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Joined at the Heart
We can brighten the future of modern society, says SAKYONG MIPHAM, by cultivating our communal basic goodness.
When people ask me what practices I’m doing, I say that I’m working on a conundrum — “creating enlightened society.”
society is a ceremony that reflects the attitude of individuals toward
themselves and others. We have been participating in somebody else’s
ceremony — a ceremony of being asleep. But we have the power to shift the
direction of our destiny by engaging in enlightened society — a ceremony
of being awake. Its foundation is acknowledging our subjective and
communal experience of basic goodness. Together we root our activity in
further illuminating that core principle. Thus society is enlightened.
is the vision of the Shambhala teachings introduced to the West by my
father, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. He felt they had arisen in our
particular time because humanity is at a crossroads. These teachings, he
said, have the power to shift the direction of our global future. He
offered many meditative practices to help us do this, but behind them
all there is a fundamental view: We are basically good. Enlightened
society is rooted in an underlying feeling of goodness.
culture does not support the view of basic goodness. We are living in
an atmosphere of heightened speed and superficiality, characterized by
constant reaction. We are bombarded with stimuli telling us we need
something else to feel complete. Many people have been taught at home,
school, or church that they are bad. To move beyond these constraints,
we must learn to value the principles of basic goodness and enlightened
society as much as the feelings that now drive our world — such as fear
and selfishness. Only by making time to self-reflect each day can we
deepen our awareness in this way. Through the regular practice of
contemplating our elemental nature, returning to a moment of
self-possession and self-respect, we can become brave enough to manifest
basic goodness, our most valiant quality.
“good” is the opposite of “bad.” But basic goodness precedes good and
bad. It is goodness in the sense that fundamentally there is nothing
wrong, nothing incomplete, and nothing missing. At the root of our being
there is a beating heart that can manifest awakenment.
means “fundamental.” Basic goodness is fundamental because it is
primordial. The nature of humanity has remained unchanged from
beginningless time. Underneath all the confusion we witness, the
character of humanity is inherently stainless, without fault.
in basic goodness doesn’t come from a convoluted moral position;
rather, it arises from discovering a feeling that underlies everything.
This inherent wakeful energy desires to communicate. It resides in our
hearts, where we experience it as fresh, genuine, and delightful.
goodness sounds very simple. We are whole. When we wake up in the
morning, we don’t have to address some elemental mistake in the depths
of our being. However, if we contemplate this, we might see that we
often don’t feel this way. We think we are basically bad, not basically
good. Our life is an unfolding of the view we take, and our personal
outlook has social ramifications. At this time on earth, entire cultures
are completely unsure about their own humanity because people do not
feel basic goodness in themselves, and thus are unable to see it in
meditation, we discover basic goodness and practice relaxing with this
view. However, I’ve noticed that especially in the West, even meditators
have difficulty believing in basic goodness. Inevitably thoughts and
emotions come up, and we should never feel bad about that. Thinking “I
don’t know” is part of the process. Fortunately it is simple to return
our mind to the basic goodness that is present in every moment, like the
sun behind the clouds. However, it is also simple to take the other
route, believing in the clouds and forgetting the sun.