What is Buddhism?

The goal of Buddhism is a state of lasting, unconditional happiness known as enlightenment.

To bring us to this state, Buddhism points us to lasting values in this impermanent world, and gives us valuable information about how things really are. Through understanding the law of cause and effect, using practical tools like meditation to gain insight and develop compassion and wisdom, we — all of us — can tap into our potential to realize the ultimate goal of enlightenment.

Here is a short extract from Lama Ole Nydahl’s book, “The Way Things Are”.

Two thousand five hundred and fifty years ago, the historical Buddha enjoyed unique circumstances for passing on his teachings. Born into a highly developed culture, he was surrounded by exceedingly gifted people. After reaching enlightenment, he shared his methods for discovering the mind for a full forty-five years. It is for this reason that his teachings, called the Dharma, are so vast.

The Kanjur, Buddha’s own words, consists of 108 volumes containing 84,000 helpful teachings. Later commentaries on these, the Tenjur, amount to another 254 equally thick books. This makes Buddha’s final evaluation of his life understandable: “I can die happily. I did not hold one single teaching in a closed hand. Everything that may benefit you I have already given.” His very last statement sets Buddhism apart from what is otherwise called religion: “Now, don’t believe my words because a Buddha told you, but examine them well. Be a light onto yourselves.”

Such statements show the practical approach of Buddhism which is meant for real life. When people asked Buddha why and what he taught, he replied: “I teach because you and all beings seek happiness and try to avoid suffering. I teach “the way things are.”

So, what is Buddhism? Buddha used the best description himself. During the 1,500 years the teachings existed in India, they were called Dharma, and for the last 1,000 years in Tibet, the name was Chö. Both mean “the way things are.”

Understanding “the way things are” is the key to every happiness. Buddha himself is both teacher, example, protector and friend. His help allows beings to avoid suffering and to enter a state of increasing bliss while also liberating and enlightening others.

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