The Buddha’s first teaching was a message with the greatest hope – telling us that all beings have Buddha-nature.
There is Buddha-nature in every sentient being‘s mind, no matter how many negative actions living beings have committed or how heavy their minds are with mistaken views.
This underlying Buddha-nature brings us hope because it means that if our clear-light mind meets favourable conditions, such as a teacher who reveals the path of virtue, we can take action to achieve the happiness of liberation and enlightenment. However, if our clear-light mind meets unfavourable conditions, such as non-virtuous teachers or friends who divert us from spiritual cultivation, then mind degenerates. When this happens, Buddha-nature is not lost, but the chance to experience happiness, realisation, and wisdom is severely delayed.
Think of a big gong. The potential for making sound is within the gong, but the gong needs to encounter the condition of somebody striking it for the sound to emerge. The sound does not come from outside or somewhere else. The potential for sound is already within the gong. Sound emerges when the gong is struck by a gong stick.
Similarly, butter can be produced from milk. The potential for butter is there in the milk. Butter does not enter the milk from somewhere else! It is already there. It is just a matter of meeting the conditions that can produce butter from milk. Therefore, as our minds have Buddha-nature, the potential for ultimate, lasting happiness is already within us. It is a matter of our creating the right conditions to accomplish that.
So you see, there is always hope. Life is full of hope. No matter how many heavy negative actions we have committed, there is always the potential to be free from disturbing thoughts and obscurations, free from negativities, free from fears, and indeed free from all suffering. The potential is always within us. It is in our own hands. It depends on us.
Since life is full of hope, there is no need to be depressed. Even for those who have met the Dharma long ago but still endure so many obstacles in life and make so little progress in spiritual practice, the potential for total fulfilment remains possible. This is because of the clear-light nature of mind, the Buddha-nature within us. Problems and obstacles are temporary. The causes of problems can be removed.
The Four Noble Truths: A Guide to Everyday Life
Lama Zopa Rinpoche