Monday, October 18, 2010

Empathy and Faithfulness: Understanding Buddha Nature

Never Disparaging
‘You are all treading the path. You shall all become Buddhas!’

True empathy with others and true faithfulness to one's self come from true understanding. When we understand our own buddha nature we can be faithful to the deepest aspect of ourselves. We can also understand the inherent buddha nature, the essence of others and thus empathize with them at the deepest level. In the Lotus Sutra ch.18 we meet a fascinating bodhisattva Sadaparibhuta, ‘Never Disparaging’. This bodhisattva treats all those that he meets with great reverence. He treats them all as future Buddhas. Whether or not he sees their buddha nature he treats them as though he does. When we see buddha nature, when we see true suchness, all others are truly walking Buddhas who do not yet know that they are. Their idiosyncrasies and personalities are just the faintest coverings. Their perception is just pulled slightly away from suchness into a realm of shadows. Like the residents of Plato’s cave, our attention may be disoriented into a realm of unreality, our egos, our desires, our distractions, draining pursuits. But, if in one moment our awareness turns toward the reality of buddha nature then in that moment we are buddhas. The more we live constantly in this perception, the more we will benefit the world. If we can, at least, maintain the knowledge in our disoriented moments that we and those around have the potential to see buddha nature in any given moment, then we will certainly refrain from making disparaging comments even when deeply perturbed. When we see the world for its true suchness, non-disparaging comes naturally. When we are disoriented , without this insight, we can at least hold on to the knowledge inspired by the bodhisattva, ‘Never Disparaging’, that those around us are potential Buddhas and worthy of our deepest reverence.
To truly benefit any other being we must begin with buddha nature, the experience of which naturally fosters great reverence in any given moment. We can achieve merit in many ways, but with buddha nature in our sights we can achieve infinite merit helping beings in a way that is immeasurable. Perhaps we begin to learn about buddha nature as an idea, but as we begin to grow in our practice, we begin to experience buddha nature shining through our ideas, our thinking mind, our brain-half of our mind. Perhaps through continued practice we can begin to experience buddha nature permeating our being, exploding through the heart-half of our mind. This is the beginning of all things. This is the origin of all beings, the foundation of true reality. With the inspiration of the great bodhisattva ‘Never Disparaging’, we can begin to contemplate the inherent quality latent in all beings. We can train our thinking mind to revere all beings. But as we begin to advance we can begin to peer into the true nature of others, the intangible reality that is the root of beings. When we can see this, in those moments, we can achieve empathy. In those moments we can perceive how individuals are oriented, or disoriented, as the case may be, to their foundational, authentic nature.

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