During a recent retreat, I realized that Buddha mind, at least with regard to how you view yourself and the world around you, can be explained in three easy-to-grasp concepts: gratitude, compassion, and acceptance.
Gratitude: Most of us are used to going through life complaining. This is what we experienced growing up, often with the complaints directed at us, and this is what we in turn do. It’s part of looking at the glass as being half empty, rather than half full.
But if we stop for a moment and ask ourselves, each of us, regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, discovers there are enumerable things that we feel grateful for, or would feel grateful for if we didn’t take them for granted … everything ranging from the “mundane” like the hot water we shower with and our favorite chair to everyone who has had a positive influence on our life or shown us kindness. When you catalog all the things, large and small, that you are grateful for, suddenly your view of the world takes on a different slant. Yes, bad things happen, but lots of good things happen too.
Compassion: Most of us don’t feel compassion for ourselves, let alone anyone else. We feel pity, but that’s not compassion. Pity is feeling sorry for someone. Compassion in the Buddhist sense is understanding with unconditional loving kindness that people are the way they are not because they make a free will choice, but because their life experience has programmed them that way. We learn to have compassion because we realize that no matter how rich or poor, hurtful or kind, suffering is universal. We all suffer from a deep insecurity that developed after birth and was fed throughout our formative years by our learned experience.
We live in a culture of blame. We are taught to blame ourselves for our “faults,” and so we blame others. There is no word for “blame” in the Buddha mind, there is only compassion.
Acceptance: It is a tenet of Buddhism that we can’t end our suffering until we accept that things are the way they are because it’s just the way it is. Yet regardless how much we want to end our suffering, most of us definitely do not want to accept how things are. Our ego pushes back. We want our cake and eat it too. This is because of our inability to be present, because we are constantly running after what we do not have and desperately want.
This is a central conundrum for those who are trying to walk the Buddhist path. We may learn that all our feelings and perceptions, including desire, are just a product of our ego-mind and have no inherent substance, but the ego-mind is strong and those feelings and perceptions aren’t going anywhere. They are part of us. But we do learn to let them go.
And so when we come to understand the wisdom of “things are the way they are because it’s just the way it is” and embrace it, a feeling of peace rushes over us like we have never before experienced. Our mind rests undisturbed; we experience things directly, dispassionately, without labeling; all obstructions … negativity, anger, fear, doubt … subside. We become open to experience all that the present moment has to offer and find happiness in each moment.
As always, the prerequisite to experience any of these things is being present. If we are not present, that means that we are in our ego-mind, and if we are in our ego-mind, we are lost. In the grip of that force, we are closed-off to our true Buddha nature. We cannot experience gratefulness, compassion, and certainly not acceptance. We cannot experience things directly, with dispassion, and so cannot make decisions that are in our best interest. For more on being present, see my various posts on this subject, especially "Being Present Is the Key to Peace and Contentment."
So, being present, go through your day and mindfully, purposefully at first, remind yourself of the things you have to be grateful for, remind yourself to have compassion for yourself and others, and remind yourself that things are the way they are because it’s just the way it is. As the days pass, you will find that you feel more and more at peace and that this new way of looking at yourself and the world around you feels natural and good. Your are entering your true Buddha mind and are becoming one with it.