The Spirit of All Traditions
by Kalu Rinpoche
Westerners have achieved an astonishingly high level of technological sophistication. Mass-produced machines allow us to travel through the air at great speed, explore the depths of the ocean, and witness instantly whatever is happening in any corner of the world and even beyond our own planet. Yet our own mind, which is so close to us, remains impenetrable: we do not understand what our own mind really is. This is a paradox because, even though we have extremely refined telescopes to see light-years away and microscopes powerful enough to distinguish the atomic details of matter, the mind, which is the most basic and intimate aspect of our being, remains the most unrecognised, mysterious, and unknown.
Scientific developments and control over our material conditions have brought us a relatively high level of comfort and physical well-being. This is certainly wonderful, but even so, progress in science and technology does not prevent the mind from remaining in ignorance about itself and therefore conditioned and afflicted by suffering, frustration, and anguish. To alleviate these problems, it is crucial to discover and understand the actual nature of our own minds.
UNDERSTANDING OUR ACTUAL NATURE
The main point here is to understand our real nature, or what we actually are. Many of you know many things; you are educated. Try to use your capacities to study the mind.
You mustn’t think this kind of investigation applies only to a small elite. Each of us has a mind whose nature is the same as everyone else’s. We are all alike; we all have the feeling of existing with an ego which is subjected to all kinds of hardships and suffering, anxieties and fears. All of this results from ignorance about our basic nature. If we can reach the understanding of what we actually are, there is no better remedy for eliminating all suffering. This is the heart of all spiritual practices.
All spiritual traditions, whether Christian, Hindu, Judaic, Islamic, or Buddhist, teach that the understanding of what we are at the deepest level is the main point. This understanding of the nature of mind sheds light from within and illuminates the teachings of all traditions. In every tradition, whoever gains first hand, experiential understanding of mind and retains that kind of awareness is led to a worldview that would not have been possible prior to this direct experience. Knowledge of the nature of mind is the key that yields an understanding of all teachings; it sheds light on what we are, the nature of all our experiences, and reveals the deepest form of love and compassion. The actual realisation of the nature of mind opens onto a complete understanding of Dharma and all the traditions. To have a good theoretical knowledge of Dharma or any other spiritual tradition and to effectively realise the ultimate nature of mind, however, are profoundly different. Even a realised being who is not involved in a particular spiritual tradition would have while living in the ordinary world, an extremely beneficial influence.
I would like to emphasise that this is true regardless of the spiritual tradition Every tradition is illuminated by this awareness. But it is especially the case in the Buddha’s teachings, in which this knowledge constitutes the heart and goal of all his instruction.