The Buddha did not want people to become Buddhists, I am sure. He wanted them to become Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, so they would have a joyous and satisfying life. Naturally, anybody who attains this inherent luminosity to which the word Buddha refers, will spread it to others and thus creates an ambiance of harmony and bliss. In my experience, the transformation from a human being bound by attachment to an image of self -which is our normal state – to a radiant Bodhisattva, is not accomplished by reading books or belief in words. It is mostly depending on one’s own mental activity.

I was about 22 when I started with Buddhist meditation. That time, I thought it is a great way to learn how to calm down, to fall asleep easier at night and to be able to focus better on whatever task was at hand. And that also worked out fine. Years later, because of my experiences and the precious teachings of my master, I realized that meditation is a priceless tool to become aware of the workings of the mind. Just like looking into a mirror, it allows you to see what your mind is doing. Being able to observe the mind is a great asset because it creates the possibility to subsequently modify whatever goes on mentally or even emotionally. First, you learn how to see yourself clearly, then you become able to change whatever needs to be changed.

The first book I ever read about Buddhism was on the history of Chan (Zen). It contained the famous poem contest between Shenxiu, the leading disciple of the fifth patriarch of Chan and Huineng, the later famous sixth patriarch, which essentially pitches two levels of attainment against each other. While Shenxiu, who is regarded as the loser of this contest, emphasized that „the body is the tree of enlightenment, and the mind a bright mirror which needs to be polished so no dust would settle“, Huineng stated that „enlightenment is not a tree and that originally there is not one thing – so what place could there be for dust?“

At a young age, my personality had an even more competitive side than today, so I quickly decided that the winner of this contest was right and the loser was wrong. Only because of meditation and insight I finally realized that there is no right or wrong here, but that these verses represent steps on a ladder. Eventually, a lower step and the highest step on the same ladder are still part of one thing and both are necessary to become a whole useful object. In much the same way, polishing one’s mind in meditative states is a vital undertaking if one wants to see the place where dust does not exist.

I have learned that in Sanskrit, the meaning of a word is defined by the context. It is much like that with the words „meditation“ and „mindfulness“. Meditation can mean a few things, but on a deeper level, it refers to a state of mind. One could be sitting on a cushion, walking, cutting vegetables or talking to one’s lover – the conditions are not important. The calm, clear and aware mind one has in any moment, is the point.

It might not be easy to change the world, but we can certainly change ourselves. This is the great truth the Buddha entrusted to us, and he provided us with all the methods. So, is the mind a bright mirror? Absolutely, if you want it to be.

about the author: Ron Eichhorn / Mio Sop is currently president of the European Buddhist Union and a disciple of Supreme Matriarch Ji Kwang Dae Poep Sa Nim in the Yun Hwa denomination of world social Buddhism