Radical Acceptance: Enhancing your Life with the Heart of the Buddha by Tara Brach
Approach to Reawakening to our Buddha Nature
This series of dharma talks will be exploring how to awaken to our Buddha nature which as noted by Jack Kornfield in the forward to Radical Acceptance is “the fundamental happiness and freedom that are the birthrights of every human being.”
The main resource will be Radical Acceptance: Enhancing your Life with the Heart of the Buddha by Tara Brach (Bantam Books, New York, 2003). The talks will explore the topic of each chapter with the intent to relate to our own experience and to the teachings of the Buddha.
At the end of each talk, there are two assignments, Reflection and Meditation. The Buddha’s method of teach was threefold: (1) state the dharma, (2) have the listeners reflect on it and (3) experience it. The assignments are intended to assist you with fully assimilating the teachings through this process.
What is Buddha Nature
Buddha nature does not refer to an innate state or outcome that we strive for. Rather this term refers to how we can learn to act in the present, making choices for freedom and happiness. Thanissaro Bhikkhu in Freedom from Buddha Nature states that “the act of awakening to nibbana depends on a path of practice that has to be willed. It happens only if you choose to give rise to its causes. This, as the Buddha noted, involves determining to do four things: not to neglect discernment, to preserve truth, to develop relinquishment, and to train for peace.”
The Determination Not to Neglect Discernment
“Discernment is insight into how the mind fabricates its experiences. This process of fabrication is going on all the time right before our eyes — even nearer than our eyes — and yet part of the mind chooses to ignore it. We tend to be more interested in the experiences that result from the fabrication: the physical, mental, and emotional states we want to savor and enjoy. It’s like watching a play. We enjoy entering into the make-believe world on the stage, and prefer to ignore the noises made by the back-stage crew that would call the reality of that world into question.
This ignorance is willed, which is why we need an act of the will to see through it, to discern the back-stage machinations of the mind. Discernment thus has two sides: understanding and motivation. You have to understand the mind’s fabrications as fabrications, looking less for the what — i.e., what they are — than for the how — how they happen as part of a causal process. And you have to be motivated to develop this discernment, to see why you want it to influence the mind. Otherwise it won’t have the conditions to grow”.
The Determination to Preserve the Truth
“The determination to preserve the truth grows from seeing the mind’s capacity to lie to itself about whether its actions are causing suffering. You want to be honest and vigilant in looking for and admitting suffering, even when you’re attached to the actions that cause it. This truthfulness relates to the path in two stages: first, when looking for unskillful actions that keep you off the path; and then, as the path nears fruition, looking for the subtle levels of stress caused even by skillful elements of the path — such as right concentration — once they have done their work and need to be let go for the sake of full liberation.”
The Determination to Develop Relinquishment (Letting Go)
“The determination to develop relinquishment can then build on this truthful assessment of what needs to be done. Relinquishment requires discernment as well, for not only do you need to see what’s skillful and what’s not; you also need to keep reminding yourself that you have the freedom to choose, and to be adept at talking yourself into doing skillful things you’re afraid of, and abandoning unskillful actions you like.”.
The Determination to Train for Peace
“The determination to train for peace helps maintain your sense of direction in this process, for it reminds you that the only true happiness is peace of mind, and that you want to look for ever-increasing levels of peace as they become possible through the practice. This determination emulates the trait that the Buddha said was essential to his Awakening: the unwillingness to rest content with lesser levels of stillness when higher levels could be attained. In this way, the stages of concentration, instead of becoming obstacles or dangers on the path, serve as stepping-stones to greater sensitivity and, through that sensitivity, to the ultimate peace where all passion, aversion, and delusion grow still.”
“So instead of making assumptions about innate natures or inevitable outcomes, the Buddha advised exploring the possibility of freedom as it’s immediately present each time you make a choice. Freedom is not a nature, and you don’t find it by looking for your hidden innate nature. You find freedom by looking at where it’s constantly showing itself: in the fact that your present intentions are not totally conditioned by the past. You catch your first glimmer of it as a range of possibilities from which you can choose and as your ability to act more skillfully — causing more pleasure and less pain — than you ordinarily might. Your sense of this freedom grows as you explore and exercise it, each time you choose the most skillful course of action heading in the direction of discernment, truthfulness, relinquishment, and peace. The choice to keep making skillful choices may require assumptions, but to keep the mind focused on the issue of fabrication the Buddha saw that these assumptions are best kept to a bare minimum: that the mind wants happiness, that it can choose courses of actions that promote happiness or thwart it, that it can change its ways, and that it can train itself to achieve the ultimate happiness where all fabrications fall away.”
As you explore Awakening to our Buddha Nature, use the four determinations: Discernment, Preserving the Truth, Relinquishment and Train for Peace in your practice.