by Khandro Rinpoche
Irreversible confidence comes from recognising and being sure of the presence of our fundamental ground. With growing confidence, we are no longer distracted by laziness, disappointments, sadness, enthusiasm, and so on. We no longer have to succumb to ignorance — or aggression, attachment, selfishness, or habitual tendencies such as irritation, jealousy, or aggravation. Recognising our core essence of enlightenment, we appreciate the preciousness of our existence.
When we underestimate our human existence, tendencies such as laziness arise. With laziness, we remain “as we were,” distracted and stuck in habitual patterns. We could say that any tendency to distraction impedes the arising of buddhanature — again, due to not appreciating the preciousness of each moment. To conquer these distractions, contemplate the preciousness of human existence.
Appreciating one’s life generates a courageous heart and a courageous mind. Knowing that we could become completely free and lead others to freedom from endless and intolerable suffering, we can live with a sense of urgency and complete awareness — which brings confidence and joy and even greater appreciation of our life and potential. Then we can encounter moments of depression or disappointment without succumbing to hopes and fears based on emotions, concepts, or habitual tendencies. And we can conquer discursive thoughts of ordinariness, weakness, or inadequacy – recognising them as mere tricks of the mind.
Of course, mind will put up a fierce fight when it comes to ignorance and habitual patterns. In its struggle to preserve its identity and territory, it will come up with all sorts of non appreciation of our fundamental true nature and highlight all our negative characteristics and tendencies. One way that ignorance gains a victory over our wisdom mind is by highlighting our negative tendencies through self-criticism.
With all our study and practice, we may still find it difficult to encourage ourselves on the path. Instead we criticise ourselves and feel inadequate or disappointed in our lack of awareness, our gender bias, or our inability to keep vows and precepts. When we criticise ourselves, ignorance demonstrates its tendencies.We may assume that by being self-critical we’re actually doing something good. Of course, it is important to recognise faults and overcome negative tendencies, but we often sink into the ignorance of criticising ourselves without seeing our positive qualities. If we look carefully, we will see there are far more positive qualities than negative tendencies.
Because of our inherent buddhanature, our positive qualities the very ground from which everything arises — are stronger and more numerous than our negativities. But because of habitual mind, we focus on the bleakness of our ignorance and negative qualities. We don’t see ourselves as genuinely qualified and worthy vessels for the teachings. Eventually this negativity becomes so strong that it completely covers up anything bright, luminous, and genuinely good arising from our inherently pure nature. The antidote to this pessimism and self-criticism is to understand the preciousness of human existence. It’s essential to strengthen the mind in this way.