquestioningly, follow the path our spiritual guide, or ‘outer guru’, has laid out for us

Early on in our path it can be very helpful to question of course, but at some point we start to see less and less value in it. Our mind then starts to become less conceptual and from this our awareness and sense of being gradually starts to drop down to our heart. As our faith grows we feel a much deeper connection with our guru, and our tendency to follow the path he has laid out for us unfolds much more naturally

‘What is the path laid out for me by my guru?’ you might ask. You can simply relate to whatever appears for you in your life as the path you need to follow. If we have faith then we develop the belief that any obstacles or difficulties that are arising are given to us by our spiritual guide, and by working through them we are following this path

Of course this isn’t always easy, but to achieve the supreme states of liberation or enlightenment (the ultimate goals of human life), we need to work through obstacles to make our mind more and more pure. Without clearing the junk of the delusions from our mind, then we’ll never be able to attain such exalted states

Abiding in a state of peace and joy

Buddha is pure potential

 

In terms of relating more closely to my own buddha nature, I’ve noticed that a number of different practices help me to do this when the experience isn’t arising naturally. One is simply to remember that I don’t really know anything and abide in that state of unknowing, another is to recall the presence of my spiritual guide and remember his kindness, and others include the practices of the three higher trainings and the six perfections

Because the main obstacle to my abiding in this experience of peace and joy is this grasping at an ‘I’ and the delusions that arise from doing so, then practically speaking this has highlighted the need for me to work at reducing my delusions whilst also abandoning the habit of relating to my ‘I’ (the ordinary appearance of a body and mind)

For those of us who have been training our mind for a while, we may have become quite skilled at remaining calm and happy for the most part, and this in itself is a wonderful thing. However, until we’ve started to make our meditations very personal, and specifically the process or removing our delusions, then we will find it difficult to make rapid and substantial progress

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely become a lot happier over time simply by infusing positivity with my mind. Part of the natural evolution of doing so is that a bunch of negativity will fall away simply as a bi-product of this process, however until the more deeply entrenched delusions are weeded out we will find it difficult to access much deeper experiences of purity and peace within mind

So infusing our mind with positivity alone is not going to be enough to propel us on our spiritual path. We need to identify and uproot our own negative states of mind in a very personal way, as explained here. Only then will our buddha nature start to manifest more powerfully, allowing us to intimately connect with, and ultimately become one with it

This pure potential, or buddha nature, is a remarkable thing. It is our limitless potential to experience love, compassion, peace, joy and wisdom. As it emerges we will experience a much deeper experience of all these good qualities, and move from joy to joy as we gradually learn to let go of grasping at an ordinary body and mind, and come to relate to it as the essence of our self

We can know that our buddha nature is in fact the emptiness of our very subtle mind. Understanding that emptiness is the true nature of the way things actually are, and that by accessing and remaining with this experience of our ultimate nature we will come to know the truth of all things, what could be more meaningful then to realise this most pure and essential nature of our self, and abide in an unceasing state of peace and joy?

Like all of our dharma experiences, our buddha nature has many different levels to it. Initially we may start to become aware of it through noticing a duality (ie – the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other). Later we may start to rely on it we may relate to it as our own spiritual guide working through us. Gradually however, as it starts to awaken, we realise that in truth it is our self

Whatever our experience is of this pure state, whether a deep abiding in bliss or simply the occasional awareness of a feeling of peace, we should allow ourself to move towards it, abide in it and deeply enjoy whatever experience arises. This will help us discover the truth for ourself, that it is this very thing that holds the key to the end of suffering for our self and for all living beings. How wonderful

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