By Venerable Lama Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche.
Sarva dharma svabhava shuddho 'ham
"all phenomena are totally pure
from the beginning"
According to our relative perception, our world is filled with errors, faults, stains and obscurations. We feel quite righteous about this. The faults of others, the imperfections of our environment, sometimes seem to be even more solid than tables and chairs. Our own flaws as well, if we are aware of them at all, sometimes can seem insurmountable or unforgiveable. But these, too, dissolve under close inspection and analysis. We cannot say that impurities exist anywhere, so how can we say we must become free of them? The idea of purity depends on the idea of impurity. Total purity from the beginning transcends such dualistic notions...
Because the absolute nature of reality is unchanging and incorruptible, it cannot be decreased or increased: it is unquantifiable. When we rest in the absolute nature, we are not expanding it in any way; when we begin to wander away from it, we are not shrinking it. The enlightened ones understood that absolute reality doesn't change under any circumstances, whether beings recognize it or not. Even Lord Buddha did not change the absolute nature in any way when he turned the Wheel of Dharma.
In the more elaborated Prajnaparamita teachings, it is often stated that this absolute nature, also known as buddha nature, is the inheritance of each and every sentient being. All of us, regardless of intelligence, character, or species, possess the buddha nature, and it is the buddha nature we seek to discover when we seek enlightenment. I say "discover" because it is not something essentially different from ourselves; we need not fabricate it or construct it on top of something else. When our buddha nature is revealed, we gain access to its many attributes, such as wisdom, compassion and loving-kindness. These qualities are extremely valuable. They guide us in times of delusion, and they radiate out to others in the form of communication, friendship, joy, and happiness. When relaxed and cheerful, sentient beings can actually share and work together.
If this absolute nature cannot be affected by increase or decrease, and all sentient beings possess it already, then why do we need to practice? It is often said that the buddha nature exists only as a potential, or spark, in the ordinary being; its brilliance is obscured by many layers of dualistic concepts, the bad mental habits of infinite lifetimes. Therefore it has always been necessary that we be clearly instructed in the truth of our relative existence. The many methods taught by the Buddha have the power to peel away our obscurations and allow us to see the truth for ourselves. Although these methods are many and varied, they all have as their essence the twofold mind-training of compassion and wisdom. Compassion and loving-kindness in themselves are undisputed as the greatest treasure of all sentient beings; even animals and insects are able to recognize their value. Compassion with the wisdom of emptiness together constitute the essential practices on the path to enlightenment - they are the great ornaments of the bodhisattva.
'Ceaseless Echoes of Great Silence,'
-Khenchen Palden's commentary on the Heart Sutra