basic goodness:

(1) on the relative (everyday level; conventional world; mundane) plane: a view of our basic nature as human beings

  • seeing the fundamental purity of ourselves and others;
  • a conspiracy of well-being in the universe (the word “conspiracy” comes from the Latin “conspirare” meaning “to breathe together”);
  • willing to wear your heart on your sleeve;  (Please note: this does not mean neurotic indulgence.)
  • a biological pre-dispostion to warm-heartedness (His Holiness The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada, October 31, 2007)

(2) on the ultimate (absolute, primordial, inherent) plane: a view of reality

  • we are complete as we are; we do not need to add anything or take anything away;
  • innate, inherent trait of humanity;
  • primordial healthiness;
  • wholesome, wakeful presence underlying all changing conditions;
  • the essence that underlies appearances in the phenomenal world; unchanging wakefulness;
  • the essence of all beings from beginningless time (i.e. basic goodness is beyond time);
  • even though it’s called “basic goodness,” it transcends moralistic concepts of good and bad, therefore primordial;  both “good” and “evil” arise from this basic ground
  • basic goodness is good because it’s basic and basic because it’s good;
  • beyond time and space, therefore, a “conspiracy” of Nowness;
  • surpasses thought and non-thought;
  • at our fingertips all the time;
  • wakefulness that does not know doubt or fear;
  • the primordial dot: that spark of goodness that exists even before you think;
  • Great Eastern Sun;
  • alaya;
  • ultimate bodhicitta;
  • enlightened genes; and
  • ultimate ashe.

causes and conditions:  the two factors that have to come together for karmic seeds to ripen.

  • causes = volitional action;
  • conditions = an aspect of consequences which are also the result of your past volitional actions

circumstances: One’s actions in response to circumstances produce further seeds. i.e. circumstances then act as the conditions for causes to ripen and for further causes (actions) to be generated. In the play An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde, Mrs. Cheveley threatens to expose Lord Chiltern’s past indiscretions.

Lord Chiltern: My God! What brought you into my life?

Mrs. Chevely: Circumstances. At some point, we all have to pay for what we do. You have to pay now.


The fact that I inherit a business is a circumstance which is the result of the conditions, i.e., my father owning one and leaving it to me, etc., and also the result of a karmic cause (for this result) which was planted by an action in a past life. So, inheriting a business is the coming together of causes and conditions.  The fact that I now have a business is also a condition for further karmic seeds to ripen.  Because of the condition of having a business, I meet and hire various employees, I make a lot of money, etc.  Making a lot of money in the business is the result of the condition of having a business and a past action of generosity.  How I go about treating my employees, what I do with the money, etc. plants karmic seeds for future circumstances to ripen. Perhaps I go bankrupt.  This is due to poor management (a condition) and the ripening of another karmic seed coming from another past action in a past life.  If I lash out at people during the bankruptcy process, that plants further karmic seeds. (example provided courtesy of senior teacher Jay Lippman)

dependent origination\dependently existent: the 12 factors that describe how we perceive and experience the world; how karma is created and maintained.

drala: the blessing energy that arises when we have moved beyond aggression.

ego: what I call the manufactured self, made up of parts (just as a car is made up of parts), called skandhas. Ego is the entity we have manufactured to prevent ourselves from realizing that we do not exist in any permanent, separate (independent), ongoing, solid way.

We live under an assumed identity, in a neurotic fairy-tale world with no more reality than the Mock Turtle in Alice in Wonderland.<source: Rigpa Glimpse of the Day for February 22, 2010)

From the point of view of lived experience, ego is what we experience when we resist — resist change of any kind, resist challenges to our beliefs about the way things should be, resist “attacks” on the wall we have built to deceive ourselves about the true nature of reality.

So where emptiness is experienced as letting go, ego is experienced as  resistance, a lack of acceptance of the real nature of things.

Here’s one of the best definitions of ego that I’ve found in over 40 years of study.

Ego is the absence of true knowledge of who we really are, together with its result: a doomed clutching on, at all costs, to a cobbled together and makeshift image of ourselves, an inevitably chameleon charlatan self that keeps changing, and has to, to keep alive the fiction of its existence.

In Tibetan, ego is called dakdzin , which means “grasping to a self.” Ego is then defined as incessant movements of grasping at a delusory notion of “I” and “mine,” self and other, and all the concepts, ideas, desires, and activities that will sustain that false construction.

Such grasping is futile from the start and condemned to frustration, for there is no basis or truth in it, and what we are grasping at is by its very nature ungraspable. The fact that we need to grasp at all and to go on grasping shows that in the depths of our being we know that the self doesn’t inherently exist. From this secret, unnerving knowledge spring all our fundamental insecurities and fears.

(source: Rigpa Glimpse of the Day February 10, 2011)

empty\emptiness: (does not mean that nothing matters, which is nihilism)
(see also “sunyata” below)

  1. from the point of view of lived experience, emptiness is what we experience when we let go of our projections;
  2. insubstantial (like a cloud or dream): not solid; empty of permanent, solid, unchanging, independent existence; we mistakenly think that we are separate from anything else in the world because we have individual bodies.
  3. Because things depend on causes and conditions in order to appear\arise, they cannot have a solid existence.
  • We’ve all heard of the term “stand alone” computer. There’s actually no “stand alone” thing that exists on its own. Just as a car is made up of parts, so are we (see ego). The apparently solid car can be dismantled.  If you get a letter to ask you to visit a friend in another city or country, you might drive or buy a plane ticket. You bought the ticket based on the cause of being invited. Neither the letter, your visit, the ticket nor the airplane have an existence apart from other factors. They do not stand alone. In other words, things only exist in relationship to something else.  In short, when we dream we believe that the dream is “real,” that what is happening is “really happening.” We wake up and say “that was just a dream.” Certainly, the dream was vivid! But it wasn’t “real.” Neither are the things we experience in “real”\waking life.


  • intuitive awareness
  • being present with how one innately feels before thoughts, concepts, labels or descriptions such as “depressed,” ” sad” arise etc. (notes courtesy of Margaret May, Director, Shambhala Meditation Centre of Toronto  from online presentation by Dean of Meditation Instructors, Shambhala International,  Dale Asrael>
  • but on another level we do connect with the feelings [e.g. joy] but [we do so] in the context of all our feelings – i.e. the idea is not to make a big deal of one of the emotions. So if we feel joy it is in the presence of all the emotions we have (note courtesy of Patricia Madeline Conacher, Juniper Hill Retreat Centre)

habits, habitual tendencies, habitual patterns:
What exactly are habitual tendencies\patterns comprised of? Two components (courtesy of Judith Simmer-Brown):

  1. Kleshas (afflictive emotions, which are underlain by clusters of thoughts)
  2. Karma (volitional action) – of body, speech and mind

So habits are comprised of an emotional aspect (kleshas) meeting with our habitual way of reacting (karma).

  • METAPHOR: the tires of your car are stuck in wet mud. You step on the accelerator but all you succeed in doing is making a deeper rut in the mud. To get out of this rut, you have to do something different, e.g. get out and push the car while someone else steps on the accelerator.Our fundamental awake nature is not produced or created, but is already there. In the way the vast expanse of the sky is present but may be obscured by clouds, we too are obscured by habitual patterns that we mistake for ourselves.(source: Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche of Ligmincha Institute)

karma: People get into a heavy-duty sin and guilt trip, feeling that if things are going wrong, that means that they did something bad and they are being punished. That’s not the idea at all. The idea of karma is that you continually get the teachings that you need to open your heart. To the degree that you  didn’t understand in the past how to stop protecting your soft spot, how to stop armoring your heart, you’re given this gift of teachings in the form of your life, to give you everything you need to open further. (Pema Chodron)

karmic footprint: everything we think, feel, do say, experience etc. creates an imprint. A karmic imprint is created by our volitional actions which involve cause and effect\result.

karmic package: the seeds (outcome of volitional actions) we are carrying from the past, some of which will ripen in this lifetime.

karmic stream: patterning; sometimes we find people who accurately predict something in the future. Or who can “read” a person that they don’t actually know. How? By reading someone’s karmic stream. A stream flows along. It has a particular path within which to flow. If I want to go from Point A to Point B, I look at a map and find the route\path. But I may decide that Point B, the destination, isn’t where I want to go after all. I now want to go to Point C.  So I have to get off the path that I’m on and chose another one. If I don’t, I’ll end up at Point B.

mindfulness (doesn’t mean being careful) and awareness: “Mindfulness is what we use to hold our minds to any object — the breath, a rock, or a banana — and awareness is the intelligence that tells us what we’re doing. Awareness is what tells us that the phone is ringing. When we answer the telephone, it’s mindfulness that holds us to the voice at the other end long enough to know that our mother is calling.” (source: Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche: Turning the Mind Into an Ally, chapter 5)

negative\”bad” karma: what we perceive as “obstacles” in our lives.

Nowness: touching in with what is, as it is. Beyond accepting or rejecting. Beyond past, present or future. This is another way of talking about basic goodness (please see above.)

primordial ground: (Please see basic goodness – ultimate above.)


….there are multiple levels where we can talk about projection.

 First level is that our ordinary projection of liking and disliking things ……there is sense consciousness, let’s say, of the dog. And then there is immediately added to the sense consciousness…. habitual associations of one’s memory. So either this is my adorable dog that is my beloved pet, or else this is the detestable dog of my neighbour that I am allergic to and [who] bit my leg. So the sense perception is immediately followed by association and judgment which kind of clicks into place. So that’s kind of the crude level of projection that we’re dealing with all the time based on which we like people, we dislike people, and we form all kinds of judgments. So …. the first level of projection is ….that kind of association and judgment.<source: My question to the Dorje Loppon Lodro Dorje about the nature of projection on the occasion of his third talk on Mahamudra presented on Shambhala Online, April 30, 2011>

Rigden King:

The Rigden King is the principle of enlightened rulership who embodies the confidence and gentleness of the basic goodness of all beings in the  Shambhala Buddhist warrior tradition of Tibet.


The Positive Romantic: Falling in love is described as “wonderful,” “magical” delicious etc. And it is,  if based on spaciousness (non-fixation, non-grasping). The positive romantic uses their relationships to develop themselves, help others and work towards creating an enlightened society. That’s the magic. Basic goodness on the relative plane is what inspires us to do this.

The Negative Romantic: But it’s also a kind of madness if based on projections and fantasies. We build on the fantasy. It’s not real. We are projecting what we want the other person to be. Passion and aggression work together here — passion fuels the fantasies and aggression pushes away anything that would make the romantic question their fanatasies. We are “in love” with a projection, not the real person.  A heavy dualistic picture emerges that makes the fantasy even more solid. This produces a struggle. The struggle leads to further aggression. <Judith Simmer-Brown>

samsara: ongoing, cyclical misery <source: Pema Chodron: Be Grateful to Everyone – Atisha’s lojong (mind training) slogans >

spiritual spouses: I define a spiritual spouse as someone I have known for many years; people to whom I have a particularly strong, largely positive karmic connection and heart connection; and who play a special role on my life path. Their friendship is invaluable to me. I confide in them and especially enjoy my conversations with them because no topic is  “off limits” and my spiritual spouses do not judge me. In other words, we communicate in an authentic way with each other.

story line: (1) the thoughts and concepts that defend, protect, explain, and feed our emotions e.g. “This is what he said to me and this is why he was wrong. Next time I am going to…..”; (2) what we tell ourselves about why things happen the way they do and why we experience life the way we do.

sunyata: “emptiness of oneself as well as the object of one’s perception; the experience of complete absence of relative concepts.” (source: Windhorse, a sourcebook; 1991)

HH Dalai Lama XIV: “Emptiness is just another way of saying that things are devoid of individual, inherent existence. It says that, in the final analysis, nothing – people, thoughts, cars – can exist independently on its own.”

The View: For one component of the view, see “emptiness” above


  • the energy of awakened mind;
  • “May the force be with you.” <source: movie Star Wars>;
  • the stream of pure, positive energy that flows from the non-physical plane;
  • the ability to ride the wholesome, wakeful presence that underlies all changing conditions; and
  • life force energy