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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
61 that in fact means someone who is “individuated” or experien- tially separate from understanding their nature. Important as it is, dukkha is also not the whole story. In virtually all Buddhist traditions, the narrative of suffering has been balanced to a greater or lesser degree by the narrative of our intrinsic purity, our definite capacity to escape suffering. The limits of dukkha, then, are also crucial to the path. In the Pali canon’s Anguttara nikaya, Buddha explains that while the afflictions that cause suffering may come and go, the mind is always luminous. Mahayana emphasizes that our minds are empty in that we are never utterly stuck in any affliction or untoward habit pattern, no matter how pernicious. Asanga, the Indian master famous for meeting Maitreya in visions and receiving many teachings from him, emphasized that our essence is like stainless space, the dharmadhatu, the real nature of bud- dhas and non-buddhas alike. Longchenpa, the great Nyingma architect of Dzogchen in Tibet, cited Asanga to emphasize the crucial importance of recognizing this relentlessly promising and unassailable aspect of our nature. This is our other face, what Zen calls your face before your mother was born. If we don’t recognize this face, Asanga says, we won’t appreciate the unsatisfactoriness of ordinary experi- ence—nor will we seek freedom from it. Catching a glimpse of this face early on gives us the strength to look deeply into the well of our own vulnerability. Knowers of reality, said Vasu- bandhu, have the final, full, undefended recognition of dukkha. Anne cARolyn klein (Rigzin Drolma) is a professor of religion at Rice University and cofounder of Dawn Mountain Center for Tibetan Buddhism in Houston