Discussion with Students, What is a Buddha?

Rinpoche: What is a fully enlightened being? Just suppose you could understand the nature of a full enlightened being.
Student: Someone who understands and has control of their mind.
Rinpoche: Their human mind?
Student: Yes.
Rinpoche: I have to say that that is not the description of a Buddha. That is not a description of a fully enlightened being. In a way, that is true. Were you doing a nice supposition?
Student: Now I change my mind, and I say 'that doesn’t sound right.'
Rinpoche: Because the Buddhas have many experience including activities and life processes in other places?
Student: When I say other realms, I say it as something that I have absolutely no idea about.
Rinpoche: All right. Who else? What is a fully enlightened being? What are some of the other things that you understand or feel is right?
Student: Purity or a pure nature.
Rinpoche: Very good, this is very good thinking because you do not have to describe what that purity or pure nature is, but from your point of view, you can point at something and say, 'I don't know what it is, but I know it's pure.' This is something that human beings can do carefully from their point of view without having to know the individual characteristics.
Student: Following that explanation, I would think a diamond mind, but I don't know what that means (laughing).
Rinpoche: You don't know what it mean, but this is a classic description of Buddha nature. Adamantine, nothing can break diamond. Diamond is the essence with most clarity, most valuable. The diamond is a very strong metaphor for the nature of the enlightened being. Some good thinking going on. Like lovely songs.
Student: It's like a being whose way of being, the way in which they're alive participating in the moment is very much in harmony with the reality of energy or the way things really vibrate.
Rinpoche: Did you understand what he was saying? The method by which their life process exists very much resonates or harmonizes with the nature of reality, so their life process and the nature of reality are not discordant. Is that what you said?
Student: I was cheating a little bit because I know another term for Buddha is bhagavan,and I read the literal breakdown of that term.
Rinpoche: Okay, we had a little book learning there, but you also felt something. Yes? A Buddha is perfected. A Buddha is perfect refuge. A Buddha, a fully enlightened being, is a savior of all living beings.. Remember what the bodhisattvas want to do? To save all sentient beings. Well, who actually does it? The Buddhas. The bodhisattvas are training themselves and accomplishing what they can, but it only comes to fruition in the Buddhas.
Student: Rinpoche? I have noticed there are two different definitions of a bodhisattva. A bodhisattva can also be considered an active form of a Buddha.
Rinpoche: Yes, like that, you get ahead of us. You steal my thunder here (laughing, laughter).
Student: Controlled rebirth.
Rinpoche: You are talking bodhisattvas. Fully enlightened beings, of course capable of controlled rebirth. A fully enlightened being is beyond dualities. A fully enlightened being is accomplishing the work and capable of doing it. So, what the bodhisattvas are gaining experience in doing the Buddhas can do. A fully enlightened being has passed beyond all states of sorrow. A fully enlightened Buddha is alive in the ultimate state, and teacher of the bodhisattvas. What could a Buddha possibly be like? Even if you don't understand the nature or the reasons why the Buddhas are the way they are, your perception is looking toward nature of reality.
Is Buddha a deity? What do you think?
Student: I think, well I sense that it is more of a presence that carries, it's like a consciousness that emanates things.
Rinpoche: So you are saying that the Buddha is a deity?
Student: That seems like it's defined. It's too limiting.
Rinpoche: You think deity is limiting? Deity name is limiting?
Student: I think Buddha is really big.
Rinpoche: Big, okay. Does the Buddha have a personality?
Student: No, it has presence.

Rinpoche: All right, so we have one person who says that Buddha has presence. If you are thinking carefully, which you are not, then I accept your answer. Do you understand what I'm saying?
Student: Well, that's what I think so…
Rinpoche: No, I said that if you are thinking carefully, meaning depth and reaching down and then answering, then I accept whatever you said.
Student: That's where I came from.
Rinpoche: But, you were not (laughing). That's why we are learning.
Student: What comes to mind is, and this also feels wrong (laughing), that we cannot know what it is.
Rinpoche: That's correct. I think I like your not knowing. Your not knowing has been right two times so far.
Student: It comes from my depth, but it's doesn't….it doesn't go up here.
Rinpoche: Good. Very good. Very good.
Student: I mean, how can we possibly know?
Rinpoche: In a way, but then you went too far, and you disrespected yourself. You were okay when you said it the first time. When you said it the second time, you actively disrespected yourself, and that's no good.
Student: Buddhas do not have a personality because personality arises from conditions and conditioning.
Rinpoche: Personality arises from conditions, so the Buddha… I am not going to say whether that's right or wrong because we are going to allow others to express themselves, but we have one vote that says the Buddha does not have personality because personality arises from conditions' existence. That is not so complicated, is it? I want you to know that these are some of the most serious topics of Buddhism that we are talking about here, and everyone is doing very well.

Excerpt from You and your Relationship to the Buddhas


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