What are the three minds?

The three minds, three attitudes that reinforce each other to generate humility and joy, are: 1. the utterly sincere mind, 2. the profound mind, and 3. the mind that transfers merit, also called the aspiring mind.

An utterly sincere mind is one that is not hypocritical. We begin by recognizing that our habitual manner of being in the world may involve considerable hypocrisy. Perhaps we put on airs and try to display ourselves as more clever, virtuous, and well-adjusted than is really the case. Perhaps we try to hide the aspects of our life that cause us embarrassment, all on account of our desire to impress and our fear of rejection. The ideal offered by Buddha is to live free of social embarrassment, manipulation, and pretense. This is the ideal of an utterly sincere mind. It means admitting our bombu condition to ourselves, at least.

The profound mind has two aspects: one is a matter of deepening the sincere mind into a full appreciation of our dependent nature, and the second aspect comes with realizing and accepting the protection we receive from the Buddha. When we feel deeply accepted just as we are, it shatters our habitual conceit. Sincere mind and deep mind thus work together, reinforcing and extending one another. As we feel more accepted we are able to admit more of our frail human nature and as we do so we are able to take refuge more deeply.

The aspiring mind is one that is turned toward the Buddha. One longs to be with Amida and gives it all one has got: the merit of one’s past life and lives. When this stock of inner happiness is turned toward Amida’s Pure Land, the tradition teaches, it is reinforced immensely. In this way, one’s faith that that is one’s true home becomes stronger and stronger, and this changed sense of belonging and identity enters into every aspect of one’s life.


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