THREE PRINCIPLES - A Good Heart: The Companion to Pristine Mind - Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness (2016)

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


A Good Heart: The Companion to Pristine Mind

May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.

May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

May all beings never be separate from unconditional happiness, where there is no suffering.

May all beings live in great impartiality, free from attachment and aversion.

—The Four Boundless Attitudes to Cultivate a Good Heart


Realization, Meditation, and a Good Heart

A COMPLETE PATH to enlightenment relies on three principles: realization, meditation, and a good heart.

We have explored the first two principles of our journey to enlightenment: realization, which includes both a knowledge and experience of Pristine Mind and its characteristics; and meditation, which enables us to become more and more familiar with the state of Pristine Mind by abiding in Pristine Mind for longer and longer periods of time.

There is a third principle we must understand if our journey is to be successful and lead us to enlightenment, the permanent connectedness with our Pristine Mind: we must develop a “good heart.”

We are told by our parents, teachers, and others that it is important to be a kind and loving person—to be kind-hearted. And, of course, it is. However, there is an aspect of this that may cause some to dismiss the importance of a good heart. When we are told to be kind and loving toward others—not to lie, cheat, steal, or harm others; to be faithful and responsible; and similar admonitions—these instructions are given to us as moral imperatives; if we do these things, we are good, and if we don’t, we are either bad or we have some kind of mental impairment.

However, having a good heart is not just morally correct; it is also functionally relevant to our everyday life as well as our spiritual development. In other words, the moral dimension of having a good heart is not that crucial; instead, what’s really important is that having a good heart has essential practical advantages for our lives. Having a good heart makes our lives happy, powerful, joyous, and harmonious. This is true whether or not we desire enlightenment. The role of a good heart should therefore not be equated with religious or social conventions of virtuous behavior.

Realization, meditation, and a good heart are the three principles that lead us along the path to enlightenment.

Having a good heart gives “lift” to our meditation practice. If we want to go beyond negative thoughts and emotions, and transform everything in our life positively, then we need to have a good heart. A good heart gives us mental and emotional strength. When we live with a good heart, our inner experience is lighter and more buoyant, making the path to enlightenment more traversable.

During meditation, our job is to go beyond all mental events, whether positive or negative. When we meditate, we don’t get caught up in a sentiment of any kind, whether it’s love, compassion, or other positive events, or anger, unhappiness, or other negative events. But at every other time, we need to cultivate the proper environment for meditation. We need to develop, enhance, and increase our positive mental events. Otherwise, our minds have no fertile ground for Pristine Mind to flourish.

We should also recognize that having a good heart is crucial for happiness and contentment. A good heart inevitably leads to harmony and joy, even for someone who has no particular desire for enlightenment. Whether you want to just have a good life or you want to attain ultimate enlightenment, you need to be on the road of the good heart. It’s like driving on Highway 101 in California. You can start in San Francisco and get to San Jose. But if you keep going on the same highway, you can get all the way to Los Angeles.


We need to cultivate a good heart in a conscious way, because otherwise we see the world through the distorted lens of our ordinary mind. Our world is colored by our mind, so the qualities of our mind determine our perception of the world. If our mind leans toward the negative, then the world will appear negative. However, if our mind leans toward the positive, then the world will appear positive.

Our mind is like a movie projector. We begin with our inborn mental propensities. We unconsciously select from the myriad of opportunities that the external world gives us, to shape our inner reality. Then we project those selected images onto our experience of the world. If the projector has been filled with content such as fear, resentment, discomfort, self-centeredness, selfishness, discontent, or entitlement, then we project these mental images and patterns onto the external world, and we think the external world is causing us to feel that way. If we are self-absorbed, we then see the world as self-absorbed and we feel uncared for. In truth, however, it is our mind that is really in that state, not our external world.

If we project our image of the world through a filter of resentment, then what we see is imbued with resentment. Being with other people makes us feel and act disagreeable because we automatically feel the resentment that we ourselves project when we see others. As long as our mental projection machine is filled with negative content, then the presence of other people will make us uncomfortable in a manner consistent with what we project.

This in turn becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If, for example, because of our sense of unfulfilled entitlement, we feel chronic resentment, then we will project that mind-set onto the world around us. People seem to resent us, and we never feel appreciated or satisfied by friends, family, or partners. When we greet the world with an inflated sense of entitlement, it is extremely hard for the world to meet our unrealistic expectations. We think it is the world that upsets us. In truth it is actually our own mind imposing its framework on the external reality in a manner that then creates the very expectations we brought to it.

In light of our ordinary mental propensities, how are we to go about having a good heart? There is a way. It starts with understanding that we are all the same. Everybody is just like us. We all want to be happy. This is the way to counteract our mind’s negative propensities.

But what is a good heart, and how can we develop it to reach its highest potential?


A “good heart” is more than a single quality. There are four components or qualities of a good heart: love, compassion, joy, and impartiality. These are sometimes called the four boundless attitudes.

It’s not as if we either have these four attitudes or we do not. There are varying degrees to which different people experience each of these attitudes. There are degrees of love, degrees of compassion, degrees of joy, and degrees of impartiality. The higher degree of each of these we have, the more it helps us and others, and the more selfless and genuine we become.

The best that humanity has to offer comes from these qualities of a good heart. Throughout history the most courageous, majestic people possessed these four components of a good heart. That is why they have had such a positive impact on the world.

It is not as if we have to develop a characteristic we do not possess naturally. We all already have these tendencies to some degree; all we must do is enhance them. The more we enhance our positive attitudes, the more happiness and harmony we experience.

So much of humanity’s problems originate from our forgetting these four positive attitudes. Instead of remembering them and training our awareness on them, we let ourselves be controlled by negative tendencies like greed, anger, jealousy, resentment, and guilt. When we enhance these negative attitudes instead of those that comprise a good heart, we increase our unhappiness and disharmony. All conflicts, great or small, occur because these negative tendencies become overpowering. We do not recognize that with proper attention and training we can alter those painful and unpleasant feelings.


Wherever there is a mind, there are experiences. On a physical level we feel sensations, and on a mental level we feel emotions and have thoughts. That is how we all are. Every individual is the same in this regard. Any person who has feelings, emotions, and sensations also wishes for happiness and to have the conditions needed for happiness. And we all want to avoid suffering and the conditions that cause suffering. This is a universal truth.

A good heart originates from paying attention to and understanding other people’s situations in life. It comes from recognizing what we all have in common. We realize that all those we see—including the old man, the small child, and the middle-aged woman—are exactly like us. They, too, just want to live happily in this world. When we ask ourselves what we desire, we see that fundamentally the answer is the same for all of us. We want happiness and we do not want to suffer. When we truly recognize the universality of these wishes, we then are able to want happiness for the old man, the small child, the middle-aged woman, and all other beings. We do not want them to suffer.

This is the origin of a good heart. The understanding of this most basic fact about our universal human wish is the perspective and attitude that we need to uncover our good heart—that aspect of our mind that is so important, not only for our progress toward enlightenment, but also for our everyday happiness. Indeed, without it there can be no progress.

When we are traveling in an airplane, all passengers on the plane share something in common. There may be a couple having a conversation, a grandmother reading a book, or a child sleeping. But if we look at all these people, what do they all want? Every one of them wants a pleasant, safe flight free from turbulence or disturbance. They all want to arrive safely at their destination. Every single person, individually and collectively, shares the common interest in arriving at their destination safely and comfortably. There is, even with these strangers, some sense of caring about each other and a feeling of being part of a larger group.

In the same way, we are born together in this world. We share this world, this environment, this country or this city, with everyone else who lives here. All of humanity wants to try to live in this world and to have happiness and the conditions for happiness. Everybody wants happiness. Nobody wants suffering or the conditions of suffering.

The more we reflect on this perspective on what other people want, the more we understand what motivates them. We see our common humanity.

The truth is that everybody is the same. Everybody is just like us. Why would we want happiness but other people not want it? Why would we want to avoid suffering but other people not want that? The world does not exist only for me. The world exists for all of us. This attitude is the source of a good heart. Once we understand this truth, then it slowly leads us to the thought that everyone should be treated well.

Then, with that perspective, whenever we meet another person, we see someone who wants to enjoy life and who does not want to be hurt or to suffer. Just as much as we want happiness, so do they. They do not appear so different from us. They do not feel like a stranger. There is no confusion and no uncertainty. We don’t think, “Who is that person? Why is he here?” “What is her problem? What does she want from me?” “What are they doing in this world?” None of these suspicious and potentially resentful feelings arise. Instead, we are more likely to think, “They want to be happy, just like me.” So why do anything to make them sad or angry? Why do anything to hurt them? It will just make them unhappy. We don’t want harm for ourselves, so there’s no reason to do something that will harm others.

In the same way, when we encounter our friends, family, or co-workers, if we have developed the perspective that they are just the same as us, then even if there is a conflict or disagreement, that perspective will totally change the way we deal with the conflict. The particular way we respond to the conflict may vary according to the circumstances, but the method we use will be based on trying to understand the other person rather than just trying to win the conflict. Even in conflict, if we have the perspective that the other person is just like us, then we perceive the other person differently, more reasonably, and as a result the other person has a more positive experience of us. This reduces the conflict. As we act more reasonably, the other person’s attitude changes, and they act positively as well.

A good heart connects us positively with the world, with other people, our friends, our family, and the rest of humanity. If we want to have a connection with others, to enjoy a harmonious and genuine connection with the world, we need to have a good heart. Without a good heart we live in a world of separate individuals who are more like isolated scattered islands than a cohesive, interconnected city. A good heart is the key to finding harmony in the world and working together with others.

With a good heart, we feel emotionally good and emotionally connected. We do not feel emotionally isolated, lonely, depleted, or run down. If we do not have a good heart, there is no richness in our emotional life. In order to have a rich and healthy emotional life, we need a good heart with tenderness and warmth.

When we look at everyone in the world with love and compassion, then our heart is emotionally connected. Our heart is neither frozen nor numb. If we do not have a good heart, if we are without compassion and love, then when we look at the world, it feels foreign and strange. Our heart feels disconnected, or even worse; we may feel hatred, aversion, or prejudice. These are the opposite of a good heart.

If we do not have a good heart, we do not feel anything positive. A good heart is the most important element of our emotional life.