- Enlightenment is a Universal Truth
- Redefining Wants versus Needs
One of the key ideas in the Nirvana Sutra, the principal sutra of Shinnyo-en, is that all living beings possess buddha nature. This means that all sentient beings are naturally endowed with the qualities of a buddha; all people possess the potential to become spiritually “awake” or enlightened. The sutras teach that this universal potential to attain buddhahood lies buried deep in the heart and mind of each individual. Forgetting about this inner treasure can result in personal unease, discontent, and dissatisfaction with life, as well as suffering or pain for oneself and others. Our naturally awakened nature can be overshadowed by ignorance, which leads to greed, anger, and other negative emotions that can result in wrongful deeds or actions (also known as negative karma) that cause oneself or others to suffer.
In Chapter 12 of the Nirvana Sutra, there’s a little story about how this works:
There was once a poor woman who lived in a continual state of struggle and poverty, unaware that gold was hidden in her house. One day a visitor happened by, told her exactly where the gold was, and dug it up. Although at first the woman found it impossible to believe the visitor, when she saw the gold she was overjoyed and felt deeply grateful.
Just as the woman in the story was completely unaware of the treasure buried inside her own house, many people do not realize that they have a buddha nature, or the potential for enlightenment, within themselves. We should each strive to make our inner goodness apparent. This becomes possible by learning to act with kindness and wisdom and letting go of anger, jealousy, and other attachments—the principal causes of human suffering.
If you think about it, many times you feel unhappy when you can’t get what you think you want. But what if you changed what it is that you want? Maybe you already have, what you really want, and everything else is simple envy. A thoughtful concept related to anger was once said as, “offense is not offered, but yours to take.” That is, your perception as to whether something is good, bad or otherwise, is yours to control and change. By modifying your perceptions and judgements, you change the way you perceive the world. It’s a very powerful thing you have, isn’t it? It’s the ability to change yourself that results in change around you.
Meditation on such points and simple, consistent practice allows one to gradually recognize and experience the radiant buddha nature within ourselves and others. Forgiving both yourself and others for mistakes and learning to judge less and observe more. Through mutual and equal respect for for the innate goodness in each person, we can begin to realize the harmony amid diversity that creates a better world for all of us.
There are thousands of examples of people around us defying the impossible through persistence and courage. Even the Rolling Stones observed over 40 years ago, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need “