How To Awaken To Enlightenment
The Purity and Turbidity of Human Nature
Regardless of the religion to which one belongs, all religions and sages taught us to cultivate our virtue. Originally, our absolute nature was pure. We can use the circle as a symbol of “The Alpha and the Omega,” the beginning and the end. We can also use it to represent our perfect nature, whole and complete in itself.Contained within the circle of our nature are the Five Constant Virtues:
Benevolence, Propriety, Righteousness, Wisdom, and Sincerity.
We may imagine this circle also to be a round pool. A pure, calm pool will reflect a perfect representation of the sun and moon. If the surface of the pool is rough, blown by wind, clogged with weeds and debris, it cannot reflect the pure white light of the sun and moon.
In this Buddhist teaching, the pure white light of sun and moon represents the light of Heaven. Wind represents desire, which blows us this way and that; weeds and debris represent karma and delusion, which pollute the purity of our absolute nature; and like ourselves, the reflection of the pool cannot be seen if pollution hazes and clouds cover the sun. Without clarity of mind, light diminishes and everything becomes dark.
Religions explain how our minds and deeds first clouded our pure nature. We stained our mind and the separation of good and evil was manifested as shown in Genesis 2:17, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it. For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Genesis 3:5, “For God doth know that in the day ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
According to religious traditions and testimonies, we originally did not differentiate between good and evil and were unaware of our innate virtue. Once aware, we understood the concepts of morality and the notions of good and evil.
All concepts are dualistic; that is, all phenomena and thoughts have both positive and negative properties. Only by seeing through the illusion of dualism can we comprehend the nature of reality. If we attach to what is unreal or dualistic, we can never understand the Absolute Truth.
A basic criterion for absolute truth is that it is permanent and unchangeable; therefore, the Absolute Truth is the only reality that is non-dependent. That which is impermanent and changeable is not constant truth; therefore, it does not satisfy the requirements of absolute truth.
Everything in the phenomenal world changes, nothing is permanent; therefore to attach to the world is like holding on to a water bubble. Although this world is unreal, we are of this world, and therefore perceive phenomenon to be real.
As we attach to form and cling to desire, we commit evil deeds to fulfill our desires. Reversing this process restores our absolute nature. To cultivate, means to follow the Straight Path. When we have found the Path, and follow it, we are following the way of cultivation.
The second step in self-cultivation is to eliminate the impurities in our self-nature and prevent further contamination of the spirit, mind and body. Taoists, Buddhists and Confucionists believe impurities or hindrances caused by past evil deeds blind us to the truth. It is their belief, that we can rid ourselves of further pollution of our absolute nature by the practice of virtue. They compare the mind to the sky—when the sky is clear, without clouds or air pollution, the light of the sun shines brightly and we can see without hindrance. Taoists, Buddhists and Confucionists see our absolute nature as the same—remove the clouds from our virtue and our spirit shines brightly.
Shen Show, a disciple of the Fifth Patriarch Hon Jen, wrote: “ Our body is the Bodhi-Tree, and our mind a mirror bright. Carefully we wipe them hour by hour, and let no dust alight.”
Carefully and constantly, moment-by -moment, in every action, and in every deed, we must nourish our virtue. Each time we diminish our virtue by evil deeds we obscure the truth, further removing ourselves from the Absolute Truth and everlasting Paradise. We all have within ourselves the ‘Five Constant Virtues’: Benevolence, Propriety, Righteousness, Wisdom, and Sincerity. They manifest from our self-nature and reside there always.
When we become deluded, the five innate virtues are lost from view. To find the ‘Way’ is to rediscover our self -nature. Practicing the Five Constant Virtues ends the further contamination of our mind, and is the beginning of the restoration of our absolute nature.
Confucius understood the innate virtue of man. It is written in the Book of Mencius, Book II, Kung Sun Chow, Part I, Chapter Six (James Legge translation): (1) Mencius said; “All men have a mind which cannot bear to see the sufferings of others. The ancient kings had this commiserating mind, and they, as a matter of course, had likewise a commiserating government. When with a commiserating mind was practiced a commiserating government, to rule the kingdom was as easy a matter as to make anything go round in the palm. When I say that all men have a mind which cannot bear to see the sufferings of others, my meaning may be illustrated thus: even now-a-days, if men suddenly see a child about to fall into a well, they will without exception experience a feeling of alarm and distress.
They will feel so, not as a ground on which they may gain the favor of the child’s parents, nor as a ground on which they may seek the praise of their neighbors and friends, nor from a dislike to the reputation of having been unmoved by such a thing.
From this case we may perceive that the feeling of commiseration is essential to man, that the feeling of shame and dislike is essential to man, and that the feeling of modesty and compliance is essential to man, and that the feeling of approving and disapproving is essential to man.
The feeling of commiseration is the principle of benevolence. The feeling of shame and dislike is the principle of righteousness. The feeling of modesty and complaisance is the principle of propriety. The feeling of approving and disapproving is the principle of knowledge. Men have these four principles just as they have their four limbs.
When men, having these four principles, yet say of themselves, that they cannot develop them, they play the thief with themselves, and he who says of his prince that he cannot develop them play the thief with his prince. Since all men have these four principles in them, let them know to give them all their development and completion, and the issue will be like that of fire which has begun to burn, or that of a spring which has begun to find vent.
Let them have their complete development, and they will suffice to love and protect all within the four seas. Let them be denied that development, and they will not suffice for a man to serve his parents with.”
The Five Constant Virtues Are:
BENEVOLENCE is mercy and compassion. When manbecame deluded, cruelty appeared and benevolence was lost. We can illustrate the loss of benevolence by shading the area within the circle with dark spots. The spots represent evil deeds. The more evil we do, the darker our nature becomes, just like dark clouds covering the bright light of the sun.
PROPRIETY is the quality of being proper. As indecencybecame common, propriety arose. Acting, thinking, or speaking in an improper way stains our nature and clouds our mind.
RIGHTEOUSNESS means to act in a just, uprightmanner and to be devoted to a sinless life. When justice is denied, righteousness is lost. To be unethical or unscrupulous is to blind the mind to honor and virtue.
WISDOM helps a sleeping person awaken toenlightenment. As discrimination separated, wisdom was lost. Wisdom removes prejudice and evil thinking through correct judgment. Wisdom is the divine intuition. It is the correct way of seeing; it is the power of discerning the correct aspect of all things. Wisdom is the innate ability to differentiate between good and evil. When we indulge in alcohol and drugs we obscure our wisdom. When we attach to greed, hatred and ignorance we delude the mind.
SINCERITY is the central virtue; from sincerity all othervirtues manifest. Insincerity means falsehood: it means to slander, tell lies or to use harsh and frivolous speech. When insincerity clouded our nature, sincerity was lost, obscuring our true spiritual mind.
He who possesses sincerity is he who, without an effort, hits upon what is right, and apprehends without thinking. “One of pure sincerity will quickly become a sage who naturally and easily embodies the Tao.”1“The absolute sincerity is ceaseless. Not ceasing, it continues long. Continuing long, it evidences itself. Evidencing itself, it reaches far. Reaches far, the meritorious virtue becomes vast and substantial.
Vast and substantial, it becomes High and brilliant. Vast and substantial, it can contain all things. High and brilliant, it can overspread all things. Reaching far and continuing long, it perfects all things.” The Doctrine of the Mean, Chapter26:1 to 26:4.
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