Basic goodness is a term used especially in the Shambhala teachings. It is used in a number of ways, for example in a relative sense of the workability of situations we encounter or in that all human beings have the potential for vulnerability and gentleness. It is also used in a more absolute or primordial sense referring to the ground nature of experience being beyond dualistic fixation.
from the Shambhala Training glossary on basic goodness:
"If we are willing to take an unbiased look, we will find that, in spite of all our problems and confusion, all our emotional and psychological ups and downs, there is something basically good about our existence as human beings. We have moments of basic non-aggression and freshness...it is worthwhile to take advantage of these moments...we have an actual connection to reality that can wake us up and make us feel basically, fundamentally good." (see Warrior) "The realization that we can directly experience and work with reality." (Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior pg 29-33)
"...when you relax more and appreciate your body and mind, you begin to contact the fundamental notion of basic goodness in yourself. So it is extremely important to be willing to open yourself to yourself. Developing tenderness towards yourself allows you to see both your problems and your potential accurately. You don't feel that you have to ignore your problems or exaggerate your potential. That kind of gentleness towards yourself and appreciation of yourself is very necessary. It provides the ground for helping yourself and others." (Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior pg 35-36)
"The way to begin is with ourselves. From being open and honest with ourselves, we can also learn to be open with others. So we can work with the rest of the world, on the basis of the goodness we discover in ourselves. Therefore, meditation practice is regarded as a good and in fact excellent way to overcome warfare in the world: our own warfare as well as greater warfare." (Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior pg 41)
"In the ordinary sense, we think of space as something vacant or dead. But in this case, space is a vast world that has capabilities of absorbing, acknowledging, and accommodating...if you look into it, you can't find anything. If you try to put your finger on it, you find that you don't even have finger to put! That is the primordial nature of basic goodness, and it is that nature which allows a human being to become a warrior, to become the warrior of all warriors." (Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior pg 155)
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
- page 153
- when answering a question about suicide, Rinpoche suggests that it is a sign of the times where kleshas predominate but also it is because people don't believe in basic goodness - especially in terms of themselves - and they believe there is nothing joyful in the world, etc.
- page 26
- as energy of windhorse
- page 28
- confidence, in the difference between us and the Buddha
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
- page 14 (was 15)
- (Note the reprinting has slightly earlier page numbers) In discussing the seven characteristics of a dharmic person, number seven in "a basic attitude of goodness" which comes from practice and discipline. You see the sanity and insanity in you and you work to increase the sanity naturally, because you see it. No big epiphanies. You pay attention to details and your mind and your behavior.
- page 24 (was 25)
- In discussing the six obstacles to shamatha practice, rinpoche notes that illness is often from a lack of discipline and relating to live in a wholesome way. Eating food properly, for example, is very related to being a basically descent person.
- page 82
- In a Bodhisattva Vow talk Q&A, someone asks Rinpoche the difference between buddha nature, bodhichitta, and basic goodness because the question was part of their Shambhala Culture and Vajra Politics class at Seminary. Rinpoche responds: "Basic goodness is a Shambhalian expression. It means that although many people in this world are apes, within their apeness they could still have the qualities of warriorship. With the context of being an ape, you could still be a warrior. There is that element of warriorship in you already. Buddha nature is saying almost the same thing: there is enlightened mind in you already. The reason you have to follow the path is because you have to undress, to shed your coverings. It is because you feel that you are so brilliant, so full, that you decide to put lots of coverings on yourself. You don't want to acknowledge your sanity; therefore, you try to collect neuroses of all kinds in order to cover yourself up, to disguise yourself... The third one, Bodhishitta, is known as heart. It is like the expression hearty soup or hearty experience. ... It is connected with action rather then with essence as such..."
- page 87 (was 89)
- When discussing the slogan Rest in the nature of alaya the text Rinpoche is talking about describes the basic experience beyond the intention of connecting with experience as basic goodness, a kind of alaya principle. He says, "That natural goodness of alaya is described in Tibetan, in The Direct Path to Enlightenment, as basic goodness." Then he relates basic goodness to an analogy of a film projector. Resting in the nature of alaya is resting in the nature of the bulb in the projector. "Alaya is brilliant and shining; it does not give in to the fickleness of the rest of the machine." He also notes that it is resting in the nature of ultimate bodhichitta. It is both realizing the phenomena is not solid but that also there is a kind of self-luminosity about it.
- page 94 (was 96)
- In discussing the paramita of generosity, ultimate bodhichitta and relative bodhichitta, Rinpoche discusses relative bodhichitta practice and working with one's soft spot; first with people we're fond of like our mother and then extending non-aggression and non-frustration and non-anger and non-resentment beyond just our mother. He says we try "to extend our sense of gentleness, softness, and gratitude."
and that we can make ourselves soft and reasonable. We can experience gratitude toward anyone, even our bedbugs and mosquitoes. He says, "The development of that sense of gratitude, kindness, gentleness and appreciation of your world is what we call the realization of basic goodness".
- page 112 (was 115)In discussing the first of the five strengths in lojong, strong determination, Rinpoche says, "So the basic idea is one of waking up basic goodness, the alaya principle that we talked about, and realizing that you are in the right spot, that you are in the right practice." when discussing the attitude one could have toward practice and one's day.
- page 123 (was 127)In the Q&A on more slogans, someone asks if ultimate bodhichitta and alaya are the same thing. Rinpoche responds, "Well, alaya is basic goodness, and bodhichitta is the idea of basic wakefulness. There is some difference between being good and being awake." Then the followup question is "Is bodhichitta a more active quality?" and he responds, "It is more active and more illuminating. Alaya is satisfying. There is no grudge against anything, just basic satisfaction." and further that it is a resting quality but he adds that if we dug deeper it could get complicated and with metaphysical arguments.
- page 131 (was 134)In answering a question about what to do with the slogans, Rinpoche discusses a three yana approach and also says, "...disown your arrogance and your competitiveness. Beyond that, the mahayana touch is some sense of acknowledging your basic goodness. You don't feel that you have been completely cut off; you don't feel that you are hopeless. Thereis some sense of basic goodness that you can relate with, again."
- pages 92-94
- A talk titled "Absolute Bodhicitta: Basic Goodness and Naivete". In this talk he uses the term in a more absolute sense. Rinpoche associates the term basic goodness with the Tibetan term from the Kadam tradition kunshi-ngangluk-kyi-gewa which refers to the natural state or the basic style of goodness of kunshi or alaya, the ground or basic storehouse of mind. He then goes into the three qualities of that and the path of realizing that. Being kind to yourself is emphasized in the Q&A.
- page 93
- the three qualities of kunshi-ngangluk-kyi-gewa: unborn, nondwelling, free from pigeon-holing
- page 101
- In Tonglen, because we have basic goodness we can expand with an inexhaustible resource.
- page 117
- When discussing the paramita of discipline and semchen-tonche or "working with others" Rinpoche says "To begin with, we learn to control our systems, our minds, our lack of discipline. Once we begin to do so, then we find that basic goodness comes out of that. It is analogous to oryoki: to begin with, we have discipline, control; we have a ceremoney that prepares us for eating. Then we actually begin to eat the food; we begin to appreciate the food. The appreciation is like the discovery of basic goodness, which comes afterwards. We do not find candy first; first we ahve to find the machine that dispenses the candy, the vending machine, and we have to put our money in it." and he adds that we find the goodness after starting with discipline, practicing, then refining the discipline. Specifically he affirms that we have to develop the discipline of understanding the dharma and the discipline of working with others. He says, "It's how you sweep the floor and how you clean your oryoki bowls... the way we behave like relating to your creditors or the bank... your babysitters... You begin to be considerate, well disciplined, and insightful. At the same time, you take a greater view."
- page 18
- Goodness when discussing discipline as not about ethics but more about pragmatism, precision, and realism.
- page 20
- A student asks about the idea of "planting basic goodness" versus reawakening what's already there. Rinpoche says planting relates to action. You have something that is already there and and you plant your action in it.
- pages 80, 81
- An interesting exchange between a student and Rinpoche about genuineness in contrast to experiencing moments of basic goodness and moments of klesha. In that genuineness is not the experience of the kleshas which are originating from habitual patterns and not reality.
- page 85
- A student asks about reference points and basic goodness. Then there's an interesting comment about riding on goodness instead of practicing, and Rinpoche answers "You don't just have goodness; you need the mentality of goodness. You have to feel goodness, you have to exercise goodness. Goodness has to be worked outward because you are not keeping goodness for your own sake, but you have it for others' sake. That's where bodhicitta and the bodhisattva ideal come in: how to share goodness with others. Then, all the rest of the questions come along. Why do you have goodness at all? When you realize a spark of goodness yourself, real basic goodness, then you see a slash of attack, which serves as a reference point for you to see that basic goodness is it. Because you see the reference point, the attack is no longer an attack, no longer destruction. You see things as they are, so all of it is fine. But the actual application of this for others' sake is much more demanding. Working for others, manifesting for others' sake, is more demanding. Actually working for others' sake is very demanding."
- page 89
- A student asks how basic goodness relates to absolute alaya or bodhicitta and Rinpoche answers, "Basic goodness is a broad term, which applies to personal wholesomeness as well as personal dedication to others, at the same time. It is quite a broad term. It is like saying you are a good gentleman, which means you take care of your wife and your children, as well as the friends around you. So it is quite a broad word, actually. It says quite a lot." and then about the relationship to absolute alaya and bodhicitta, "Well, it could correlate with both of them. Basic goodness has a lot of demans made on it. It is like the basic idea of being a good gentleman: if you are a good gentleman you should be doing everything that a good gentleman should do."
- page 110
- when discussing the paramita of patience, Rinpoche says that it is not just overcoming aggression but is about developing forbearance and patience in order to maintain a sense of continual virtue. He then says, "Virtue is the idea that we have been talking about all along. It is the basic goodness that you are able to develop. It is the sense that you are a worthy person, a healthy person; that you have the potential to attain enlightenment; and that, eventually, you are buddha in person. Whatever words we use, such a worthy person or good person, those words all have some meaning behind them."
- page 73
- In the question and answer about a talk on Sugatagarbha, a student comments that sugatagarbha reminds them of basic goodness and Rinpoche answers "Yes. I think basic goodness is a vanguard as well as a full-fledged glory, at the same time. Basic goodness can't be cornered into one particular area alone. So in this case, you are quite right. You might vanguard, or start, your first kindling of goodness with basic goodness; then you raise your bodhicitta. That seems to be fine." The student follows "Is buddha-nature different than that?" and he replies "Well, everything is expressed at the level of buddha-nature, always. Buddha-nature covers the whole thing."
- pages 15-17
- In a hinayana talk on the first noble truth of suffering, a student asks about basic goodness. He said Rinpoche previously asserted that anxiety and suffering are the counterpart of basic goodness. Rinpoche responds that shadow is necessary in order to take a photograph.
- page 46
- "Obviously there are less powerful and more powerful journeys, and the journey we are about to discuss is the great and powerful journey known as mahayana. Maha means "great," "powerful"; yana is "journey" or "path." Why is mahayana so powerful? The power comes from some kind of realization, as we discussed last night. The greatest power comes from the realization of one's potentiality. Experience is the experience [sic]. There are both experience and action. The experience is derived from your own potentiality, and that potentiality comes from the realization of your worthiness, your goodness. It comes from realizing that you are a worthy person and a good person. You realize that you could be in a state without aggression and a state without passion. In short, you could be a person without problems. Basically speaking, you could be thoroughly, utterly, completely good. It is possible. So you are good. You can be a person with basic sanity, basic goodness."
- pages 53, 54
- "Yesterday we talked about relative bodhicitta in terms of basic goodness and recognizing the power of basic goodness, but we didn't exactly discuss the notion of utterly fundamental or absolute bodhicitta... Relative bodhicitta is regarded as our starting point; absolute bodhicitta is regarded as our further achievement."
- pages 29-33, 35-41, 44-45, 59, 66, 70, 71, 80-84, 95, 126, 177, 179;
- pages 30, 59
- definition of
- pages 42-43
- logic of
- page 154
- as truth of non-reference point