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Verse 21-3: Buddha nature

Verse 21-3: Buddha nature

Part of a series of talks on the 41 Prayers to Cultivate Bodhicitta from the Avatamsaka Sutra (the Flower Ornament Sutra).

  • How buddha nature is described
  • Emptiness of our mind, the basic nature

41 Prayers to cultivate bodhicitta: 21-3 (download)

Verse 21:

“May all beings meet the Buddha.”
This is the prayer of the bodhisattva when meeting someone.

It’s talking about when we meet somebody, seeing their buddha nature and thinking in that way that we are meeting the Buddha.

The buddha nature is described in slightly different ways in different texts. In the Prajnaparamita it’s talking to the emptiness of the mind. Our mind right now is empty of inherent existence. When the mind is purified of all defilements, then the emptiness of that mind becomes nirvana.

In one way the emptiness is exactly the same. You can’t tell one emptiness from another emptiness in terms of the mind that’s directly perceiving in emptiness. But in terms of the conventional mind that’s looking at what the basis of that emptiness is, the emptiness of our present mind—I don’t know about you, but the emptiness of my present mind—is the emptiness of a mind with defilement, whereas a buddha’s mind is the emptiness of a mind without defilements. In that way they’re differentiated because the basis—the mind—is different. But you can see in the sense of them both seeing emptiness there is a corollary.

That’s one way of looking at the buddha nature. That emptiness of our mind is the basic nature, the ultimate nature of the mind. It can’t be separated out from the mind. You can’t have the mind without the emptiness of the mind. In that way, that aspect of buddha nature can never be removed or destroyed.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.