By Daniel Scharpenburg


Here is the concept of Buddha nature.

You are enlightened.

Your true self is luminous and positive and free. Our purpose in spiritual practice is not to become enlightened, but to discover that we already are.

If our true nature is that of the Buddha, or awakened being, then the goal of spiritual transformation doesn’t seem remote.

So, I don’t feel enlightened. I don’t feel pure and luminous. Why not?

Our true nature is obscured by delusion. We live under a kind of mass hypnosis that stops us from unleashing our full potential. This is a trance caused by what we call the three poisons: attachment, aversion and ignorance.

When we talk about spiritual transformation, we’re talking about clearing away the three poisons that are holding us back.

When I explain these to the children, I’m going to ask them to come up with examples themselves and I’m sure they’ll be able to.

Attachment represents our endless desire for more.

It’s not that wanting things is bad, but that our wants have no limit. We always want more no matter how much we have. This applies to material things as well as immaterial ones. If what we want is more attention that falls under greed too. It represents our feeling of “if only I had this, then I could start being happy.”

Aversion represents all the things we don’t want. Aversion can lead to things like anger, hatred and frustration. It represents our lack of contentment with the way things are. When we aren’t accepting the way things are, this is Aversion. It represents our feeling of “If only this changed, then I could start being happy.”

Ignorance is the root of the other two poisons. We are ignorant of our true selves. We see ourselves as small, limited and needy. It’s because we see ourselves in this way that we seek contentment through gaining or getting rid of things. When we realize that our true self is vast and interconnected with everything, contentment naturally arises in us.

Looking at the world in this vast and broad way—dwelling in our Buddha nature—is enlightenment.



Daniel ScharpenburgDaniel Scharpenburg is an authorized teacher in the Ch’an Guild of Huineng, in the lineage of Ch’an Master Xu Yun. He has been practicing Buddhism for over ten years. He created a meditation program for children at the Rime Buddhist Center in Kansas City. He calls his teaching Far Out Zen. He considers himself a Zen Iconoclast and Radical, in the vein of Ikkyu Sojun and Layman P’ang. He is wary of systems of religious structure and authority. He believes in taking the Dharma out into the world, in teaching those who other Dharma teachers might not be willing to teach. He has studied under Buddhist teachers in several different traditions. Find out more about Daniel on his blog and connect with him on Facebook.


Photo: Vice1/Flickr

Editor: Dana Gornall