WHO IS THE BUDDHA?
Shakyamuni is the historical
Buddha who founded the Buddhist teachings around 2500 years ago. There are also
many other Buddhas in the universe.
WHAT DOES THE WORD BUDDHA MEAN?
means one who has an enlightened mind and who has generated all good qualities
and abandoned all faults.
The teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha
are called the Dharma. In the Tibetan language the Dharma is reserved, among other
places, in the volumes called the Kangyur.
The purpose of all these teachings
is to eliminate problems and misery and to bring about temporary and enduring
happiness for all living beings.
THE SANGHA - THE SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY
who practice the teachings and follow the path of the Dharma are the Sangha. Generally
the ordained monks and nuns are called the Sangha.
THE THREE JEWELS OF REFUGE
Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha are called the Three Jewels. Buddhists take
refuge in the Three Jew-els. This means we recognize the qualities of the Three
Jewels and commit ourselves to follow them with the confi-dence that they teach
us effective methods to protect us from misery.
The Buddha and all realized
masters have explained, it is important to have a root teacher who has great com-passion
and greater knowledge than oneself. First the dis-ciple should test out the teacher
and investigate them to ensure they have the right qualities. (There is a great
deal of advice in the Buddhist teachings on the necessary quali-ties of a teacher,
how to test them and how to rely on them correctly). When the disciple has satisfied
themselves about their teacher's good qualities they then have to make a full
commitment to the teacher. Through one's teacher, one receives the teachings of
the Buddha. The teacher embod-ies the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
we take refuge from the depths of our heart, we try to apply the teachings in
our everyday life.
THE VERY ESSENCE OF THESE TEACHINGS IS TO ABANDON HARMING
OTHER LIVING BEINGS.
WHAT THE BUDDHA TAUGHT
The Four Noble Truths lie at
the heart of the spiritual mes-sage taught by the Buddha. He stated that:
2. it originates from causes and conditions;
3. the possibility
of Its cessation exists;
4. there is a path that can lead to freedom.
Is important to understand and to realize that all beings in the world suffer,
that each being does not want to suffer and that each being wants happiness.
Buddha taught about the Law of Cause and Effect. This is also called Karma. It
means that all our actions of body, speech and mind have results that we ourselves
experi-ence. Positive actions bring pleasant results (happiness). Negative actions
bring unpleasant results. Such results may not be experienced immediately but
may be experienced in subsequent lifetimes.
Buddhism presents a simple but
profound understanding of the nature of the human condition and the possibility
of its transcendence. An exposition of these four truths will en-able us to appreciate
the insights of Buddhist psychology, philosophy and religion.
The Buddha also
taught that all beings have Buddha nature and can attain Buddhahood. He explained
why this is pos-sible and how to do it. He taught from his own experience having
attained Buddhahood himself. Thus it is not a fairy story or an impossible task.
Anyone who applies these teachings to themselves correctly will gradually come
to attain Buddhahood.
The Buddha also taught about reincarnation.
This means that at the time of death, the consciousness does not cease with the
death of the body. It leaves the body and goes to take another rebirth. Where
one takes rebirth depends on one's karma - the results of one's own actions of
body, speech and mind. Through positive actions we experience happiness in future
lives. Through negative actions we experience suffering in future lives. An example
of a posi-tive action is to give food and to clothing to a very poor person while
a negative action would be shout at or abuse them. If we direct our positive actions
TO THE BENEFIT OF ALL OTHER BEINGS then gradually we ourselves come to attain
Compassion and Wisdom
The Buddha also taught methods to develop
universal compassion and wisdom.
The term 'universal compassion' means feeling
great love and compassion for all living beings while seeking continu-ally to
benefit them. Wisdom means understanding the truth: that suffering and the causes
of suffering and of happiness exist and the path to enlightenment exists.
such wisdom all confusion is eliminated and the every root of all misery is cut.
is the wish combined with the commitment to attain full enlightenment for the
benefit of all beings. It is cultivated on the basis of certain mental attitudes,
principal among them being the development of love and great com-passion towards
all beings equally.
With sound development of Bodhicitta and wisdom the practitioner
can enter the Tantric path (Vajrayna). This pro-vides powerful methods for reaching
enlightenment rapidly for those who are motivated by the wish to attain it as
quickly as possible in order to be to help all beings more effectively.
DOES ONE BECOME A BUDDHIST?
One becomes a Buddhist by taking refuge in the
Three Jewels. This may be done in a formal ceremony with a Lama or qualified monk.
Taking refuge is the basis for any Buddhist vows one may make.
WHAT DOES A
The essence of practice is a good heart. This means
we regard others with warmth and affection and work to in-crease our love of others.
Reciting the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum reminds us what Chenrezig, the Buddha of
Compassion, reminds us of this.
The main non-virtuous actions we try to abandon
1 Killing. On the contrary we save life and protect others from harm
Stealing. On the contrary we respect other peoples prop-erty and possessions and
3. Sexual misconduct. Simply, sexual misconduct is having
sex with other people's partners. This causes much dishar-mony unhappiness, thus
we abandon such actions. We cultivate living in fidelity and harmony with our
4. Lying. On the contrary we tell the truth.
5. Slander. On the
contrary we encourage harmony be-tween others and praise their good qualities,
Harsh speech. On the contrary we cultivate pleasant caring speech.
chatter and gossip. This is the least harmful of all these actions but it wastes
most time for little benefit.
8. Covetousness. This is the mental attitude
that grasps at things for oneself.
9 ill will. This is the attitude that intends
to harm others.
10. Wrong views. These are: disbelief in the Law of Cause
and Effect, disbelief In the existence of the Buddhas; disbe-lief in the existence
of past and future lives. These are non-virtuous because when we have no conviction
in these we do not control our body, speech and mind and thus we harm ourselves
To abandon non-virtue and to cultivate virtue: this is the teaching
of the Buddha.
WHY DO WE PRACTIÑE BUDDHISM
If we look at ourselves
and others closely, we can see that we all want happiness and do not want even
small problems. However, just wanting happiness doesn't bring happiness. Likewise
just wanting to be free of problems isn't enough. IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE HAPPINESS
AND TO BE FREE OF PROBLEMS WE NEED TO USE A METHOD. For example if we want to
be a teacher, just wanting to be a teacher isn't enough. We need to practice teaching
to be-come good at it.
Worldly things such as wealth, medicine, science and
etc. can bring temporary happiness but only in this life and even then not continuously.
The only method that brings long-term and enduring happiness to both oneself and
others is Dharma. This why we engage in practicing Dharma.
To think that we
do not used Dharma because only this life is important, is thinking it is enough
to be happy today and tomorrow doesn't matter. In reality everyone wants to have
food tomorrow, to have somewhere to live tomorrow and to have money tomorrow.
Likewise we need to think about future lives and practice the Dharma to bring
about happiness for future lives.
When we realize that everyone wants happiness
just as ourselves then we see there are no reasons only to look after oneself.
Everyone wants happiness too. They are no different from us. So we practice Dharma
to benefit all sen-tient beings. This good heart is the root of the Dharma prac-tice.
ARE THE DIFFERENT IMAGES OF THE BUDDHA
Each statue represents different qualities
of the Buddha's mind. Examples are:
Chenrezig represents universal compassion,
Manjushrl represents wisdom, Vajrapani represents the power to overcome obstacles,
Green Tara represents the enlight-ened activity of all Buddhas.
WHY DO PEOPLE
CIRCUMAMBULATE THE STUPAS AND TEMPLES?
The stupas represent the Buddha's mind.
The temples con-tain many representations of the Buddha's body, speech and mind.
When we walk around them and remember their qualities, this creates positive imprints
for developing those ourselves. It also generates positive potential or merit.
DO PEOPLE PROSTRATE?
To decrease pride that prevents our own good quali-ties
improving. It also purifies the negative karma we have accumulated in the past.
DO PEOPLE RECITE MANTRAS?
Briefly the syllables of the mantras refer to certain
qualities like compassion or wisdom. The complete mean-ing of any mantra is very
complex and profound Reciting them arid concentrating on the meaning or on the
Buddha embodying that quality is cause of generating such qualities oneself.
DO PEOPLE MAKE OFFERINGS?
To overcome miserliness and develop generosity. Generosity
is a cause of wealth. To think that practicing generosity is only for one's own
benefit is a very limited thought. Like other practices, the best and most powerful
motivation is to think of benefiting all beings.
WHY DO WE MEDITATE?
is tool or method used to develop one's qualities on the spiritual path. It means
familiarizing one's mind with a virtuous object, for example love, compassion,
There are two types of meditation - insight and stabilizing (shamatha).
meditation involves reflection on a topic to develop greater understanding of
Stabilizing (shamatha) meditation is placing the mind on a virtuous object
to develop very deep lev-els of effortless concentration.
To mediate correctly
on Buddhism it is very important to listen to the explanations of the topics,
the motivation and the way of meditating from a qualified teacher.
DHARMA HELP MY COUNTRY?
Practicing Dharma produces positive karma and merit
that act as a basis for the country to develop well. Without positive karma and
merit even though a country may have great potential and assistance, development
remains very difficult.
One good practice for benefiting the country is that
of taking one day householder vows (tib. nyenney). These are one day vows and
can be taken on the full moon day of every month or even on three days a month
- the first quarter day, the full moon day and the new moon day. Initially they
are given by a qualified monk on request. The monk explains what they are and
how to keep them. In the history of these vows, there are many stones of places
that benefited by the results of keeping these vows.
THE LINEAGE OF THE BUDDHIST
The teachings of the Buddha concern both the knowledge and the realization
of the teachings, therefore an unbroken transmission of the teaching from the
Buddha to now is essential. Due to the efforts of past Mongolians and Tibet-ans
such lineages exist. In Mongolia many lineages come down through Lama Tsong Khapa,
founder of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.
This means THAT ALL THE
CONDITIONS EXIST FOR THE PRACTISING AND REALISATION of the teachings of the Buddha.
As humans we have great intelligence and ability to understand and apply these
teachings. Humans are so sharp that when we use our intelligence to harm, we inflict
great pain. When we use it in spiritual directions we can bring great benefit
and ultimately gain Buddhahood. To have a human rebirth is to have a jewel of
great price in one's own possession. The opportunity to make use of it is in one's
HOW DID THE UNIVERSE DEVELOP?
Buddhism explains that the universe
evolves from cause and conditions. There are many world systems going in and out
of existence at any one time. This is similar to the scientific view of the universe.
Buddhism does not assert an external creator of the universe and sentient beings.
DO THINGS EXIST?
Phenomena of things exist in dependence on causes and conditions
- somewhat as science asserts - with no permanent, separate, inherently existing
WHO CREATED SENTIENT BEINGS?
No one created sentient beings. The
mindstream of each being is unbroken from beginningless time. Through their karma
beings continually take various rebirths. By practicing one can have a direct
experience of how the mindstream of oneself continues unceasingly from moment
to moment and life to life.
May this brief explanation of the
Buddha's teachings cause all to make use of the priceless jewel of human life
and constantly work to benefit all beings. It is also dedicated to the long life
of the Holder of the Lotus - His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama - and that all his
activities to benefit all beings may be accomplished just as he wishes.
notes about the author.
Celia Smith became a Buddhist in 1981. She studied
one and a half years in India, four years In France under two Lharamba Geshes
and seven years under Gomang Khen-sur Tharkhey in New Zealand - covering Lam Rim,
Pra-mana (Logic Teachings), Tantra and Tibetan language.