Transforming Negativity into Positive Living (transcript)

A Commentary by Gelek Rimpoche

A fragment from chapter 1: Introduction: the human being

The individual being: buddha-nature
Before we go into this transforming the negative, I would like to talk a little bit about the individual being. What is it and what can it do? What can it achieve and how? Whatever we are going to talk, negative or positive, we have to talk the basis of the being, the individual me as a being. It is not so much the need to know who I am and what I am. The point is: how can we, individuals, really get the negative habits that we have, out of our system and how can we pick up and develop positive habits. In order to talk that, it looks necessary for us to talk a little bit about the individual.

The tradition tells us: we are a wonderful being, beautiful, pure, wonderful inside us somewhere, maybe almost faultless. As a being, a human being, a person, we have some kind of faultless being inside. However, when we react to other beings and when we react when dealing with other things, then that wonderful being cannot really shine out or the wonderful being cannot contact with the others. Something else comes in between and so, instead of coming out to the other person as a wonderful being, we get something funny. And that funny we are getting, is the experience of anger, jealousy, doubt, suspicion, fear. That is what we really see and encounter when we deal with other persons.

Naturally we always make a judgment on other persons by saying 'Ha, this person is so afraid'' or ''This is an angry person'' or ''It is a very jealous person'', all this. We sort of quickly make a judgment on the basis of what we experience with the individual, and think that is really right. We encounter, we talk, we have a little bit of dealing, then we make up our mind and we decide 'Ha, this person is an angry person, this is a jealous one, this one is trustworthy or not trustworthy. We form our mind and we quickly judge the person and put him in a sort of compartment. We try to do that. You can''t say it is totally wrong, because we do present ourselves that way.

We have a beautiful nature within us, but we do encounter others with some kind of fear, doubt or anger, so the other person will confirm 'Okay, it is an angry person''. Somehow we do give that quality instead of giving our true nature, the wonderful being for which the buddhists have the name ''buddha-nature''. That is the true person, who later becomes a buddha. That is me. My buddha-nature is me. It is not separate from me at all; it is me. That is the being who if I become a buddha, - which everybody is supposed to - will be that buddha.

According to Buddha everybody should become a buddha, and when you become a buddha, it is the being within ourselves, that becomes a buddha. That we call buddha-nature, or we call it the beautiful being inside. It is that one.

However it is unable to function now. Tibetan teachers will give you different viewpoints here. I am not going in detail on them, but I should mention something. Some teachers will tell you 'It is the true nature, it is wonderful, fully in there, however it is covered up by the delusions''.[Lama] Tsongkhapa says:

The beautiful nature of the being is there but it is not matured.

Je Tsongkhapa says it is not mature, rather than saying it is covered by the delusions. It is covered, no doubt, but why we cannot react to the other beings with this beautiful nature, is because it is not matured. Tsongkhapa says it is not matured, some teachers say it is covered; that is a philosophical problem. What is really happening is, some beautiful thing cannot react to other people. So the other people have to judge me as an angry person or whatever. That is what the other persons will judge you as, because you have been reacting with that.

When we talk about improving, do we have the potential? Can we really do it? Is it possible? We say: the potential is there. Buddha said so, the potential is there. The older teachers will say: it is a matter of improving, but it is there. Like Je Tsongkhapa says: it is not matured, it needs to mature. When it is matured, what will react to outside is what you have. That is what it is.

Therefore Buddhism goes almost too far and says: everybody can become a buddha. Because you have the potential in there, you can go as far as that, becoming a buddha. That is of course a long term, a long shot. It is true, the Buddhist teaching traditions have a habit of introducing: our goal is to become a buddha. That is a long shot. But what we need here is improving, and go closer to that as much as possible. That is what I take as my goal: to go closer to that as much as possible. If you reach there by chance, lucky! But if you don''t reach it, it is okay; you can go as close as possible.

So the basic question rises: is the individual such that it can be improved? Definitely it can be improved. Our personal experience tells us that we can definitely improve. Right? I don''t think there is any problem with that. Is there a limit in how far you can improve? That is another question. We can see that we can improve. When we established that the individual can improve, it is basically the important point to keep.

© Jewel Heart 2001