There is a line of thinking in Buddhism, that everyone is a Buddha. This Buddha nature exists underneath all of the conditioning that has been accumulated since birth. All one needs to release their Buddha nature, is to overcome her conditioning. I often refer to my clients as having been their Buddha nature when they’ve been the calm in the storm; when they’ve been able to see through the distorted nature of their thinking, and when they’ve faced an obstacle that usually leads to a problem behavior, without incident or exaggerated reaction. We are all “the Buddha” at times. I think the goal for many is to increase the frequency of realizing their Buddha nature.
This goal is often accomplished through disciplined meditation and mindfulness practice. For decades I have been practicing, in one way or another, mindfulness, meditation, being Zen, being in the moment, and being the Buddha. I’ve read numerous books, and now, written numerous articles on the subject. However, as I wrote in, “Maybe you’re better off not reading this” there is a line of thinking that all that knowledge interferes with the practice. In fact, every one of you reading this (and all the others who aren’t) can claim they’ve been practicing as well, just by living. We all learn and grow through our experiences.
Who hasn’t had the experience of looking back on something that occurred in hindsight with objectivity? With hindsight the individual can often see her mistakes, his emotions overrunning objectivity leading to a poor decision, feeling more anger than was due for the situation, or the distorted belief a feeling or emotion would never subside. When one the Buddha, this objectivity permeates.
So the goal remains to increase this sense of objectivity, this ability to remain unflustered when one normally would react. Whether you’ve been reading and practicing for decades, or if you’re new to the concept, this possibility exists in every moment. In my last post I wrote about this (The empowering moment) and how positive it feels. In that post I discuss deciding who you want to be, and enacting that behavior in the present. What if, after reading this, you decided you were going to be your Buddha nature?
First, it isn’t as far fetched as you might think. Your ego might say something like, “You can’t be a Buddha! You know nothing about that! It’s arrogant to think you can be a Buddha!” That’s an ego game. As I’ve written in the past (Overcoming unnecessary suffering) many theorists believe the unconscious has a self-destructive drive (Death Instinct, Jonah Complex) that drives one toward failure, or leads to false humility (by denying natural talents or inherent abilities). Perhaps this talk of not being able to be the Buddha is just that. Even if it isn’t, it doesn’t matter. The ego boils down to conditioning, and, if you so believe, your Buddha nature exists under that conditioning. In other words, your ego is full of it. Those negative thoughts do not matter. They can be disregarded (except of course that one will not be the Buddha nature perfectly or 100% of the time. We must function in this reality and the ego is necessary for that). So, you can be the Buddha. You might want to define what that means to you, so you have an easier time enacting it.
Second, believing you can do something adds a great deal to your ability to actually do it. Bandura studied and correlated self-efficacy with more successful outcomes, and recent science has demonstrated behaving as if (faking it) leads to more successful outcomes (making it). Additionally, as I wrote in my last post, some philosophers believe you create yourself in every moment. All of this leads to the notion that if you choose to be the Buddha in any given moment, you are. And as I wrote, this feeling is reinforcing and leads to it getting easier to be the Buddha more frequently.
When one envisions the Buddha he likely imagines calm, happy, equanimous, compassionate features. One who is not fettered by the details of life that get to the rest of us. They picture one who radiates peace. There are meditations that encourage these lines of thought, and might be helpful in your personal search for Buddhahood. Whether you engage in meditation practice with discipline, or attempt to be mindful in your life more frequently, or, even if you don’t do anything but live your life and learn and grow, you’re gaining practice toward disentangling the Buddha beneath.
Copyright William Berry, 2016.