Basic Goodness

 

I like the Buddhist idea of Basic Goodness.

It’s a term that was coined by Chogyam Trungpa, who was trying to present Buddhist teachings in a way that would resonate with westerners. It represents the same thing, essentially, as the Buddha Nature concept. It’s about our true nature, who we really are.

The teaching is quite simply that you are good enough.

This contrasts with other belief systems that describe humanity as somehow broken or flawed, that teach that we’re rooted in sin and wickedness. This is not to say that we’re perfect, of course no one is. That’s not the point.

The point is that you’re good. I like to think of it like this:

You are the sky. All of your emotional baggage and neuroses and insecurities, that stuff is all just the weather. Regardless of how bad the weather is, behind all the clouds the sky remains untouched. We hold onto these delusions that prevent us from seeing our true nature, that keep us rooted in suffering. The core of these delusions is just not seeing ourselves as we really are, and not seeing the world around us as it really is.

Language is important here, because we tell ourselves all sorts of stories. You are not an angry person. You are a person who sometimes experiences the emotion of anger. See the difference there? I’m expressing the same point, but the tone is a lot different. I’ve shifted it by saying that your anger (or sadness or neediness, or even happiness, whatever) doesn’t define you. We aren’t defined by these things unless we decide to be define by them.

I can and do make all sorts of mistakes, but still, at the core of my being is basic goodness. No flaw, however great, can take away from that.

We all carry around emotional baggage, but it’s not who we are. We let our baggage define us too much. I can think of myself as two divorces, mommy issues, and social anxiety. Or I can think of myself as good, as someone who is simply experiencing this baggage, rather than someone who is defined by it.

 


 

 

 

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About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher living in Kansas City. He gives online teachings through the Open Heart Project, the largest virtual mindfulness community in the world. His writing has appeared in Lion's Roar, Patheos, Tattooed Buddha, and Elephant Journal.

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