What is Buddhism?
Click here to read “What is Buddhism” by Lama Thubten Yeshe.
“The view of Buddhism, Buddhist philosophy, the very foundation, the very essence, is that everything comes from your mind.” – Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Who is the Buddha?
There are many ways to describe who the Buddha is, according to different ways of understanding . These various interpretations have their sources in the Buddha’s teachings.
One way is to see the historical Buddha who lived 2,500 years ago as a human being who cleansed his mind of all defilements and developed all his potential. Any being who does likewise is also considered a Buddha, for there are many Buddhas, not just one. Another way is to understand a particular Buddha or Buddhist deity as omniscient mind manifesting in a certain physical aspect in order to communicate with us.
Yet another way is to see the Buddha — or any of the enlightened Buddhist deities — as the appearance of the future Buddha that we will become once we properly and completely have engaged in the path to cleanse our minds and develop all our potentials.
What are the Three Jewels?
The Three Jewels are the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Buddha is one who has purified all the defilements of the mind – the afflictive emotions, the imprints of the actions motivated by them, and the stains of these afflictive emotions and who has developed all good qualities, such as impartial love and compassion, wisdom knowing all existence, and skillful means of guiding others.
The Dharma embodies the preventive measures which keep us from problems and suffering. This includes the teachings of the Buddha, as well as the realisations of those teachings, the cessations of problems and their causes, and the realisations or paths which lead to those cessations.
The Sangha are those beings who have direct non-conceptual perception of emptiness or ultimate truth. On a relative level, Sangha also refers to the ordained monks and nuns who put the Buddha’s teachings into practice.
What is the Essence of the Buddha’s teachings?
Simply speaking, this is to avoid harming others and to help them as much as possible. Another way of expressing this is abandon negative action; create perfect virtue; subdue your own mind. This is the teaching of the Buddha. By abandoning negative actions (killing, etc.) and destructive motivations (anger, attachment, close-mindedness, etc.), we stop harming ourselves and others. By creating perfect virtue, we develop beneficial attitudes, like impartial love and compassion, and do actions motivated by these thoughts. By subduing our mind, we cut away all false projections, thus making ourselves calm and peaceful by understanding reality.
The essence of Buddha’s teachings is also contained in the Three Principle Aspects of the Path: definite emergence (renunciation), the dedicated heart (bodhicitta) and wisdom realising emptiness. Initially, we seek definitely to emerge from the confusion of our problems and their causes. Then, we see that other people also have problems, and with love and compassion, we dedicate our heart to becoming a Buddha so that we are capable of helping others extensively. In order to do this, we develop the wisdom, understanding the real nature of ourselves and other phenomena.
Why are there many Buddhist traditions?
The Buddha gave a wide variety of teachings because sentient beings (any being with a mind who is not a Buddha, including those in other realms of existence) have different dispositions, inclinations and interests. The Buddha never expected us all to fit into the same mould. Thus, he gave many teachings and described various ways of practicing, so each of us could find something that suits our level of mind and our personality.
What are the various Buddhist traditions?
Generally speaking, there are two main divisions: Theravada and Mahāyāna, with many sub-divisions.
The Theravada lineage (Tradition of the Elders), which relies on sutras recorded in the Pali language, spread from India to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, etc. It emphasises meditation on the breath to develop concentration and meditation on mindfulness of the body, feelings, mind and phenomena in order to develop wisdom. Theravada buddhism is principally a monastic religion.
The Mahāyāna (Great Vehicle) tradition, based on the scriptures recorded in Sanskrit, spread to China, Tibet, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Australia, the United States. Although in the Theravadin practice love and compassion are essential and important factors, in the Mahayana they are emphasized to an even greater extent.
Buddha House practices Mahāyāna Tibetan Buddhism under the guidance of His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama, with FPMT’s Lama Zopa Rinpoche our spiritual guide.
How do I recognise that I am in a Mahāyāna Tibetan Buddhist centre?
Somewhere in the centre you will see a picture/photograph of His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama (usually on or near the altar), the Spiritual Guide of all Mahāyāna Buddhist practitoners. If there is no picture of His Holiness then it is unlikely that you are in a Mahāyāna Buddhist centre.
What is the Gompa?
Please visit this page for details about the Gompa including Gompa Etiquette.
What is the purpose of reciting mantras?
Mantras are prescribed syllables to protect the mind. What we want to protect our mind from are attachment, anger, ignorance, and so on. When combined with the four opponent powers, mantra recitation is very powerful in purifying negative karmic imprints on our mindstream. While we recite mantras, we should also be thinking and visualizing in a beneficial way so that we are building up constructive habits in the mind.
In the Vajrayana practice, mantras are recited in Sanskrit, rather than being translated into other languages such as English. The reason for this is that there is a special beneficial energy or vibration that is induced by the sound of the syllables. While doing recitation, we can concentrate on the sound of the mantra, on its meaning, or on the accompanying visualizations that the master has taught.
You can listen to the Chenrezig Mantra by Mercedes Bahleda now:
What is Dharma and the Dharma Wheel?
Dharma is a Sanskrit word and is most often defined as “the teachings of the Buddha”. The word dharma comes from the ancient religions of India and its original meaning is something like “natural law.” Its root word, dham, means “to uphold” or “to support.” Dharma, on the external level, refers to the path of practice the Buddha taught to this followers.
Dharma is symbolised by the wheel, representing the continuous spreading of the Buddha’s teachings to help people live more happily, exemplifying the Noble EightFold Path. also known as The Middle Way.
The basis of the Buddha Dharma (the Buddha’s teachings) are The Four Noble Truths which are more easily understood by this comparison:
All of the Dharma is based on the Buddha’s discovery that suffering is unnecessary: like a disease, once we really face the fact that suffering exists, we can look more deeply and discover its cause, and when we discover that the cause is dependent on certain conditions, we can explore the possibility of removing those conditions.
Buddha taught many different methods for removing the cause of suffering, methods appropriate for the different types and conditions and aptitudes of suffering beings. For those who had the capacity to understand it, he taught the most powerful method of all, a method based on the practice of compassion. It is known as the Mahāyāna, or Great Vehicle, because practicing it benefits all beings, without partiality. It is likened to a vast boat that carries all the beings in the universe across the sea of suffering.
Within the Mahāyāna the Buddha revealed the possibility of quickly benefiting all beings, including oneself, by entering directly into the awakened state of mind, or Buddhahood, without delay. Again, there are different ways of accomplishing this, but the most powerful, and at the same time the most accessible, is to link one’s own mind with the mind of a Buddha.
In visualisation practice we imagine ourselves to be a Buddha, in this case the Buddha of Compassion, Chenrezig. By replacing the thought of yourself as you, with the thought of yourself as Chenrezig, you gradually reduce and eventually remove the fixation on your personal self, which expands your loving kindness and compassion, toward yourself and toward others, and your intelligence and wisdom becomes enhanced, allowing you to see clearly what someone really needs and to communicate with them clearly and accurately.
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