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Buddhadharma : Summer 2017
56 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2 0 1 7 There are five mistakes: faint-heartedness, contempt for those of lesser ability, to believe in the false, to speak about the true nature badly, and to cherish oneself above all else. So that those in whom these above were there might rid themselves of them, therefore was it declared. (Stanza 157) Generally, throughout the buddhadharma, and especially in the Mahayana, the most important thing is to generate enlightened mind. If you read the Bhadrakalpa Sutra (the Sutra of the Fortunate Aeon), you will hear how in the beginning one thousand buddhas generated enlightened mind. Generating enlightened mind is a promise or pledge to enlighten oneself and all sentient beings, and for practitioners on the path it is the most impor- tant thing. For example, when you pray, why does prayer work? It works because of this determina- tion, this pledge to help sentient beings. It’s all based on that. Hence, there are five reasons to teach buddhanature, each one addressing one of the five mistakes, and these reasons are all about helping us make good on this pledge. First, if buddhanature were not emphasized, then a bodhisattva on the path might become discour- aged, because the path is long, rough, and endless. One might also despise oneself, thinking, how can someone impure and useless like me achieve enlightenment? Bodhichitta, the wish to enlighten all sentient beings, will not arise within people who have that kind of discouragement and who despise themselves. When we know that buddhanature is there within us, like a gold coin buried in the dirt, it gives us a lot of encouragement. We know enlightenment is possible because buddhanature is there within us. This brings joy to the path. If we didn’t know there was a gold statue inside the mold, there would be no joy in breaking the mold. But when we know, the desire to find the statue inside is so strong that we don’t even notice the process of breaking the mold, which is generating enlightened mind. Second, as bodhisattvas we have to benefit all sentient beings. If we don’t know that buddhana- ture resides within everybody, then we might not respect other sentient beings. Rather, we might think we’re great because we’re bodhisattvas, and then despise other sentient beings. This could become a big obstacle, hindering us in benefiting other beings. Imagine that you think you’re a bodhisattva who has buddhanature and that other sentient beings don’t have buddhanature and therefore require your help. You think you have to somehow insert the buddha inside them. That’s a very big mistake. It’s what we call exaggeration or imputation. The Bud- dhist view is that everybody has buddhanature. It will not change. No one, no guru, no Buddha can insert it. All anyone can do is become some kind of path to enable people to realize it themselves. The third reason buddhanature is taught is to dispel the obstacles that obstruct us from having prajna. There are two such obstacles. The first one is imputation. Even though there is no buddhana- ture, we impute or imagine its existence by thinking that all these buddha qualities exist, such as the ushnisha, the protuberance on top of the Buddha’s head, symbolizing his great wisdom and enlighten- ment. But they don’t. We also need to overcome the second obstacle to wisdom: thinking that the buddha qualities do not exist, or that there are no buddha qualities within us, which is like some kind of criticism. This is the fourth reason buddhanature is taught. You have no more and no less than Shakyamuni Buddha or any of a thousand buddhas. Basically, because of buddhanature, there’s no longer any inferiority or superiority complex. ➤ continued on page 81