The Art of Compassion: When we are born, our safety is dependent on the compassion of our parents. If they were treated cruelly, they may lack compassion and may be harsh, cold, or even abandon you. If there is a drought, disease, or other disaster in your area, your chances of living more than a few years may be completely dependent on the compassion of total strangers from around the world to offer relief. To have a happy childhood, you need a compassionate community and government that provides a safe place for you to play. If your siblings or friends are treated with hate and abuse, they will likely be sad, or worse, unwilling to trust, unwilling to bond with you. To find love and pleasure you will need to get close to people who may have been hurt or even tortured. This may make it difficult for even you to make them happy. It's hard to be happy when those we love are sad or angry because of the world around them. When you get sick, and when you get old, you will depend 100% on the compassion of others to pick you up, to feed you, to find cures for your discomfort, etc,. Your life, and every ounce of happiness in it is dependent upon others being kind to you and those around you. The need for compassion for all people is essential to every moment of joy we hope to have.
-DA., summary of speech by The 14th Dalai Lama

For most Buddhists, the search for our Buddha Nature is the search for a purified self of absolute Loving Kindness, free from any hate, anger, and self-limiting ego. Believing that hate and anger are like a cancer that harms and endlessly frustrates its host, Buddhists hope to clear away such sickness from the mind.

For some, this search includes a desire to use a purified mind to evolve and gain a greater perspective of the universe, sometimes called "enlightenment." "Buddha" literally means "Awakened One." Siddhartha (also called Shakyamuni, Sage of the Shakya tribe), the first documented Buddha to try to share insights he discovered, was believed to have opened his mind and "enlightened" his heart to a path which eases the suffering of life and builds a compassionate bond with all other living things. Buddhism is about following that path and his teachings. While most Buddhists believe this pursuit of "enlightenment" cultivates compassion which allows one to deal better with obstacles in life, some also hope to become better prepared and more prosperous and happy in their next life, believing that positive and negative emotions permeate and follow our existence into the next life. Some just believe that the "Enlightenment" sought after is the path of absolute compassion itself. "The pursuit has its own rewards."

While different Buddhist sects might appear to pursue and hope for different goals with their study and meditation, they are all on the same path, benefiting from the same teachings. "Some get their nutrients in vitamins, taken on a regimented basis, some like to cook and prepare healthy nutritious meal, others exercise regularly to help their bodies better absorb the nutrients in the food available to them…but they all have studied and understand the benefits to such nutrients, pursuing them in their own way that best fits their lifestyle and culture." -- Many branches of the same Buddhist tree.

Enlightenment…through meditation
The search for Enlightenment through meditation was around long before Buddhism. It was during such a quest that Siddhartha Buddha discovered the root of his teachings about the need for absolute compassion for all living things. Meditation's ability to focus our thoughts is "Enlightenment" enough for most, but for the more curious there is hope of other great discoveries.

It has been said that when one truly frees their mind from the cloudy negative emotions of judgmental hate and anger, the mind becomes like a clear pond, where we can see all the way to the bottom. "Enlightenment" may include a vision of all living things as one continuous life force, one family, a universal harmony that stretches through time. It has been noted many times in history, in many different religions, that there have been people who have documented a life-changing glimpse into an infinite galaxy of energy that is impossible to comprehend with simple words. All the different stories seem to agree that it is only at moments when we are calm and at peace that we have true clarity into anything within our own lives, and it is speculated that an absolute meditative clarity can clear our view of the ever-turbulent and distracting world so we may see into a great new beyond.

One true story tells of a famous American Performer who became a Buddhist. He went to group meditation classes to learn how to better calm his mind and find great insights into himself. At the classes, each student was periodically taken into private conversation with the instructor, to share thoughts and wisdom, to evaluate what each had learned and felt so far. The famous person noticed the other students seemed to feel joy after their private sessions, so the famous person, not wanting to appear dumb or uncommitted, worried about what he would tell the instructor. He was anxious to have a profound thought to share. When his private session with the instructor started, he opened his mouth and began to utter some theoretical nonsense he thought might be impressive. The instructor quickly told him to stop and go back to meditating. Feeling like a phony, he tried harder to gain some true insights, concentrating with all his might. When his turn came again, he struggled to articulate something or to at least ask what he should be trying to come up with. Again the instructor dismissed him, and the pressure continued. He was sure he was failing and was very embarrassed. Again and again he tried to have a meaningful conversation with the instructor, but the instructor always dismissed the famous person without explanation. Frustrated and fed up, he guessed that maybe meditating just wasn't for him. When he sat with the instructor again, he gave up, said nothing, waiting to be dismissed so he could quit and go home. Then the instructor said, "Good, now we can begin."

Clearing the mind isn't a goal that can be pursued aggressively. It takes absolute patience with one's own mind to release and unlearn what a lifetime of worries and thoughts have cluttered the brain with. The search for the Buddhist Nature within us all is also the search for the person we were before we were born and clothed with the heavy ways of the world. As a child marvels in wonder and acceptance of everything, so too should be our hearts. "Enlightenment" may not be a literal x-ray view of truth and reality, but a state of mind so pure it can transcend anything, an ultimate detachment from burdens that allows the mind and body to merge with all that is good and pleasant…or it may be much more then that.
"You must unlearn what you have learned." -- Yoda :-)

How Buddhists Meditate
A common practice to start learning about what mediation has to offer is to relax and think of nothing while counting VERY slowly to ten. Each slow breath in should count as One and then out should count as Two, and so on. Only the numbers are allowed to enter your mind. If you catch your self thinking 'I'm up to four, that's pretty good' or 'this is easy' you must stop and start over. Any thought other than the numbers requires you to start over. It's not a test, don't feel bad about distractions, just note it and start over. Keep doing this to obtain a clear, focused mind, unpolluted by daily worries and thoughts. Rarely, does anyone reach "ten", or bother to brag about it if they happen to. It is the attempt itself that washes the mind; obtaining the goal is not necessary. Free yourself from ego and just practice for its own rewards.

Some Buddhists meditate in a groups. (Often called Sitting Zazen) Sharing the struggle and pleasure of meditating helps encourage their dedication and motivation to maximize the meditative benefits. Most Buddhist meditate alone, often just to help clear the mind of stress.

I remember reading about the Dalai Lama's challenge to people to try to go ten whole minutes without having a negative thought. I immediately scoffed, 'that's stupid, of course I can do that'… and suddenly realized I had just failed. Avoiding negative thoughts is much harder than you might realize. - summarized from The Art of Happiness

Like listening to soothing music, chanting a calming mantra is often easier than just sitting down and trying to empty the mind on your own, like stretching before exercise. Many Buddhists find that chanting a verse that reminds one of their compassionate goals and intentions helps focus the mind and drown out the clutter of thoughts and negative impressions the day has left on them. Some chant http://www.yogichen.org/efiles/amida.html - talk3"Amitabha Buddha", while others chant a favorite Buddhist saying, Om Mani Padme Hum ("Salutations to the Jewel of the Mind which has reached the Heart's lotus") over and over to establish a mental connection to all levels of consciousness. Amitabha Buddha is from the Pureland Buddhism where there is great emphasis on bonding with Amitabha's level of compassion and his goal of bringing all living things to a Pure Land of absolute compassion. Others see the chants as requests for blessings from Buddhas who have come and gone before us.

"The way of the Buddha is to know yourself; to know yourself is to forget yourself; to forget yourself is to be enlightened by all things." -- Dogen, creator of Soto Zen Buddhism