Same essence but separate from of manifestation ~ Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

If our buddha nature is beyond delusion and liberation, can’t we also say that we are in essence primordially enlightened? We could possibly succeed in convincing ourselves with such a philosophical trick, but it’s not really true, because we have already strayed onto the path. If we had never fallen into confusion, we could rightfully claim to be primordially enlightened. But unfortunately it is too late to make that claim. Our precious wish-fulfilling jewel has already fallen into the stinking mud.

Primordial enlightenment means that ground and fruition are identical and there is no path of delusion to be cleared away. This is definitely different than the situation of us who have already strayed onto the path and therefore need to clear away delusion in order to reach fruition. Take the example of a myriad of jewels: some are covered with mud, some are clean. All of them are jewels, but each one is distinctly individual. Sentient beings’ minds cognize individually, so we have to say that they are separate.

This is quite a good example, to view all beings and buddhas as countless jewels, some covered with dirt, some clean. They are not identical even though they have the same qualities. If the minds of all sentient beings were one, then when one individual attains enlightenment, everybody else would be liberated at the same moment. But if you attain enlightenment it doesn’t mean that I will be enlightened. Understand it this way: although beings have similar qualities, we are not one. We have the same essence, which is empty and cognizant, but our form of manifestation is separate, distinct from that of another sentient being.

If I recognize buddha nature and attain enlightenment it doesn’t mean that another person also recognizes and attains enlightenment. Sorry about that! If beings shared both the same essence and manifestation, when one reached enlightenment everyone else would too. We are like pure gold scattered in different places: equal quality, but separate pieces. Likewise with water: the properties of water are identical, but there is water in many diverse locations in this world. Or think of space inside our different houses – the same space but with various shapes. The empty cognizance is identical, but the ‘form’ around it is distinctly individual. Some jewels were lucky, others fell in the mud.


Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

from the book Repeating the Words of the Buddha

translated by Erik Pema Kunsang



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