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There is only one problem: We don’t see this true nature in the present moment, and even less so the innate compassion and wisdom that arise from it. Even when we understand intellectually that we have buddhanature—the potential to awaken ourselves from the slumber of ignorance and suffering—we rarely acknowledge this innate purity in the present moment. We see it as a distant possibility, as something that we can experience sometime in the future, or maybe even in another lifetime.

Nevertheless, these enlightened qualities really are present, even right now in this very moment. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s take a moment to see if this rings true. Why are you sitting here reading this magazine? Why are you interested in meditation at all? I’ll bet that at least part of the reason is that you want to be happy. Who doesn’t? That wish to be happy is the essence of loving-kindness. Once we recognize this basic desire in ourselves, seeing how it manifests all the time in so many little ways, we can begin to extend it to others. Similarly, the flip side of wanting to be happy is the wish to be free from suffering. Once again, I’ll bet that in some way, the drive to be free from suffering is motivating you at this very moment. This simple wish is the essence of compassion. And finally, it must be said that even though we want to be happy and free from suffering, we often do things that bring us the opposite result. Reflect for a moment on what it feels like in those moments. When you are looking for lasting happiness somewhere it can never be found. In switching on the TV, for example, can’t you feel it in your gut that something isn’t quite right? Isn’t there a subtle nagging feeling that perhaps you are looking in the wrong place for happiness? Well, that is your buddhanature calling, your innate wisdom.

So you see, we don’t have to look outside the present moment to experience wisdom, compassion, and the boundless purity of our true nature. In fact, these things can’t be found anywhere but the present moment. We just need to pause to recognize what is always right in front of us. This is a crucial point, because meditation is not about changing who we are, or becoming better people, or even about getting rid of destructive habits. Meditation is about learning to recognize our basic goodness in the immediacy of the present moment, and then nurturing this recognition until it seeps into the very core of our being.


From the March 2012 Shambhala Sun magazine. Click here to browse the entire issue online.






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