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part of my own contemplation on basic goodness, I reflected on my
father’s life. He experienced the loss of his culture, the destruction
of his home, and the knowledge that his friends and family were being
tortured. One of the most brilliant minds of his generation—the last to
be fully trained in Tibet— he became a refugee in places where nobody
understood who he was or what he knew. Of all people, he had the right
to say, “I have been given this transmission of basic goodness, and I’m
beginning to doubt it. People are not good.” Instead, he showed us basic
goodness and urged us to create enlightened society. In fact, he
asserted that society itself is the expression of basic goodness.
is the relationship between two beings. We naturally come from a mother
and a father, and when we are born, we cannot survive without the love
of another. Our sense faculties themselves are society—here to
communicate with the world, which is itself communicating through the
power of the elements. The constant interplay of communication in all
our relationships is the energetic expression of goodness.
radiant wish to communicate is known as lungta, “windhorse.” It is the
ability first to overcome doubt about our basic goodness, and then to
connect with the natural longing of our hearts. Like the sun and the
moon, basic goodness is perpetual. Somewhere along the line all of us
touch that inner confidence, even if it’s just for a moment. When we
have the bravery to stay with this primordial ground of goodness and the
kindness that naturally arises from it, our relationships with others
are marked by simplicity and warmth.
society is not a utopian view. When we are awake, we see clearly, and
so we have insight. Therefore we don’t fall into the trap of simply
highlighting the positive and ignoring the negative. As the word enlightened indicates, the totality is illuminated.
keeps the illumination bright? Having knowledge about basic goodness.
With such knowledge we contact the sacred, the whole—that which cannot
be transgressed, violated, or divided. As people embody it, kindness,
wisdom, and strength reverberate, and society is in a perpetually
enlightened society is characterized by constantly maintaining the
ethos of awake, inherently acknowledging that if we do not maintain
“awake,” we will be asleep. Sleep takes place when people either forget
or ignore basic goodness. Then, acting on the insecurity, guilt, and
fear that arise, people do horrendous things.
see in Mahayana Buddhism that the power of raising the supreme thought
to benefit others created a flourishing culture that celebrated human
goodness. This changed Buddhism from an individual pursuit to a cultural
pursuit. It happened through the power of bodhisattva warriors turning
the mind toward others and focusing above all on their happiness.
the Mahayana bodhisattva, the Shambhala warrior has the bravery to take
on hardship because of conviction in a superior and universal
principle. This makes us completely simple, which empowers our intention
to awaken others. Simplicity is not a lack of understanding, but
intelligence and profound heart based on experiencing basic goodness.
“Complicated” cannot understand simple, but simple can understand
society can happen in any culture. The past offers examples. The future
depends on our view. When we recognize basic goodness, the world is a
constant support for awakening, and there is no limit to society’s
Mipham is the spiritual leader of Shambhala, an international network
of Buddhist meditation and retreat centers. He is the author of Turning the Mind Into an Ally and Ruling Your World. His new book, Running With the Mind of Meditation, will be published this spring.