We are already free—we are buddhas. At the same time, we’re bogged down by delusion, emotional afflictions, and negative habitual patterns, so we don’t realize our freedom. An analogy for this is the room that you occupy right now. The room—its spaciousness—cannot be defined by the furniture contained in it or the presence or absence of people. Nor is the nature of the room affected by its level of cleanliness. Similarly, our buddhanature is not defined by the presence or absence of our emotional afflictions. Like the spacious room, buddhanature has always been empty, free of disturbance. At the same time, buddhanature is not a thing apart from emotional afflictions. It is through the vexations of our lives that we realize freedom.

From Silent Illumination: A Chan Buddhist Path to Natural Awakening by Guo Gu © 2021. Reprinted with permission of Shambhala Publications.

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