Buddhist Philosophy

Buddha Nature: Where Is It?

We are often asked, “where is Buddha” and we may point to a statue or picture. We point outward but the real Buddha is inside, our innate nature, the nature of our mind. This is true, not only of our own nature but of the nature of all sentient beings. Good and bad, angel or demon… all possess this innate Buddha-nature.

Some people say that all this practice we do is just brainwashing! Rinpoche explains that we are already brainwashed, watching movies, watching YouTube, hearing the news… so much of this we hear, believe and take as true. Of course, we need to stay informed. We can listen but we need to be moderate… not accepting everything as being true. In this video, Rinpoche gives the example of healthy eating advice he has heard online.

Dharma Practice is About Reflecting

What is our ground?

First… Mind
Then… Kind
Finally… Buddha-nature.

Where is Buddha? Our innate nature is Buddha Nature. Is this really true? We need to examine and investigate. We are often so full of doubt but we need to have certainty. We need to be free from doubt and we need to be decisive.

What is blocking our certainty? It is our clinging to the ‘dirt’ that covers this nature. The ‘dirt’ here means the thoughts and feelings we believe to be our nature. It is like dirt on our hands… it is not innate, it can be cleaned.

Dignity: Certainty in Buddha-nature

Rinpoche often uses the term, ‘dignity’ to describe this certainty in our innate nature. Our job is to develop confidence in our true nature. Dignity is the third aspect of the ground. It comes from knowing that your nature is actually Buddha.

When we hear that we have Buddha Nature it is a Mahayana teaching. Rinpoche explains that Buddha here is not a person, it is our nature.

Buddha Nature: Mahayana and Vajrayana

The Vajrayana goes a step beyond; it teaches that our innate nature is Buddha. The Mahayana expresses Buddha Nature as like the seed of the flower. Mahayana teachings say we have the potential to be Buddha. Vajrayana says ‘I have the flower’… not just the seed. “The nature of my mind is Buddha.” Rinpoche encourages us to repeat this daily… Buddha means pure. Our mind is innately pure and perfect. We will gain stability through this recollection. Moreover, we will come to see that any faults that emerge are not actually part of our nature; they are like small errors that need to be changed.

In previous teachings, Phakchok Rinpoche has discussed the first two components of the Ground. You may want to return to review these teachings!

  1. Mind: Knowing Mind  and Practicing Dharma Continuous Journey
  2. Kind: Just be Kind! and Real Kindness

Reflection Exercise

It is very helpful to recollect each day on these three points:

  1. Mind….what is my mind? We can look at its activities and habits. Remember to do this in a relaxed and non-judgmental way — that is the first step.
  2. Kind… Look to see where and what kind means to you. Where am I kind? Where is difficult to be kind… why is this difficult? Again conduct a relaxed, non-judgmental observation and inquiry.
  3. Buddha Nature. Recall that our innate nature is free from faults. Faults are like stains — they can be removed… they are not innate.

“The nature of my mind is Buddha” — repeat it 100 times daily.

Repeat and relax.

This will develop dignity, confidence in our true nature.

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.