What is the Buddha Nature like?
Analogy of Gold that has fallen into something dirty
“Or, good sons, it is like the genuine gold that has fallen into a pit of waste and been submerged and not seen for years. The pure gold does not decay, yet no one knows that it is there. But suppose there came along someone with supernatural vision, who told people, ‘Within the impure waste there is a genuine gold trinket. You should get it out and do with it as you please.’
Similarly, good sons, the impure waste is your innumerable klesas. The genuine gold trinket is your tathagatagarbha. For this reason, the Tathagata widely expounds the Dharma to enable all beings to destroy their klesas, attain true enlightenment, and perform Buddha deeds.”
At that time the World-honored One expressed himself in verses, saying:
“It is just like what happens when gold is submerged
In impure waste, where no one can see it.
But someone with supernatural vision sees it
And tells people about it, saying
‘If you get it out and wash it clean,
You may do with it as you will,’
Which causes their relatives and family all to rejoice.
The Well-departed One’s vision is like this.
He sees that for all kinds of beings,
The Tathagata nature is not destroyed,
Though it is submerged in the muddy silt of klesas.
So he appropriately expounds the Dharma
And enables them to manage all things,
So that the klesas covering the Buddha nature
Are quickly removed and beings are purified.”
Source: The Tathagatagarbha Sutra
Translated by William H. Grosnick
To show how precious the Buddha Nature (The Tathagatagarbha – which means Buddha embryo) is, the Buddha likens it to pure gold. But this pure gold has fallen into a cesspit for many years – and no one knows that it is there.
In the same way, our own Buddha Nature – has fallen into the filth of our defilements – we don’t even realize that it’s there. None of us realizes that we each possess something so profound – each and everyone of us has this nature of gold inside of ourselves, yet we don’t know that it’s there. For all these years that we have been alive, we have no clue that we have something this precious inside each and everyone of us.
We all have this spark of the Buddha within all of us – from the greatest heroes our world has seen – to the worst, most despicable and vile person the world has ever seen – each of us has this precious nature inherent within us. Because we have this spark, we all have the potential to become Buddhas.
This precious golden nature that we all possess does not decay – so it can not be destroyed. In the same way that the filth within the cesspit can not make the gold decay or go bad. The filth can not change the original nature of the gold or harm it in any way. Because all you’ve got to do is smelt the gold and all the impurities will be utterly destroyed and you will be left with shining, pure gold.
In the same way, we need to smelt this Buddha Nature that we all possess – so that the filth and impurities covering it are all destroyed. This way, our Buddha Nature – the substance that we possess that is of the same brilliance as that of the Buddha – can shine forth just like pure gold!