Original Goodness
February 2016 Graduate Meeting

Videos and documents for this meeting:
Trusting Your Basic Goodness video by Tara Brach [16 min]
The Rabbi's Gift - video narrated by M. Scott Peck [6 min]
The Rabbi's Gift - printer-ready version of the story

Jack Kornfield's story, below, of the Wat Traimit Buddha of Thailand, is a beautiful metaphor illustrating the idea that every human being, without exception, has an inner core of "original goodness". Although this "original goodness" is ever-present, pure and intact, it is, for most of us, obscured by habits and behaviors born out of self-protection and ignorance, just as the overlay of clay hid the solid gold core of this Buddha for hundreds of years. To the right is a photo of the actual Wat Traimit Buddha. It is almost 10 feet high, weighs over 5 tons and contains $250 million worth of gold.

Trusting Your Basic Goodness is a 16-minute excerpt from a longer presentation given by Tara Brach in 2012. The complete 58-minute video, Trusting Your Basic Goodness: Part 2 is well worth watching, as is Trusting Your Basic Goodness: Part 1, the first talk of the two-part series.

The Rabbi's Gift is a beautiful story illustrating the transformative power of seeing the goodness in others (and ourselves). The video is narrated by M. Scott Peck himself.


     In a large temple north of Thailand's ancient capital, Sukotai, there once stood an enormous and ancient clay Buddha. Though not the most handsome or refined work of Thai Buddhist art, it had been cared for over a period of five hundred years and had become revered for its sheer longevity. Violent storms, changes of government, and invading armies had come and gone, but the Buddha endured.
     At one point, however, the monks who tended the temple noticed that the statue had begun to crack and would soon be in need of repair and repainting. After a stretch of particularly hot, dry weather, one of the cracks became so wide that a curious monk took his flashlight and peered inside. What shone back at him was a flash of brilliant gold! Inside this plain old statue, the temple residents discovered one of the largest and most luminous gold images of Buddha ever created in Southeast Asia. Now uncovered, the golden Buddha draws throngs of devoted pilgrims from all over Thailand.
     The monks believe that this shining work of art had been covered in plaster and clay to protect it during times of conflict and unrest. In much the same way, each of us has encountered threatening situations that lead us to cover our innate nobility. Just as the people of Sukotai had forgotten about the golden Buddha, we too have forgotten our essential nature. Much of the time we operate from the protective layer. The primary aim of Buddhist psychology is to help us see beneath this armoring and bring out our original goodness, called our buddhanature.
     This is a first principle of Buddhist psychology: see the inner nobility and beauty of all human beings.
           - from Discovering Our Nobility: A Psychology of Original Goodness by Jack Kornfield

     When he achieved enlightenment, Shykyamuni Buddha said, "How wonderful, how wonderful! How truly miraculous! All sentient beings have the wisdom and virtue of Tathagata."
     That is, everything, just as it is, is fully enlightened. We just can't see it, just can't accept it. And why not? Because we're deluded. And what are these delusions? How can it be that at the very same time that we are completely enlightened, that we are the Buddha, we are also deluded? In this room there are thirty or forty people, and there are at least thirty or forty different types of delusions, and thirty or forty Buddhas.
           - from The Hazy Moon of Enlightenment by Taizan Maezumi and Bernie Glassman

     When someone disagrees strongly with something to which we are strongly attached, it's easy to dismiss them as people, even see them as somehow less than human. In 1994, there was a shooting at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts that killed two people and wounded five. Not long after, a group of six people gathered together to meet in dialogue, three pro-life advocates and three pro-choice advocates. They met, in secret, over a period of five years. Their goal was not to convince each other of their respective points of view, but to come to understand each other, and to discover together how they could help prevent future killings. About this dialogue, Krista Tippett, of the Civil Conversations Project, says: By the end, they said that "None of us at the end of it had changed our position on abortion." In some ways "we were all more articulate at the end of these five years about where we are on the position" But they also said that they could never demonize the other side, now that they had come to love and treasure these people.
           - from Tricycle Buddhist Review, Spring 2013

     Imagine walking along a sidewalk with your arms full of groceries, and someone roughly bumps into you so that you fall and your groceries are strewn over the ground. As you rise up from the puddle of broken eggs and tomato juice, you are ready to shout out, "You idiot! What's wrong with you? Are you blind?" But just before you can catch your breath to speak, you see that the person who bumped you is actually blind. He, too, is sprawled in the spilled groceries, and your anger vanishes in an instant, to be replaced by sympathetic concern: "Are you hurt? Can I help you up?"
     Our situation is like that. When we clearly realize that the source of disharmony and misery in the world is ignorance, we can open the door of wisdom and compassion. Then we are in a position to heal ourselves and others.
           - from Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up by B. Alan Wallace

Closing Thoughts
[ contributed by Palouse Mindfulness graduates ]

from Lauren (Idaho):

    May you be at peace, content with yourself just the way you are.
    Trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
    Let this knowledge settle into your bones
    and allow yourself the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
           - St. Teresa of Avila & Max Ehrmann's Desiderata

from Christina (Hong Kong):

Break Your Heart No Longer
adapted from teachings of Bapuji as shared by Kirpal Venanji and Tara Brach

My beloved child, break your heart no longer.
Each time you judge yourself, you break your heart.
You pull away from the love that is the well-spring of your vitality.
But now the time has come, your time, to live and to trust the goodness that you are.


from Felicity (Scotland):

    At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God... It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see those billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely.
           - Thomas Merton

from Dawn (Cairo):

    Let the water settle
    And you will see the moon and the stars
    Mirrored in your being.
           - Rumi

from Rose (New Jersey):

    What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.
           - Richard Bach

from Stephen (Ohio):

    There are only two ways to live your life.
    One is as though nothing is a miracle.
    The other is as though everything is a miracle.
           - Albert Einstein

from Deb (United Kingdom):

Infant Joy
by William Blake

"I have no name;
I am but two days old."
What shall I call thee?
"I happy am,
Joy is my name."
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy, but two days old.
Sweet joy I call thee:
Though dost smile,
I sing the while;
Sweet joy befall thee!

from, and by, Nikki (New Jersey):

    In thinking of original goodness, I am struck by how when we are babies, very little, we are so loved - for just being us. As time goes on people begin to expect things from us, lose patience with us and even hurt us wth their own greed/lust/hate jealousy. In reading the Jack Kornfield story, I am struck with the knowing that what is within me (and all of us) is beyond gold or plaster but up until meditation, it has been valued, or not valued - seen as gold - or seen as plaster, and judged all based on the beholder. And we are the ultimately the only beholders. Meditation/mindfulness allows us to be the most beloved worshiper of the statue that we are:

1. We see ourselves as judged-less-than plaster. We leave ourselves abandoned and unadored for years.

2. We have an inkling that this is uncomfortable and then we start to determine ourselves as gold. However we vacillate between moments of thinking we are gold and thinking we are plaster, and still judging the latter

3. With mindful loving of ourselves we see that both plaster and gold are fine. That we can love and accept ourselves in both states.

4. From this unconditional love and acceptance (non-judging) we then see that neither state is true. We are so much more than plaster or gold (or bones, fat, [frizzy] hair, etc). We have only been seen as those, because of not accepting the beholder, the whole and when we enlighten the ultimate beholder (ourselves). We move beyond all of it.

from Jan (South Dakota):

The Paradoxical Commandments
by Kent M. Keith
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

from Sheila (Washington):

    Buddhism sees humans as intrinsically whole and healthy (unlike the original sin idea of the Abrahamic traditions or the idea that we’re diseased). Seeing ourselves as humans whose view of the world has been skewed by confusion and addiction allows us to use what Buddhists term “skillful means” to see things as they really are.
           - Thom L, AA Agnostica