THE BEAUTY OF PRISTINE MIND - Pristine Mind: Our Fundamental Nature - Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness (2016)

Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness (2016)


Pristine Mind: Our Fundamental Nature

The luminous nature of mind, like the changeless sky,
Is unaffected by temporary events.

—Bodhisattva Maitreya


AT ITS CORE, our mind is pristine. Pristine Mind is a beautiful, naturally vibrant state, brimming with life, self-sustaining in its capacity to provide a dependable, inexhaustible source of happiness and joy.

Sadly, most of us do not realize the true nature of our mind. We have become disconnected from it. Pristine Mind becomes obscured by the mind’s misperceptions and inner experiences—thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and judgments—that pollute its true nature. As a result, we live in a mind that leaves us insecure, alternating between times of happiness and sadness. This robs us of the ultimate experience of life, deeply connected and aware of this pristine state of mind.

In Pristine Mind we are not detached or withdrawn from the world. We do not need to reject worldly pleasures. In Pristine Mind we are far more present to the world than we have ever been before. We experience life’s pleasures more robustly, work more effectively, and, above all, love more richly and more universally. Living in this way does not leave us dry and disconnected, but fills us with gratitude and energy. Our very life changes from one of fending off fear and despair to one of contentment, love, and splendor.

Fortunately, this happy state is in us right now. It is who we really are, so we can never really lose it. But in order to rediscover it, we must look for it in the right place. Any quest for unconditional happiness must begin with our own mind.


My teachers and their teachers before them have contemplated and experienced Pristine Mind through meditation, and over many generations until the present day they have imparted their realizations to countless people. Their most fundamental understanding is that lasting happiness cannot be found by changing our external circumstances. Outer changes may feel good for a short time, but they do not last. Lasting happiness comes only from exploring our inner world and discovering the treasure that is our Pristine Mind. When we experience this treasure, it does not change with the constant shifts of external life. It is always there and accessible to us, no matter what is happening outwardly. After all, it actually is us, our true being.

Among the many teachings I have received since I was a little boy, one that I always remember and frequently contemplate is Bodhisattva Maitreya’s parable of the poor man and the treasure. A very poor old man lived in a dilapidated hut with very little food or money. He had barely enough to survive. His only possession was a lumpy, uncomfortable bed. As he lay each night on that bed, he stayed awake in great pain at the thought of all that he lacked. “I’m so poor. I have nothing.” He was depleted with fear and worry.

As the old man struggled every day to beg for enough food or coins to survive, he fantasized that he could one day be rich. At the end of each day he returned to his hut, often empty-handed, exhausted from begging for food or work. He sat despondently on his lumpy bed and wallowed in the agony of his poverty. He spent his entire life this way.

Sadly, the old man did not know that, while the outside world did not provide him with what he wanted, right in his own home, hidden under his rickety old bed, was a trunk containing a huge treasure of gold coin, enough to provide for him through any hardship. The old man was so busy thinking of himself as destitute and looking for wealth in the world outside that he never explored the very space he occupied most of the time. If only he had looked carefully under his own bed, he could have realized that he had always been rich. Then he could have enjoyed the treasure that had in truth always been his from the beginning.

We are all just like the poor man in this story. In so many ways we seek our happiness from external sources. No one seems to direct us to look within, and even if they do, we get little guidance about what that means or how to go about it. Fortunately, there are differences between us and the poor old man in the story—life-changing differences, if only we take advantage of them.

First, right now, for whatever time we have remaining in this life, we have a chance to look at what is right under our nose and experience the vast riches that are potentially ours if only we can connect to the treasure that is inside us—Pristine Mind. Life is limited, so we do not have forever to do this. But we do have this moment right now and whatever time is left, if we do not waste it.

Second, our treasure is even closer to us than the trunk hidden under the old man’s bed was to him. It is actually hidden right inside us at this very moment. It is already there. There is nothing to build or create. It is a supply that will never be empty.

Our human life does not have to be wasted like the old man’s, if we look inside, using the understanding and techniques that the teachings provide. To do this properly and successfully, however, we must give the matter more than the passing interest of an armchair reading of this book. We must act with determination, and practice the techniques leading to the rediscovery of our Pristine Mind.

To find the treasure, we must look within, not without. These teachings show us how to look within and find our Pristine Mind.

As you will see, to follow these teachings does not require you to adopt beliefs that contradict your our own independent judgment about reality. You only have to develop the motivation to gain a better understanding of your mind through direct experience. You must first relax the mind and then observe it with patience and perseverance. It is that simple.


Pristine Mind is the mind we were all born with, our natural mind. It is called Pristine Mind because it is untouched and unspoiled by experiences. It is inherently and permanently pure. It is like pristine land that has not been altered by civilization.

In Pristine Mind our senses are vibrant and alive, our perceptions pure. Things that cause us fear or insecurity in our ordinary mind do not affect us negatively when we are in Pristine Mind, because of its innate serenity. As we gain confidence that it is always with us, our fearlessness increases.

Pristine Mind is not dependent on the ups and downs of life that we have no control over. It just “is.” Changing life events that we take so seriously in our ordinary mind are far less significant in the changeless Pristine Mind. Clouds in the sky may appear, move, change, or dissolve, but the sky never changes. In the same way, the events in our ordinary mind may change, but our clear, spacious Pristine Mind never changes. That is one of the most fundamental things we come to realize about our Pristine Mind.

Bodhisattva Maitreya says:

The luminous nature of mind,

like the changeless sky,

is unaffected by temporary events.

This beautiful verse is very reassuring, especially once we have the experience to affirm it. When we look beneath the surface thoughts and emotions of our ordinary mind, and connect with our Pristine Mind, then we have an inner experience that is constant. It consists of vitality, beauty, peace, majesty, and joy.

Pristine Mind is a state that has been experienced and described for centuries by many who have practiced these teachings. It is not something they have created or made up, nor is it anything we need to fabricate. It is a natural, normal state that is present in all of us. It is something we are born with.

As our true nature, Pristine Mind is our birthright. It has, however, been obscured, covered over, one might even say “polluted,” to such an extent that our access to it is blocked, leaving us with our much more limited ordinary mind. Tragically, most of us go through life thinking our ordinary mind is all there is. This is “normal,” we think.

This ordinary mind that we are all so familiar with is to us like our breath, something we take for granted. It is just “what our mind is” or “who we are.” And we assume that the experiences we have within the confines of that mind are just the nature of life. Most of us have never even considered the possibility that Pristine Mind exists, let alone been aware that it could make such a dramatic difference to our happiness.

Given how accustomed we are to the experiences of our ordinary mind, despite what I have just described, the very idea of Pristine Mind may sound like a fantasy, something distant and hard to attain. It is not. Pristine Mind is not mystical, esoteric, or beyond the understanding of most people. It is not just for monks, yogis, and mystics. It is something we can all access, under the right circumstances. It is an experience that is already inside us, but it has been obscured by our mind’s distortions, such as anger, fear, resentment, and other mental events that now block our access to it.

The mind-set in which most of us now live, our ordinary mind, is not “normal.” In fact, it is terribly abnormal. If we want to take the true measure of our mental health, we should compare it with our Pristine Mind. In the same way that physicians measure our physical health with their modern instruments of diagnosis, we can measure the health of our current mind by comparing it with how we feel in Pristine Mind. When we experience the changeless and wonderful nature of Pristine Mind, we will see that the feelings of anxiety, boredom, or despair we typically experience are actually deviations from true life. It is Pristine Mind that is the healthy, “normal” state of mind.

Before medical science developed our knowledge about the nature, detection, and treatment of disease, people showed symptoms that often could not be traced to an accurate cause. Without understanding the cause, we typically could not create an effective treatment. In the same way, without these teachings, people may know they are unfulfilled, but they do not know the cause of their unhappiness or the appropriate treatment. Without a known cause and without an effective treatment, one cannot recover from the abnormality of ordinary mind.

At the heart of the teachings is our discovery that inside all of us there is a Pristine Mind unscathed by life experiences, awaiting our rediscovery. Unlike our ever-changing ordinary mind with which we are familiar, Pristine Mind is not a changing or fluctuating state of mind. It is stable and at the same time, boundless. In Pristine Mind we enter into a fundamental state of mind that is brilliant, clear, and tranquil. It is not needlessly affected by either our past or our future. It does not change with the changes in our circumstances. It is extremely attuned to the present and generates great richness of experience from being so attuned.

Until we see what Pristine Mind meditators have seen—both the nature of Pristine Mind and how to access it—we will be left with this ordinary mind with which to contend with our ordinary lives. Unfortunately, that will be a fruitless quest, since the ordinary mind uses self-defeating patterns that simply cannot provide us with the complete happiness we seek. Despite our efforts, it more often only leads us further away from happiness.

When we rely exclusively on our ordinary mind, our search for happiness takes place in the chaotic and arbitrary-seeming world that most of us now experience. It is a world we perceive to be driven by a series of events we get caught up in, within which we live and seek happiness, but which, in truth, is a rat race to nowhere. The Buddha called this samsara, a Sanskrit word that means an endless cycle of pain and pleasure, happiness and sadness, that results from a misperception of reality. It just circles around and around, never getting anywhere. It is filled with hopes and fears, and produces very little lasting or deep happiness.

Most people think that samsara is reality and that’s all there is to life. With Pristine Mind meditation, you will learn that life offers much, much more than you ever imagined.