Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, from Work, Sex, Money: Real Life on the Path of Mindfulness,
There are two kinds of positive thinking. One kind is thinking that the future is going to be all right, which is based on panic and concerned with security. The other one is not living in the future but living in the present. The present situation is open—you could almost say solid—and real, definite, and healthy. There is an appreciation of the richness in the present.
Believing in the present is antipoverty, because it doesn’t involve wishful thinking of any kind at all. It is there already and you don’t have to wish for anything. It’s solid and real, in a sense much more real than “me” and “myself.” In the Buddhist tradition, we have a belief in buddha nature, tathagatagarbha, which has been described as the most positive thinking of all. Some schools of Buddhist thought would say that tathagatagarbha, or buddha nature, is not some kind of abstract “nature” but rather a living buddha inside you. Sometimes people visualize the buddha within, with a complete body. Certain older schools within Buddhism have said that it is too dangerous to believe in such a real thing’s being there, because that approach could also be taken toward ego as being something solid and real inside you. These schools criticized that approach as being eternalism, one of two extremes, the other being nihilism. In some sense, however, eternalism is more positive than nihilism. However, buddha nature has nothing to do with a solid, egoistic sense of self. Basically, it is the essence of being awake, which is already there. We don’t have to think up something positive and make the best of it.
This kind of positive doesn’t try to push away the negatives. Even perceiving the negatives is a vision of the positive. That’s why we speak of panoramic awareness, which is basic positive thinking. Relating with panoramic awareness could be said to be a way of freeing ourselves from the chain reaction of karma, which is based on hope and fear. As we discussed, karma is a chain reaction that is based on panic or uncertainty, on one hand, or also a chain reaction of goodness in the smaller, one sided sense of good versus bad. On the other hand, the positivity of panoramic awareness is restful. It opens the situation and brings spaciousness and a meditative state of being. At the very moment that is present, there is no furthering of karmic cause and effect; no karmic seed is planted or developed. When that positiveness is there as we are dealing with situations, we can speak of meditation in action. In this way, meditation in action is just as important as sitting meditation.
Panoramic awareness is the basic trust that the space is there already. The whole point is that we don’t have to get it; we have it. When we say, “How do we get it?” that is the voice of poverty. Panoramic awareness is buddha nature. It may depend on the intensity of the awareness, how fully it is developed, but in any case it is some state of “awake.”
To say panoramic awareness is free from negativity sounds like there is still poverty there. However, we are not imprisoned at all. The positive state of being is so fundamental that it doesn’t need relative support from anywhere. It’s the positive and negative. It is transcendental.
Discuss Work, Sex, Money at the Tricycle Book Club.
Sign up for Tricycle’s newsletters
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.