The sentient beings are within us. They are not external to us. They do not comprise the global human population. We shall find both our true nature and sentient beings within our mind. But as long as we remain deluded, that is, refuse to follow the Buddha’s teaching, sentient beings forever remain unsaved. Our true nature, too, remains hidden from us even though a Buddha can see it like colors in broad daylight.
The problem we face as errant beings is how to remove the illusion of non-enlightenment which prevents us from seeing our Buddha Mind and saving all beings. By the illusion of non-enlightenment we are constantly overwhelmed with defilements, vices, negative psychological drives, not to mention arrogance, doubt, false views and opinionatedness.
The illusion of non-enlightenment, which conceals our true nature and the fact that all sentient beings have never been in bondage, is extraordinarily difficult to overcome. An illusion by its very nature means that we are completely deceived by a false reality—a reality that seems very real and true.
Foremost, as humans we are intellectually deceived. This deception is the gatekeeper, so to speak, which makes sure only illusion passes through. This intellectual deception even tells us that the illusion can be removed by a kind of clever reasoning in which the subject, we imagine, stands outside of the illusion; that is able to find a way out. But the 'out' we imagine is still part of the illusion as is the subject, including the empirical world it looks upon. All this has to be set aside.