Some words from Thanisssaro Bhikkhu:
Some people say that unlimited goodwill comes naturally to us, that our Buddha- nature is intrinsically compassionate. But the Buddha never said anything about Buddha-nature. What he did say is that the mind is even more variegated than the animal world. We’re capable of anything. So what are we going to do with this capability?
We could do — and have done — almost anything, but the one thing the Buddha does assume across the board is that deep down inside we want to take this capability and devote it to happiness. So the first lesson of karma is that if you really want to be happy, you can’t trust that deep down you know the right thing to do, because that would simply foster complacency. Unskillful intentions would take over and you wouldn’t even know it. Instead, you have to be heedful to recognize unskillful intentions for what they are, and to act only on skillful ones. The way to ensure that you’ll stay heedful is to take your desire for happiness and spread it around.
From an article called Head and Heart
This is a key point. A student once asked me whether wisdom was the same as intuition. I thought for a minute and said, “No. I was absolutely certain that my first husband was my soul mate, my destiny. Boy, was I wrong!” Most of us can think of an instance in which we were completely sure of something, and turned out to be mistaken, sometimes spectacularly so. Some of the things we “know without thinking about” are prejudices or unexamined views or preferences.
The idea that “everyone has Buddha-nature” means that everyone has the capacity to awaken, not that we just have to get out of the way of our intuition. It is the nature of greed, hatred and delusion, deep in our minds, to disguise themselves, and to mislead us into harmful behavior. We do have the potential to awaken, but we must do the hard work of distinguishing when we are motivated by greed, hatred and delusion, and when we are motivated by their opposites – generosity, kindness, and wisdom.
Ajahn Thanissaro uses the word heedful here, and though it may be an unfamiliar word for us, it is right on the mark. We need to attend, persistently, to our intentions and actions. We can ask ourselves: is this action (speech, thought) we’re considering right now motivated by our skilful (helpful, beneficial) set of intentions, or by our unskilful set (harmful, unbeneficial)? With this very action, is there goodwill (or compassion or sympathetic joy) in my heart?