I enjoy writing this blog because, among other things, it tells me not all people are mentally challenged when it comes to Buddhism. This brings me to one of the major problems with some Buddhists. It has to do with Buddha-nature; more specifically the dictum that “All sentient beings have Buddha nature.”
This passage comes from the Mahayana Sutra named the Mahaparinirvana. This same Sutra also says, “All beings have inversions [distortions of truth] in their minds” which makes thingd rather confusing for the average person. How can a person be a Buddha and, at the same time, be inverted (viparyâsa)? Well, the simple answer is, all beings are not Buddhas. “Having” really means having the potential to become a Buddha, eventually. The Buddha never says that all beings are actual Buddhas.
Misreading the intention of Sutras follows, hand in hand, with misreading the intention of Zen masters which can set us back. If a Zen master tells us that we are Buddhas, he means that we are not actually Buddhas but, instead, as the Buddha sees it, we have the ability to realize our Buddha-ness (buddhata).
Turning back to the Mahaparinirvana Sutra we shouldn’t lose sight that there is a huge gap between having Buddha-nature and fully realizing it. Of unrealized beings, the Buddha says:
"All beings have four poisonous arrows, which become the cause of illness. What are the four? They are greed, ill-will, ignorance and arrogance."
"The Bodhisattva-mahasattvas of the ten “bhumis” know that all beings have the Buddha-Nature, but they cannot see it clearly. This is like on a dark night, where one cannot see clearly."
A good Zen teacher will emphasize the fact that the Buddha never meant to suggest that all beings are alrady Buddhas with thirty-two marks and don’t have to do anything further.