I remembered when I was a kid, I picked up a chrysalis and kept it in a jar until the butterfly started to come out. So I broke open the cocoon to make it easier for the butterfly. When it finally came out, I noticed that it flew sort of feebly. And then it died. Then I found out that it’s the struggle the butterfly makes trying to break through the cocoon that makes its wings strong.
Shepard Rifkin, Shepard, The Murderer Vine
The buddha nature that exists as wisdom-potential within our being is like a caterpillar. When a caterpillar has completely grown, they form themselves into a pupa, also known as a chrysalis. Within the chrysalis, the caterpillar undergoes an extraordinary transformation, called ‘metamorphosis.’ When metamorphosis is complete, a butterfly emerges, perhaps one with strong, beautiful wings.
Two elements are necessary for this process to be successful. One is transformation. The other is struggle. In terms of Buddhism, a person who does not change cannot become a buddha. A person who does not struggle, in the sense of making effort, cannot become a buddha. Since we are talking about sentient beings and not insects, there is a third element that is crucial and that is the aspect of mind.
To ordinary persons, buddha potential, located within the mind, is obscured by illusion. An ordinary person does not yet have the ability to see the true aspect of reality, much less his or her own enlightened nature. However, a buddha sees through the veil of illusion and knows the world as it truly is. And, a buddha recognizes that all living things are also buddhas, or potential buddhas. A potential buddha must undergo some struggle and develop their their mind, in order to have strong wings and free themselves from illusion.
In the Anguttara Nikaya, the Buddha states:
“This mind is luminous, shining brightly, but colored by our delusions. Ordinary people do not understand this, and so they do not develop the mind. This mind is luminous, shining brightly, and free from delusion. Noble wayfarers understand this well, so for them there is development of the mind.”
Development means effort, work, struggle. In a religion like Christianity, “works” or good deeds can never win salvation. Only faith in God, only through loving God. Potential buddhas do not need to call upon supernatural beings and deities. If a wayfarer trusts the potential within the mind and expends effort to develop that potential, then we call that person a realized buddha. This, to my thinking, is the most potent form of empowerment. We call it jiriki or “inner power.”
“Your destiny is shaped according to the combination of conditions pre-determined at birth and other factors that you are able to change through your own efforts.”
–Ryuho Okawa, The Essence of Buddha