Friday, March 13, 2015
Two questions on Buddha nature and Samsara
I received a few questions from my readers in relation to my last articles, “Some Buddhist explanations on the origin and existence of the universe” and “There is no supreme creator god in the Buddha Dharma”. Here are two of them (reformulated) and my short answer:
Question 1: “Where the Buddha nature within us originally came from?”
First of all, no matter how much a Buddha would explain to us the nature of the universe, Buddha-nature, Nirvana, etc., as long as we are unenlightened beings with limited mental/spiritual capacities, we cannot truly understand it. So, the Buddha only offered us some hints or clues (like those I presented in my last article), but He could not possibly offer to us everything we want to know, and not because He did not know, but because we do not have the right organ or spiritual maturity for knowing more. Just imagine how can you explain a physical theory to a newborn baby :) – it is not because you do not know it, but because the baby cannot really understand you at the level he is now. Our brain or what we call “mind” cannot really process the wisdom of a Buddha who naturally knows everything. Thus, only when we ourselves attain Buddhahood we can understand everything about Buddha nature and Samsara, and all our questions will be answered or better said, we’ll have no question to ask because then we will naturally know everything, and where there is no ignorance, there are no questions :)
This is why the Buddha insisted that here and now we should be concentrated on following the Path and reach Nirvana, as a person wounded by a poisoned arrow will first pull the arrow out instead of dealing with theories like, “to which bird did the feathers of the arrow belonged to”, or “what type of wood was used when making that arrow”, and so on :)
The unenlightened human mind is limited and dualist, so it has the tendency to think in terms of begining and end. But this, „begining and end” are just „mind categories”, nothing more. Sometimes they are useful tools, especially in dealing with everyday life, but when we wish to use them to understand Nirvana or Buddha nature, they are not so useful anymore, rather they can become obstacles. Thus, because we cannot overcome duality, it is impossible for us to conceive that which is beyond begining and end. The truth is that the mind wishes very much to be a begining, because this gives her a sense of security, stability, and some kind of false understanding which is in fact, an intelectual concept, not true knowing. Because our mind functions in terms of „begining and end”, it might appear safe for it to accept the idea of a creator-god. Indeed, the human mind feels safer if it wraps up the world in concepts wich seem familiar to it. So, for many people, the matter is not if „there is or there is not a creator god”, but rather, „it must be a creator”, and so they will actually do everything to cling to the idea of a creator-god.
Coming back to the Buddha-nature or Nirvana, sometimes the Buddha used positive and negative descriptions of it, so as to make us yearn for freedom, or wish to become Buddhas ourselves, or to give us a starting point, but He also pointed out that: „Nirvana is beyond concepts”. This is to show us that we cannot apply any mind category to it. So, without entering into details which are impossible to comprehend with our limited minds, Nirvana or Buddha nature is the state of true freedom, while Samsara is the state of bondage or slavery. You are free or you are not free, or in other words, you are either a Buddha or an unenlightened being. No god created the state of samsaric slavery and its myriad of realms (as I explained in my article), just as no god created the state of true freedom. Being uncreated, the state of Nirvana or Buddha nature has no beginning and no end, so we cannot say about it that it came from here or there. Only about the karmic existences we can say they are created over and over again by unenlightened beings who are self-illusioned. But as to “when this process of self-delusion or suffering started in the first place and why” - this is a question asked in the dream by a sleeping (unenlightened) person using dreaming categories, with a mind which does not know freedom and awakening, and which will be answered after Awakening (Buddhahood) or better, the questions will naturally disappear after Awakening.
Once we attain true freedom or Awakening from the Samsaric dream (Buddha means the “Awakened One”), there is no more Samsara for us. This is similar with the every morning situation when we awake from a dream and we realize that the dream was not real, while the state of awakening, or Buddha-nature, was always there. This means that the dream was created by us and our own emotions, while the state of awakening (Buddhahood/Nirvana) is uncreated. That which is always there, uncreated and unchanged is this Reality-when-awake or the Buddha-nature. As Bodhisattva Nagarjuna, the first Patriarch of Jodo Shinshu, said (as I quoted in my article):
“There is no reality in a dream but nevertheless we believe in the reality of the things seen in a dream. After waking up, we recognize the falsity of the dream and we smile at ourselves. In the same way, the person deep in the sleep of the fetters (samyojananidra) clings (abhiniviśate) to the things that do not exist; but when he has found the Path, at the moment of Enlightenment (Nirvana/Buddhahood), he understands that there is no reality [of Samsara] and laughs at himself”.
please also read my article