These days I have been reading about Gautama Buddha, his teachings, and the Buddhism practice. What has caught my attention recently is the term “Buddha Nature” and its presence in each of us. In this post, I will be discussing What is the buddha nature and how to become a bodhisattva (a person who enlightens himself and then helps others to be enlightened).
What Is Buddha Nature
If you read about Buddha’s life, he was just like you and me, an ordinary person who lived in India approximately 2600 years ago. He was born in a royal family, however, he left the family at the age of 29 and went on a spiritual quest. He wandered from one place to another meeting religious masters, trying various experiments, and one day at the age of 35 years as he was meditating under a Bodhi Tree he was enlightened.
So what really happened to Buddha under the Bodhi Tree? Was there a specific meditation technique that he practiced sitting in a certain posture, that provided him the enlightenment? The answer is NO.
He experienced a “shift” in his perspective and this led to the moment of awakening. When I say shift, I mean…The way you look at yourself & your life? The way you look at your thoughts, emotions, feelings & relate them with your situations? I am NOT hinting towards any kind of POSITIVE THINKING or VISUALIZATION or any LAW.
Instead, I am simply referring to the view – “You are perfect the way you are in the present moment”. This is a very deep and profound thought that is often misunderstood. To be honest with you, I couldn’t understand the depth of this statement when I read it for the first time. It took me some time to grasp the real meaning behind this statement. Let me explain this to you.
Buddha Nature – How It Is Misinterpreted
“You are perfect the way you are in the present moment” – When I read the statement for the first time, my understanding was something like this: As I am perfect, I need not work hard or strive to become better. I need not do anything and just be comfortable in my own skin as I am perfect. So there is nothing to desire for or any motivation in life because I am perfect.
I was WRONG in my understanding.
Buddha Nature – The Real Meaning
The real meaning of the statement “You are perfect the way you are in the present moment” is as follows:
Who you are & where you are in life at this present moment is the REALITY – You cannot change it, it is real and perfect. You need to respect & accept the moment that’s unfolding in front of you.
- If you are going through a hard time in life, then honor the difficult phase of your life, accept it.
- If you are going through pain, then honor the pain, experience the pain, and fully accept it.
I would like to clarify “accepting reality” or “the situation in your life” means you are acknowledging the present and making peace with it. Do not confuse acceptance with giving up on life and bawling – “Oh I am helpless, that’s my life”.
When you truly honor the present moment that’s unfolding in front of you and accept it gracefully, then you give yourself an opportunity to heal, grow & truly live life. This is the crux of buddha’s nature.
Do not spend time battling with reality (i.e. complaining, getting angry, cursing life & blaming god). Instead learn to participate with the moments that unfold in front of you, go with the flow of life, and truly discover who you are. Do not try to manipulate or control life as you would only struggle & your suffering will never end.
I hope you are able to comprehend this concept? If you are still not getting it, give yourself more time, read it once again. If you still need help then check this audio program on Buddha Nature.
How To Practice Buddha Nature
The seed of the buddha nature is present in all of us however for the majority of us it is hidden. It is like the ‘Sun’ that always shines however it often gets covered by dark clouds. Our mind also often gets covered with a lot of impurities and that prevents us to access our buddha nature.
According to Buddhist teachings, there are “Ten Perfections or paramis (paramitas)” also referred to as ten qualities of heart that you can nurture and develop to practice buddha-nature in any given situation. I shall list down all these qualities so that you can start practicing them right away.
You can see the below video wherein Ajahn Sona spoke about the Ten Paramis or Perfections during teatime with guests and residents at Birken Forest Monastery.
1. The Perfection of Generosity (Dana Paramita)
Generosity as a virtue is taught in almost all religions. It is an act of giving something that is yours without expecting anything in return. The practice of generosity does not simply mean giving things away. Your attitude/intentions as you give away things also shapes this virtue in you.
To truly attain perfection in generosity:
- You should give appropriate gifts to individuals at the right time.
- You need to experience the joy of giving, the act of giving has to be accompanied by a joyful attitude.
- You should not hold any regrets if the individual whom you gifted does not appreciate it or make proper use of it.
- You need not gift always new stuff, you can even gift used things (like clothes) but ensure they are clean & can be used.
2. The Perfection of Ethical Integrity (Sila Paramita)
As you walk on a path to embrace buddha’s nature integrity and morality become the foundation of your character. This virtue stems from the five precepts (i.e. not to kill, not to steal, not to commit sexual misconduct, not to lie, and staying away from intoxicants that can potentially harm your mind).
The practice of morality helps you stay at peace, experience serenity and this, in turn, gives rise to wisdom. According to Buddhist philosophy, you cannot bend the rules instead you need to stay inside the rules and practice virtuous behavior to perfect integrity as a part of your character.
3. The Perfection of Renunciation (Nekkhamma Paramita)
The idea of renunciation is not really to leave your household, family and go to the forest. It is about renunciation of your ego and letting things be as they are. If you reflect on your life for a moment you would notice there is a continuous yearning for more things in life.
There is hardly a moment wherein we truly appreciate what we have. This constant drive or craving for “more” fuels our ego and takes us away from our buddha nature. You can attain perfect renunciation only if you develop humility and dissolve your ego.
4. The Perfection of Wisdom (Prajna Paramita)
Wisdom is the core of the buddha’s nature and it is needed to cultivate the ten qualities in you. However, how does one develop wisdom? Is it similar to intelligence?
Your intelligence can be tested through an IQ test however wisdom cannot be tested. With your intelligence, you can answer questions and solve complex problems. However, it is wisdom that determines which questions to answer first, what problems to solve first.
Your intelligence can be developed by reading books however wisdom can be developed by directly experiencing reality and understanding the actual truth.
5. The Perfection of Energy (Viriya Paramita)
Both physical and mental energy are important components of our lives. However, for many early mornings are lazy, dull due to lack of proper sleep or rest, and the whole day is filled with restlessness.
You can cultivate ‘energy’ by living a virtuous life with the right attitude. Spiritual knowledge helps in developing your character. It makes you more determined with your actions and courageous as you walk on the path of buddha nature.
Fear of death can infuse a lot of energy that can steer you during times of despair. Your deepest motivations behind your goals and desires can also fuel a lot of energy especially if the goal is to do good and help others in their journey.
6. The Perfection of Patience (Khanti Paramita)
Patience is the ability to stay non-reactive to an unpleasant event or situation. It is an extremely important virtue that can be developed especially to overcome anger.
Buddha says you cannot be enlightened and impatient at the same time. He says difficult phases of your life have to come to teach you a lesson and the only way you can learn these lessons by displaying patience. The practice of constant bemoaning & frustration takes us to the doorway of misery.
Perfecting patience will allow you to discharge all the negative energies that are stuck inside you and open doors to experience life with serenity.
7. The Perfection of Truthfulness (Sacca Paramita)
Truthfulness is being open & honest with yourself. Most of us have got into the habit of telling a lie to ourselves and avoid reality.
The ultimate truth is; there is suffering in human existence, nothing is permanent and you cannot cling to situations or people that will bring you lasting happiness.
To perfect truthfulness, you need to get comfortable with who you are and accept the world around you. You need to be open and have a genuine inquiry on your motivations, dreams, and fears. You might find this difficult in the starting eventually this would lead you on a path of self-transformation.
8. The Perfection of Determination (Adhitthana Paramita)
To practice any quality you need some degree of determination. It is a virtue that certainly can be developed and be used as a tool to combat failure. It goes without saying that in order to achieve any degree of success at any level you will require determination.
Just like any other quality you can practice determination. The key to becoming more determined is to practice determination regularly. Let’s say you wish to lose 50 pounds, then do not start an exercise routine of 7 days a week to lose all 50 pounds in one month.
Start with a five-day exercise routine and diet plan to lose 2 kgs per month. As you see success your resolve to lose weight and become fit becomes even stronger. This is how you perfect the quality of determination.
9. The Perfection of Loving-Kindness (Metta Paramita)
The practice of loving-kindness helps you to expand your awareness, increases your capacity to love, forgive and heal. The most difficult part of this practice is sending kindness & love to people who have harmed or caused pain.
It is important to understand that when you send love & kindness you are the first to receive it, it benefits you first, it heals you first, and then the rest. It is quite possible that angry, hostile people do not receive love & kindness, as they are unaware or not open towards it.
However, this should not deter you to practice loving kindness. Every time you practice it, you clear your mind of all impurities, negativity that has been stacked inside for years.
10. The Perfection of Equanimity (Upekkha Paramita)
Equanimity is having or cultivating a balanced nature as you go through life experiences. It is knowing the big picture and not getting entangled with it.
So if you are facing a situation that is difficult or painful, you should know that these situations are a part of a passing phase and nothing is permanent in life. Equanimity enables you to distance yourself from the situation and does not allow the situation to swept you.
Practicing equanimity makes you level-headed and it is a quality you must perfect to overcome trying times of your life.
If you enjoyed reading the ten qualities, then you can further deepen your knowledge and make these qualities a part of your nature. I came across one particular program on “Ten Perfections” by Jack Kornfield during my study.
Jack is one of the preeminent meditation instructors of our time and offers meditations and mindfulness techniques that help you open to these qualities which are already deeply rooted in your heart. You can learn about this program by clicking on the below link.
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