Basic Goodness

Chögyam Trungpa
“Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior”, (Pages 42-46 )
“The Essential: The Genuine Heart of Sadness”

Imagine that you are sitting naked on the ground, with your bare bottom touching the earth and your head exposed to heaven above. A naked man or woman, sitting be tween heaven and earth.

Earth is always earth. The earth will let anyone sit on it, and earth never gives way. Likewise, sky is always sky; heaven is always heaven above you. Whether it is snowing or raining or the sun is shining, whether it is daytime or nighttime, the sky is always there. In that sense, we know that heaven and earth are trustworthy.

The logic of basic goodness is very similar. When we speak of basic goodness, we are not talking about having allegiance to good and rejecting bad. Basic goodness is good because it is un­conditional, or fundamental. It is there already, in the same way that heaven and earth are there already. We don’t reject our atmosphere. We don’t reject the sun and the moon, the clouds and the sky. We accept them. We accept that the sky is blue; we accept the landscape and the sea. We accept highways and buildings and cities. Basic goodness is that basic, that unconditional. It is not a “for” or “against” view, in the same way that sunlight is not “for” or “against.”

The natural law and order of this world is not ‘for” or ‘”against.” Fundamentally, there is nothing that either threatens us or promotes our point of view. The four seasons occur free from anyone’s demand or vote. Hope and fear cannot alter the seasons.

There is day; there is night. There is darkness at night and light during the day, and no one has to turn a switch on and off. There is a natural law and order that allows us to survive, and that is basically good, good in that it is there and it works and it is efficient.

We often take for granted this basic law and order in the universe, but we should appreciate what we have. Without it, we would be in a total predicament. If we didn’t have sunlight, we wouldn’t have any vegetation, we wouldn’t have any crops, and we couldn’t cook a meal. So basic goodness is good because it is so basic, so fundamental. It is natural and it works, and therefore, it is good, rather than being good as opposed to bad.

The same principle applies to our makeup as human beings. We are lucky enough to have complete digestive and respiratory systems so that we can process what we take in and flush it out. Human existence is a natural situation, and like the law and order of the world, it is workable and efficient. In fact, it is wonderful, it is ideal.

Some people might say this world is the work of a divine principle, but the Shambhala teachings are not concerned with divine origins. The point of warriors hip is to work personally with our situation now, as it is. From the Shambhala point of view, when we say that human beings are basically good, we mean that they have every faculty they need, so that they don’t have to fight with their world. Our being is good because it is not a fundamental source of aggression or complaint. We cannot complain that we have eyes, ears, a nose, and a mouth. Basic goodness is what we have, what we are provided with. It is the natural situation that we have inherited from birth onward.

We should feel that it is wonderful to be in this world. How wonderful it is to see colors, feel hot and cold; we taste sweet and sour. We have these sensations, and we deserve them. They are good.

So the first step in realizing basic goodness is to appreciate what we have.

Basic goodness is very closely connected to the idea of bodhicitta in the Buddhist tradition. Bodhi means “awake” or “wakeful,” and citta means “heart,” so bodhicitta is “awakened heart.” Such awakened heart comes from being willing to face your state of mind. That may seem like a great demand, but it is necessary. You should examine yourself and ask how many times you have tried to connect with your heart, fully and truly. How often have you turned away, because you feared you might discover something terrible about yourself? How many times have you tried to shield yourself by reading the newspaper, watching television, or just spacing out? How much have you connected with yourself at all in your whole life?

The sitting practice of meditation is the means to rediscover basic goodness, and beyond that, it is the means to awaken this genuine heart within yourself. When you sit in the posture of meditation, you are exactly the naked man or woman whom we described earlier, sitting between heaven and earth. When you slouch, you are trying to hide your heart. But when you sit up right but relaxed in the posture of meditation, your heart is naked. Your entire being is exposed –to yourself, first of all, but to others as well. So through the practice of sitting still and following your breath as it goes out and dissolves, you are connecting with your heart. By simply letting yourself be, as you are, you develop genuine sympathy toward yourself.

When you awaken your heart in this way, you find, to your surprise, that your heart is empty. What are you, who are you, where is your heart? If you really look, you won’t find anything tangible and solid. Of course, you might find something very solid if you have a grudge against someone or you have fallen possessively in love. But that is not awakened heart. If you search for awakened heart, if you put your hand through your rib cage and feel for it, there is nothing there except for tenderness. You feel sore and soft, and if you open your eyes to the rest of the world, you feel tremendous sadness. This kind of sadness doesn’t come from being mistreated. Rather, this experience of sadness is unconditioned. It occurs because your heart is completely exposed. You feel so touched. Your experience is raw and tender and so personal.

The genuine heart of sadness comes from feeling that your nonexistent heart is full. You would like to spill your heart’s blood, give your heart to others.

For the warrior, this experience of sad and tender heart is what gives birth to fearlessness. Conventionally, being fearless means that you are not afraid or that, if some one hits you, you will hit him back. However, we are not talking about that street-fighter level of fearlessness. Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to share your heart with others.

Chögyam Trungpa, , Permalink

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