Everything has (or is) Buddha nature in the same way an acorn has (or is) “oak tree nature.” That is, the full potential lies embryonic within, needing only favorable conditions to be fully realized. Under adverse conditions, that potential is unrealized, stunted, or thwarted. Favorable conditions does not mean “easy” or “comfortable” situations; Buddha nature is often realized under adverse circumstances that are actually favorable conditions for that development. Suffering, crisis, devastating loss, complete confusion are all fertile ground for the blossoming of Buddha nature.

Still, some warmth, the water of human compassion and care, and such rich soil as a sangha can provide offer the nutrients for healthy growth in the dharma. We are all creating for ourselves and others the conditions for the flowering of that dharma every moment of our lives, wherever we are. The conditions we contribute to may be favorable or unfavorable for that expression. So we need to pay attention. 

We aspire to be awake so that we can help provide the conditions for the abundant flowering of the dharma right here, in our own lives, and in every being. This is our Bodhisattva vow,  so boundless and vast, in contrast to our tiny, limited understanding of practice for  our own personal attainment, self-improvement,  or pain relief. Still, that tiny understanding is the acorn we start with.

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Appamada is not just the occasional mindful thought or attentive state of mind, it’s actually a commitment to being attentive. It’s more than just a meditative state of mind, it’s more than just being mindful. It has to do with that primary ethical or moral orientation we have in life, with which we bring into being whatever activity we’re engaged in. Whether in formal meditation, in our interactions with other people, in our social concerns, or in our political choices, it’s the energetic cherishing of what we regard as good.

—Stephen Batchelor


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