Our culture values hard work. If you want something, we go get it. We push, train, finagle, leap, struggle, persist and pick ourselves up again and again until our aims are accomplished. That is what we do, that is who we are.
We do this to gain what we do not have, or to protect what we have so that we do not lose it.
We work hard to get a new degree, a promotion, a new house or the latest gadget. We push through the day to day resistance so that we have freedom and resources to do other things. We persist so that we can give our kids and loved ones a future and opportunity that we ourselves did not have. We struggle to protect them against states of loss and fear, in all its various forms. We do it all to protect ourselves from fear and uncertainty, from poverty and loss.
We want happiness, peace of mind, confidence and clarity. We want to feel love and share it. More so, we don't want to feel anxious or discontentment. We don't want to feel like we are wasting our lives in meaningless work.
So we work hard.
We are used to looking outside of ourselves to acquire the things we want and to protect ourselves. We are used to putting in a lot of effort in order to accomplish our goals, to accomplish what we don't have. What other option do we have?
The Buddha said:
Ordinary beings are truly buddhas,
but this fact is obscured by adventitious distortions.
Once these are removed, truly there is buddhahood.
The nature of our own mind already has the qualities of peace, clarity, natural warmth and fullness.
Being like the sky, it is boundless and unstained. It is pure and completely open and accommodating.
Being like the sun, it has natural clarity and warmth. Love and kindness effortlessly radiate.
Being like the moon, it dispels all darkness and is wondrous, profound peace and calm.
Being like the earth, it is stable and firm, the source of confidence and walking with dignity.
Being like the water, it is refreshing, soothing and reinvigorating.
Being like the wind, it is the source of all movement and change, and yet there is nothing to hold onto.
Being like fire, it is luminous and warm, providing comfort and warmth.
Being like space, it is unchanging and all-pervasive, the source from which everything arises.
So we only need to work hard to recognize the nature of our own mind and to remove the distortions. What are those distortions? Confused thoughts and emotions, negative habits and mental states. They are doubt, fear, uncertainty. Most definitely we need to remove the ignorance of our own self-grasping, attachment and aversion. The good news is that none of those distortions are permanent, they are but clouds that temporarily obscure the sun and the expanse of the clear, spacious sky.
So continue to work hard but do it skillfully, knowing that which is to be eliminated and that which is to be rediscovered, our intrinsic awakened mind, our own buddhanature.