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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 08 24 not inanimate, nor is it animate, in the sense of mind. This is why the Uttaratantra Shastra is really complementary to the Mahasandhi (Dzogchen) teachings, which always say that mind and wisdom are separate—the dualistic mind of subject and object is separate from the nondual wisdom, which is not other than buddhanature. You could say that when Nagarjuna explains the Prajna paramita, he concentrates more on its empty aspect, whereas when Maitreya explains the same thing he concentrates more on the “-ness” aspect. This “-ness” is buddhanature. You might wonder why the Buddha taught in the sutras that all phenomena are like clouds—unstable, naturally illusory, and empty. Why is it that even though we can experience them, they are without essence, like a dream or mirage? Why is all this taught as emptiness in the Madhyamaka teachings and the Prajnaparamita Sutras? And as Mipham Rinpoche’s commentary on the Uttaratantra Shastra asks, why in this third turning of the wheel of dharma does the Buddha say that this buddhanature exists within all sentient beings? Isn’t that a contradiction? Furthermore, since bud- dhanature is very difficult to understand, even for sublime beings who are on the path, why is it taught here for ordinary beings? Let’s go to stanza 156 of Maitreya’s text: 156 He had taught in various places that every know- able thing is ever void, like a cloud, a dream, or an illu- sion. Then why did the Buddha declare the essence of buddhahood to be there in every sentient being? First of all, there is no contradiction between the second turning of the wheel of the dharma, where the Buddha taught that everything is emptiness, and the third turning of the wheel, where the Buddha taught that all sentient beings have buddhanature. In the Prajnaparamita Sutras of the second turning, the Buddha emphasizes that nothing is truly existent. So here when Buddha says there is buddhanature, he isn’t say- ing that buddhanature truly exists. Rather he is emphasizing its clarity aspect. When we talk about the union of clarity and emptiness, it’s important that we understand both aspects, not only the emptiness aspect. Beyond this, the Buddha’s teachings on buddhanature address, and counteract, five particular mistakes: 157 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. Generally, throughout the buddhadharma, and especially in the Mahayana, the most important thing is to generate enlight- ened 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 important 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 to make good on this pledge. First, if buddhanature were not emphasized, then a bodhisattva on the path might become discouraged, 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 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 encourage- ment. We know enlightenment is possible because buddha- nature is there within us. This brings joy to the path. If we didn’t know there was a gold statue inside the mold, there 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 and this brings joy to the path. Dzongsar Khyentse rinpoche is the spiritual director of the international Buddhist association siddhartha’s intent and the head of the Khyentse Foundation. he is the author of What Makes You Not a Buddhist and the director of two films, The Cup and Travellers & Magicians. this article is adapted from teachings he gave on Maitreya’s Uttaratantra Shastra in Dordogne, France, between 2003 and 2004, which were edited by alex trisoglio. © 2007 by siddhartha’s intent. the translation of the root text is by Ken and Katia holmes. the complete transcript of these teachings is available at www.siddharthasintent.org. bjartealvestadclaudIacHender