You are of far, far more valuable than you realize.
A lot of people talk about how important to be humble – and it is because if you are arrogant, then you create obstacles for yourself and stop yourself from learning and progressing. However, sometimes, people take humility to the point of being servile and of being worthless – and this causes problems too.
Because then if you have something that can be value to people – you won’t realize it and you will think that that’s worthless too. And if you keep that valuable thing that you possess hidden, then it won’t be able to benefit the world or the people around you.
So the point is don’t think too much of yourself, don’t think too little of yourself. Humility is not being servile, humility is not being worthless. Realize the treasures inside of yourself that you really do possess that can be of real help to people.
And now it is time for the Buddha to reveal to you the immense treasure that you do have inside of yourself. Because this is something that you possess that is just as brilliant, just as shining, just as radiant, just as wise and just as compassionate as that of the Buddhas – your very own Buddha Nature. Yes, you too possess the same nature as that of the highest of beings – the Buddhas – inside of you. It is a shining jewel inside of yourself called the Tathagatagarbha (the Buddha embryo).
There is no inherent difference between your Buddha Nature and the Buddha’s Buddha Nature. The only difference is that our Buddha Nature is covered with all our defilements and afflictions.
What’s this like?
The Analogy of the Sun covered by Clouds
The sun is brilliant, no? It shines with the radiance of billions upon billions of fires. And yet, when the clouds darken the sky, the sun “seems” lost – it “seems” like the sun has gone out. Has it really gone out? No – the sun is still there shining as brilliantly as ever – it was merely covered by the clouds.
And so, our own Buddha Nature is the same way – it’s still there, shining as brilliantly as ever, but because of all of our afflictions arising from greed, hatred and ignorance, it seems that it’s lost. In fact, the fogs of our defilements are so thick and dense, that we don’t even know that we possess this precious jewel inside of ourselves.
The Analogy of the woman Carrying a Royal Child but not Realizing it
But the Buddha says this to us in the Tathagatagarbha Sutra – don’t think that you are inferior or of a lowly birth for you possess that within you, an essence, a nature that is of a Royal lineage – the lineage of the Buddhas!
“Or, good sons, it is like a woman who is impoverished, vile, ugly, and hated by others, who bears a noble son in her womb. He will become a sage king, a ruler of all the four directions. But she does not know his future history, and constantly thinks of him as a base-born, impoverished child.
In like fashion, good sons, the Tathagata sees that all sentient beings are carried around by the wheel of samsara, receiving suffering and poison, but their bodies possess the tathagata’s treasure store. Just like that woman, they do not realize this.
This is why the Tathagata everywhere expounds the Dharma, saying, ‘Good sons, do not consider yourselves inferior or base. You all personally possess the Buddha nature.’ If you exert yourselves and destroy your past evils, then you will receive the title of bodhisattvas or world-honored ones, and convert and save countless sentient beings.
At that point, the World-honored One expressed himself in verses, saying:
“It is like an impoverished woman
Whose appearance is common and vile,
But who bears a son of noble degree
Who will become a universal monarch.
Replete with seven treasures and all virtues,
He will possess as king the four quarters of the earth.
But she is incapable of knowing this
And conceives only thoughts of inferiority.
I see that all beings
Are like infants in distress.
Within their bodies is the tathagatagarbha,
But they do not realize it.
So I tell bodhisattvas,
‘Be careful not to consider yourselves inferior.
Your bodies are tathagatagarbhas;
They always contain
The light of the world’s salvation.’
If you exert yourselves
And do not spend a lot of time
Sitting in the meditation hall,
You will attain the path of very highest realization
And save limitless beings.“
Source: The Tathagatagarbha Sutra