Right Understanding is the first step in the Noble Eightfold Path, the guidelines set forth by the Buddha so that we can seek what he sought. It represents overcoming suffering by understanding the true nature of things.

What is the true nature of things?

Buddhist teachings express this in two different ways. These ways seem to be different, but really their two sides of the same coin.

One is Sunyata, usually translated as Emptiness. Emptiness is sometimes misinterpreted as nihilism. It is the concept that nothing has inherent existence. Everything in the universe, including you, is dependent upon everything else. Everything is really just a collection of things that are influencing other things. If we really think about this, we know it’s true. Of course everything is interdependent. But, we tend to not live this way sometimes. We tend to think of the world as separate from ourselves and that can lead us to all kinds of trouble. Selfishness and greed come from not recognizing that we are simply part of a whole.

The other concept is Tathagatagarbha, usually translated as Buddha Nature. It’s the concept that we are one with everything because any separation that we perceive is a result of delusion. And, most importantly, the concept of Buddha Nature indicates that we already know this. At the core of our being, we are enlightened already. We just don’t always realize it because our minds are often clouded by delusion and clinging to the idea that we are an independent self. If we can realize our interdependence, or as I like to say, Unleash our Buddha Nature, we will be happier and suffer less.

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