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Introduction

Kadampa Buddhism is a time-honored tradition that for centuries has made Buddha’s teachings and meditation practices available to people throughout the world.

Buddhism has a timeless and universal relevance, and can be practiced by anyone in any culture, regardless of race, gender, or age.

Through training in meditation and other Buddhist practices you can improve the quality of your life by developing inner peace, compassion, and wisdom.

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In Introduction to Buddhism, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso explains:

In general, ‘Buddha’ means ‘Awakened One’, someone who has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and sees things as they really are. A Buddha is a person who is completely free from all faults and mental obstructions. There are many people who have become Buddhas in the past, and many people will become Buddhas in the future.

There is nothing that Buddha does not know. Because he has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and has removed all obstructions from his mind, he knows everything of the past, present, and future, directly and simultaneously.

Moreover, Buddha has great compassion which is completely impartial, embracing all living beings without discrimination. He benefits all living beings without exception by emanating various forms throughout the universe, and by bestowing his blessings on their minds. Through receiving Buddha’s blessings, all being, even the lowliest animals, sometimes develop peaceful and virtuous states of mind.

Eventually, through meeting an emanation of Buddha in the form of a Spiritual Guide, everyone will have the opportunity to enter the path to liberation and enlightenment. As the great Indian Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna said, there is no one who has not received help from Buddha.

It is impossible to describe all the good qualities of a Buddha. A Buddha’s compassion, wisdom, and power are completely beyond conception. With nothing left to obscure his mind, he sees all phenomena throughout the universe as clearly as he sees a jewel held in the palm of his hand.

Through the force of his or her compassion, a Buddha spontaneously does whatever is appropriate to benefit others. He has no need to think about what is the best way to help living beings – he naturally and effortlessly acts in the most beneficial way. Just as the sun does not need to motivate itself to radiate light and heat but does so simply because light and heat are its very nature, so a Buddha does not need to motivate himself to benefit others but does so simply because being beneficial is his very nature.

Like the reflections of the moon that effortlessly appear in any body of still water, a Buddha’s emanations spontaneously appear wherever living beings’ minds are capable of perceiving them. Buddhas can emanate in any form whatsoever to help living beings.

Sometimes they manifest as Buddhists and sometimes as non-Buddhists. They can manifest as women or men, monarchs or tramps, law-abiding citizens or criminals. They can even manifest as animals, as wind or rain, or as mountains or islands. Unless we are a Buddha ourself we cannot possibly say who or what is an emanation of a Buddha.

Of all the ways in which a Buddha helps living beings, the supreme way is by emanation as a Spiritual Guide. Through his or her teachings and immaculate example, an authentic Spiritual Guide leads his or her disciples along the spiritual path to liberation and enlightenment.

If we meet a qualified Mahayana Spiritual Guide and put into practice everything he or she teaches, we shall definitely attain full enlightenment and become a Conqueror Buddha. We shall then be in a position to repay the kindness of all living beings by liberating them from the sufferings of samsara and leading them to the supreme bliss of Buddhahood.

All living beings have the same basic wish to be happy and avoid suffering, but very few people understand the real causes of happiness and suffering.
 
We generally believe that external conditions such as food, friends, cars, and money are the real causes of happiness, and as a result we devote nearly all our time and energy to acquiring these. Superficially it seems that these things can make us happy, but if we look more deeply we shall see that they also bring us a lot of suffering and problems.
 
 
Happiness and suffering are opposites, so if something is a real cause of happiness it cannot give rise to suffering. If food, money, and so forth really are causes of happiness, they can never be causes of suffering; yet we know from our own experience that they often do cause suffering. For example, one of our main interests is food, but the food we eat is also the principal cause of most of our ill health and sickness.

In the process of producing the things we feel will make us happy, we have polluted our environment to such an extent that the very air we breathe and the water we drink now threaten our health and well-being. We love the freedom and independence a car can give us, but the cost in accidents and environmental destruction is enormous.

We feel that money is essential for us to enjoy life, but the pursuit of money also causes immense problems and anxiety. Even our family and friends, with whom we enjoy so many happy moments, can also bring us a lot of worry and heartache.

In recent years our understanding and control of the external world have increased considerably, and as a result we have witnessed remarkable material progress; but there has not been a corresponding increase in human happiness.

There is no less suffering in the world today, and there are no fewer problems. Indeed, it could be said that there are now more problems and greater unhappiness than ever before. This shows that the solution to our problems, and to those of society as a whole, does not lie in knowledge or control of the external world.

Why is this? Happiness and suffering are states of mind, and so their main causes cannot be found outside the mind. The real source of happiness is inner peace. If our mind is peaceful, we shall be happy all the time, regardless of external conditions, but if it is disturbed or troubled in any way, we shall never be happy, no matter how good our external conditions may be.

External conditions can only make us happy if our mind is peaceful. We can understand this through our own experience. For instance, even if we are in the most beautiful surroundings and have everything we need, the moment we get angry any happiness we may have disappears. This is because anger has destroyed our inner peace.

We can see from this that if we want true, lasting happiness we need to develop and maintain a special experience of inner peace. The only way to do this is by training our mind through spiritual practice – gradually reducing and eliminating our negative, disturbed states of mind and replacing them with positive, peaceful states.

Eventually, through continuing to improve our inner peace we shall experience permanent inner peace, or ‘nirvana’. Once we have attained nirvana we shall be happy throughout our life, and in life after life. We shall have solved all our problems and accomplished the true meaning of our human life.