SAT CHIT ANAND
For those of you who wonder, what’s it all about? For those of you who sense there is a deeper purpose for being alive, something more than the mundane preoccupations that fill your lives, leaving no space for spirit. For those of you … Buddhism says yes, we are blessed with a precious human life, we should not waste this valuable opportunity, this miracle of being alive. It’s time to wake up and realise what it’s all about. There is meaning and purpose to our existence. There is the possibility to go beyond all stress and suffering, and to realise peace, freedom and enlightenment. There is the possibility to go beyond our suffering human nature, and to realise our Buddha nature. We all have the potential to become enlightened, to achieve eternal bliss and happiness. We all have the potential for truth, goodness and beauty in untold measures …
“Everyone has the seed of Buddha nature within themselves. Buddha nature is the capacity of being enlightened, wise, compassionate and loving. You are a Buddha-to-be. We all carry a baby Buddha within ourselves. Be careful, like a pregnant mother, so you can allow the baby Buddha to manifest.” [Thich Nhat Hanh]
Buddha nature is our inherent potential (capacity within ourselves) as human beings to grow into fully awakened and enlightened beings. We have the nature to grow into Buddhas, as a bud has the nature to grow into a flower. We have the possibility and potential to flower into kind, loving, caring, wise beings. We all have the potential to become a Buddha. This potential is indestructible. But we have to actualise this potential through spiritual growth and evolution.
BUDDHA means one who is enlightened. ENLIGHTENMENT is the complete elimination of all negative aspects of the mind and perfection of all positive qualities. An enlightened being has purified the mind and fully developed the enlightened qualities, which are manifest and present all the time. The mind of an enlightened being is free of all negativity and liberated from all defilements.
BUDDHAHOOD means PURE mind, PURE awareness, PURE consciousness, free and EMPTY of delusions, afflictions and negativity and FULL of all positive qualities. A Buddha is totally selfless. A Buddha is pure positive presence. This original purity is our true nature, and we have the potential to realise and manifest it.
Although our true nature is pure, it has been mixed with, contaminated and obscured by delusions and defilements since beginningless time. These delusions and imperfections can be purified and removed, because they are impermanent – they are not a permanent part of our nature. They are not who we really are.
Identification with a self is the main cause of our suffering. It is an illusion because we do not have an inherent abiding self that is fixed and unchanging. We might feel that there is something fixed and permanent within ourselves. This is only because our habits have solidified into what seems to be a fixed personality ‘I am like this’. Actually there is no fixed ‘I’ – it is changing all the time. Because it is changing all the time, it is impossible to pin it down and say ‘this is my self’. This is what is meant by the term ‘no-self’.
We have ‘NO-PERMANENT-SELF’, because the nature of reality is impermanence and everything (including ourselves) is changing moment-to-moment. ‘NO-PERMANENT-SELF’ applies to the dimension of time – we are part of the eternal present moment, always moving, always changing.
Buddhism does not deny our existence (nihilism). This is not the meaning of ‘no-self.’ Buddhism denies the existence of a fixed, permanent, unchanging essence that is ‘you’ (your self) – this is what is meant by selflessness. Buddhism takes the middle approach between nihilism (you don’t have a self/soul) and absolutism (you have a fixed, unchanging self/soul). The self is not something fixed and permanent, and it is not nothing or non-existent. Something and nothing are both extremes and Buddhism is the middle way. The middle way avoids the extremes of self and non-self, being and non-being, absolutism and nihilism. We exist, but not as fixed, separate entities.
We have ‘NO-SEPARATE-SELF’, because everything is interconnected and the self is made of non-self elements. ‘NO-SEPARATE-SELF’ applies to the dimension of space – we are not limited by our physical body, but are an integral part of all-that-is, which is also an integral part of ourselves.
“The true nature of reality is emptiness. Reality is devoid of solid, separate entities. Everything is empty of separate self. Train your mind to see in the light of interdependence / inter-being, and slowly the notion of one and many will vanish. The one is made of the all, and the all is in the one. Touching the one deeply, you touch everything. Looking deeply, you see the nature of inter-being.” [Thich Nhat Hanh]
Emptiness is like the womb of creation that gives birth to all things. It is the creative space out of which all things emerge. It is unlimited possibility and potential. It is because we are empty, that we have the possibility to become anything. It is because we are empty, that we have the potential to grow into a Buddha. We have no limitations, because all things wondrous arise out of emptiness. When we are empty of a separate unchanging self, we are full of presence and possibility. When we are empty of the limitations imposed by our small ego-centric self, we open to the vastness of our Buddha nature. When we are empty of the small persona that we label ‘me’, we go beyond the personal and allow universal love to flow through our hearts.
‘No-soul’ does not literally mean there is no soul. It means there is no fixed, permanent, unchanging, separate soul … but there is a fluid, dynamic, changing soul. There is continuity of consciousness. There is eternal life and eternal evolution. Our mind-stream / consciousness / soul is an eternal stream of continuity, always moving, changing, growing, and evolving. Because we are not permanent, unchanging, static entities, our possibility to change is infinite. It is this very possibility for change that makes our growth into Buddhas possible. The purpose of spiritual life is to grow in positive directions, towards greater purity, perfection and enlightenment. The journey is away from the suffering of unenlightened states of being, and towards the peace, freedom, bliss and happiness of enlightened states of inter-being. We wish you a joyful journey, Buddha-to-be.
“The state of Buddhahood does not come spontaneously – it demands a voluntary development of the mind. Buddhahood is not without cause. The Dharma teaches that sentient beings do not remain in a static state. All Buddhas … were once like us. They were in the same state of consciousness that we are now in. Then, little by little, progressing on the path, gradually stripping away all their imperfections, developing virtuous qualities one by one, they finally became Buddhas.” [Dalai Lama]
Different religions offer different paths to spiritual liberation, and we should respect them all. These differences are necessary because religion must be meaningful and appropriate to the diverse customs, cultures, mental dispositions and spiritual inclinations of different people. There should be something for everyone, and we are free to choose the approach we find most helpful. Buddhism does not try to convert people.
“All religions share the common aim of helping people to become good human beings and to lead a better life. Therefore harmony among the different religious traditions is of utmost importance.” [Dalai Lama]
We are privileged to help spread the Buddha-Dharma in South Africa, and to be part of the transformation that is happening in this country. By the merits of this presentation, may all beings realise their Buddha natures. May the Dharma take strong and solid roots in Africa, and may no obstacles arise to its practice and flourishing.
“The encounter between Buddhism and the West will bring about something very exciting, very important … When combined with the Western way of doing things, the Buddhist principle of seeing and acting non-dualistically will totally change our way of life.” [Thich Nhat Hanh]