Regardless of physical form or psychological makeup, sentient beings can awaken and move toward enlightenment. Some people may think this is possible only for those who have good “karmic roots”, seeds of wisdom, or a superior capability for understanding. They may wonder how it is possible for those who have done “bad” deeds or those who have unwholesome “karmic roots” to be enlightened. Because of such a perception, in some religions, sentient beings are divided into different classes, and it is believed that some can “rise above” and some will “sink below into ruin”. These religions use such beliefs to judge the lives of sentient beings.
However, from the viewpoint of Buddhism, all lives are equal. No matter what form of body or mind, the inherent “Buddha Nature” does not increase in some while decrease in others. When the causes and conditions ripen, the innate “Buddha Nature” will awaken and function. Of course, in Buddhism, there are some sects or schools of thought that believe there is a difference in the level of karmic conditions and that not everyone can become a buddha in one lifetime. Nonetheless, becoming a buddha still is the ultimate goal of sentient beings. Therefore, it is meaningful and important to adopt expedient means and help all sentient beings move onto the path of Bodhi.
Bodhi is awakening, the mind of enlightenment, and the mind of the Buddha. To arouse the Bodhi mind and to practice the path of Bodhi is itself a significant awakening. To continuously tread this long path requires energy and diligence moment by moment. During the journey, there are all kinds of obstacles and hindrances, and they are not the so-called “tests” from outside but rather are the habitual tendencies and stubborn opinions accumulated for a long time in the cycles of existence. They appear in practice as layers of barriers when one goes against these tendencies. Through various gateways of practice methods, sentient beings can encounter layer upon layer of these hindrances, see through layer after layer of illusion, until finally, like peeling an onion, they are able to reach the innermost layer, the end. They discover that all phenomena are empty of self-existent nature and are without a “self”. When they realize the truth of Emptiness and Non-self, they become a buddha.
Regardless from which point one starts, as soon as the mind of Bodhi is awakened, the journey of enlightenment has begun. Therefore, let us start from right here, right at this moment.
(2006/12/20 written at Ipoh, Malaysia. Published in the book 《日日好日》“Every Day is a Good Day” by Dharma Drum Publications.)