One Mind, Two States
by Kalu Rinpoche


Mind has two faces, two facets, which are two aspects of one reality. These are enlightenment and illusion.

Enlightenment is the state of pure mind. It is nondualistic knowing and is called primordial wisdom. Its experiences are authentic; that is, they are without illusion. Pure mind is free and endowed with numerous qualities.

Illusion is the state of impure mind. Its mode of knowledge is dichotomous or dualistic; it is the “conditioned consciousness.” Its experiences are tainted by illusions. Impure mind is conditioned and endowed with much suffering.

Ordinary beings experience this state of impure, deluded mind as their habitual state. Pure, enlightened mind is a state in which mind realises its own nature as free of habitual conditions and the suffering associated with them. This is the enlightened state of a Buddha.

When our mind is in its impure, deluded state, we are ordinary beings who move through different realms of conditioned consciousness. The transmigration of the mind within these realms make up their indefinite rounds in conditioned, cyclic existence, or the cycle of lives – samsara in Sanskrit.

When it is purified of all samsaric illusion, the mind no longer transmigrates. This is the enlightened state of a Buddha, which is experience of the essential purity of our own mind, of our Buddha nature. All beings, whatever they happen to be, have Buddha nature. This is the reason we can all realise Buddha nature. It is because we each possess Buddha nature that it is possible to attain enlightenment. If we did not already have Buddha nature, we would never be able to realise it.

So, the ordinary state and the enlightened state are distinguished only by the impurity or purity of mind, by the presence or absence of illusions. Our present mind already has the qualities of buddhahood; those qualities abide in mind; they are mind’s pure nature. Unfortunately, our enlightened qualities are invisible to us because they are masked by different shrouds, veils, and other kinds of stains.

Buddha Sakyamuni taught:

Buddha nature is present in all beings,
But shrouded by adventitious illusions.
Purified, they are truly Buddha.

The distance between the ordinary state and the “enlightened” state is what separates ignorance from knowledge of this pure nature of mind. In the ordinary state, it is unknown. In the enlightened state, it is fully realised. The situation in which mind is ignorant of its actual nature is what we call fundamental ignorance. In realising its profound nature, mind is liberated from this ignorance, from the illusions and conditioning that ignorance creates, and so enters the unconditioned enlightened state called liberation.

All Buddhadharma and its practices involve purifying, “disillusioning” this ·mind, and proceeding from a tainted to an untainted state, from illusion to enlightenment.

Kalu Rinpoche 14.