4. Discovering and Realizing Your True Nature

“I think, therefore I am,” wrote Rene Descartes, a seventeenth century French mathematician and philosopher. What Descartes realized was that because he can think and reason, that he existed or was self-aware. However, according to the Buddha, who lived about two thousand years earlier, this self-awareness is just an illusion. True self-awareness goes beyond the mind—beyond what we can think and reason. True self-awareness comes not from the mind, but from what is variously known as our True Self, True Nature, Original Nature, Buddha Nature, Christ Nature, etc. It is this True Nature that gives us true spiritual or universal awareness. The mind is but a construct of this awareness, and it is the interface with what we perceive to be reality. Therefore, all other forms arise from the mind.

Self-awareness is an important practice that leads to enlightenment. The first step is to be aware or mindful of one's every action, word and thought. Then one must expand this awareness to one's surroundings, including people, animals, etc. In other words, to show consideration for them, to put oneself in their shoes, to treat others as one would want to be treated by others, etc. The practice can be achieved by constant self-reflection and introspection. One's awareness can eventually expand throughout the entire cosmos and across all time. This is the ultimate awareness that a Buddha has, knowing the past, present and future, and "being" everywhere at once. This is possible because the True Nature is limitless. One is limited only by forms and attachments. Therefore, one must also let go of all forms and attachments before one can become truly free and aware.

But to become a Buddha does not mean leaving this world. Ji-Gong Living Buddha (a Song Dynasty monk) was called a living Buddha because he did what a Buddha should do. Likewise, if we think, say, and do as a Buddha should, then we are also like a living Buddha for that instant. The trick is in maintaining that state for longer than just an instant. Ultimately, when we leave this world, we can attain nirvana or "oneness" with Nature.

Initiation into Dao ("Receiving Dao")

The purpose of this initiation is to point out your True Nature so that you can know it, realize it, and become truly self-aware. As the discussion on karma and affinity in a previous topic suggests, everything happens for a reason. In order to receive Dao, certain requirements must be met:

    1. You must believe (have faith) in the spiritual existence and in the source of this existence (God or Dao)

    2. You must have affinity with the Buddhas and saints

    3. You must be willing and sincere in seeking the Truth

    4. You must be willing to make a merit contribution

    5. You must be willing to kneel before the altar of God and take an oath to uphold the principles of Dao and cultivation

Those who do not believe in the spirit or in God will not find the Truth. The Truth cannot be found in science, technology, literature, or in any other form. The Truth is formless and is not outside—it is within each of us. If only we can discover it and then to realize it. By receiving the transmission of Dao, one is made aware of the Truth. After initiation, it is up to each of us to realize and to put into practice the Truth—this is what we call cultivation.

We must realize that everything in this world is constantly changing and impermanent. The only thing that is constant and permanent is our True Nature. One day the world as we know it (civilization, etc.) will come to an end. Despite the continuing and rapid developments in science and technology, the continuing decline in ethics and morality is quite evident. This decline in ethics and morality is reflected in the increasing incidence and severity of conflicts (wars, terrorist attacks, crimes, etc.), afflictions (diseases, famine, etc.), and natural calamities (earthquakes, tsunamis/floods, drought, etc.) that are occurring around the world today.

Receiving Dao and cultivating Dao is a way of salvation from all this uncertainty and suffering. By cultivating our virtues and performing merits we can change our karmic fate. In doing so, we can escape calamities and avoid misfortunes. Our virtues and merits can also benefit our deceased ancestors and future descendants so that they also will have the opportunity to receive Dao and to ultimately transcend life and death.

There is a famous sermon given by Buddha to his disciples—it is known as the “Flower Sermon.” It is recorded that Buddha sat on the mount and held a flower before his eyes. Thousands of disciples and followers were perplexed as they watched, only Mahakasyapa realized the meaning of this action and broke into a broad smile. Then Buddha spoke: “I possess the true Dharma eye, the marvelous mind of nirvana, the true form of the formless, the subtle dharma gate not found in words, but transmitted outside of the scriptures. This I entrust to Mahakasyapa.”*

To receive Dao is to receive the most precious gift in life. We obtain this gift by the grace of God and enlightening master Ji-Gong Living Buddha. The enlightening master “transmits” the three treasures to us by way of the transmitting master. Just as Buddha transmitted the wordless true Dharma to his disciple Mahakasyapa, one also receives the transmission of Dao from the enlightening master. During the transmission of Dao, the enlightening master opens our third eye or wisdom eye. This is also the narrow gate spoken of by Jesus.

It is the opening of our third eye that allows us to gain wisdom, to become self-aware, to become enlightened, and to transcend the cycle of life and death. So it is the key to eternal life. The third eye is also the doorway to our True Nature. So receiving Dao also points out our true self so that we may realize our True Nature through the cultivation of our humanity (human virtues). This allows us to attain ultimate awareness and enlightenment in our current lifetime.

Final Words

Dao is the source and origin of everything in Nature including our True Nature, and it is also the root and essence of all true faiths and dharmas. All faiths and dharmas will return back to the root (Dao). By receiving Dao and practicing (cultivating) Dao, we realize and manifest the Dao within us (our humanity) and will be able to return back to the oneness of our spiritual origin.

Perhaps some of the things you've read here are new and different from what you have learned and know. But any seeker of the truth must have an open mind to find the ultimate Truth. We must not fall prey to the dogma and religious doctrine that tells us we must faithfully and blindly accept what we are told because they are God's words. Because we have a True Nature (again, this is our God-given nature), it is incumbent upon us to question what anyone tells us is the truth and to erase any doubts that we may have. The ultimate Truth is not transmitted by way of scriptures and sutras, but rather, it can only be obtained through the wordless transmission of Dao.

Previous: 3. Philosophy and Practice of Dao