your luminous mind

According to later Buddhist thought, human beings are fundamentally good. This is not just a theory; it’s an unmistakable meditation insight. One could say that meditation is the practice of directly experiencing our essential goodness, our fundamentally healthy and happy mind.

If we are fundamentally good, healthy and happy, then why don’t we feel this way all the time? In an early Buddhist scripture, the Buddha answers:

“Luminous is the mind, brightly shining is its nature, but it is colored by the attachments that visit it.” 

shifting focus on the luminous mind

We experience these attachments that obscure the natural radiance of the mind as the problems we encounter in our daily lives. The viewpoint of later Buddhist practice was not so much battling or getting rid of these “defilements” but rather shifting one’s focus to the “luminous” nature of the natural mind that saturates the problems themselves.

When problems are seen in this way, as temporary and impermanent outcroppings of the luminous mind, everything feels more workable. The problems are not given extra oxygen by regarding them as defilements to be overcome, but rather as opportunities to look deeper into freedom space out of which they emerge and into which they dissolve.

sheaths covering the luminous quality

Meditation allows us experience them as superficial sheaths covering this basic goodness.

This approach does not support a flawed, wounded self that is stuck making one mistake after another. Everything becomes imminently workable and lighter.

dare to thrust the luminous

It’s not that we are lacking in effort or discipline in our meditation practice, but rather a certain daring to trust our basic nature. We can’t huff and puff our way to this trust, it’s more like we relax a little more and see it’s always been there.

reveiling our birthright

As we learn to relax and trust we begin to part the veils that keep us from our birthright – our fundamentally healthy and happy mind.

The North American author and photographer Eudora Welty wrote:

My continuing passion is to part a curtain — that invisible veil of indifference that falls between us and that blinds us to each other’s presence, each other’s wonder, each other’s human plight. 

As the veils start to come apart and are seen through, we fee each other’s human plight more profoundly.

relish the happy mind

This is the Buddhist project: to see through the “invisible veils of indifference”, relish our healthy and happy mind, shout it from the rooftops, and be kinder, especially to those who suffer.

I’ll leave you this week with an excerpt from George Saunder’s speech to graduates of Syracuse University in 2013, as published in the NY Times:

So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . reservedly, mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life … try to be kinder.

That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been … Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, and share its fruits tirelessly.

And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been. I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful. 


May your day be wonderful, happy and joyous, this moment, and this one, and this one …



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About Tom Davidson-Marx

Former Buddhist monk, now father of two and full time registered nurse, my passion is sharing what I have learned from a life-long love, study and practice of the early Buddhist teachings. Thanks for reading.