About Buddhism

A Buddha statue

Buddha Dharma

The great Lord Buddha resolved to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings without exception. His primary goal was to achieve enlightenment and remove all sentient beings from the suffering of saṃsāra. Thus he created enlightenment thought. After that, he accumulated enormous amounts of wisdom and compassion and finally attained perfect enlightenment, at which point he left behind all obscurations and attained every possible good quality. After attaining enlightenment, he performed many great activities—physical activities, verbal activities, and mental activities. Among all of these great activities, the most important activities were verbal, namely, the turning of the wheel of Dharma. Through the turning of the wheel of Dharma, the Buddha taught what he realized to sentient beings so that we, too, can be led to the path, proceed along it, and gain liberation and enlightenment ourselves.

But sentient beings are limitless. Since space itself has no limit, therefore sentient beings have no limit. All sentient beings have different minds, mentalities, propensities, tastes, and so forth. So in order to suit every condition and mentality, the Buddha gave an enormous number of teachings. Like a skillful physician who uses many different medicines to cure many different diseases, the Buddha gave many different teachings in order to help sentient beings at different levels.

The whole purpose of turning the wheel of Dharma is to tame our mind, which is sullied by three main defilements. As the antidote for desire, the Buddha taught the vinaya, which explains how to maintain and discipline our moral conduct. As the antidote for hatred, he taught the sūtra, which explains all the different meditations that control and calm our mind. And the antidote for ignorance is the abhidharma, which explains wisdom.

Tibetan Buddhism

Although Buddhism started in India and then went to many countries, only Tibet has all the teaching levels, the Hīnayāna, Mahāyāna, and Vajrayāna, as well as other related teachings. Practitioners in Tibet are all Mahāyāna Buddhists. The Mahāyāna can be divided into two parts, the cause yāna and the result yāna. The general Mahāyāna is called the “cause yāna” because it takes a long time to work on the cause and thus it takes a long time to achieve results. The Mantrayāna, or Vajrayāna, is called the “result yāna” because it is easier to achieve results and the result emerges right from the beginning; the results can be taken into the path.

All of the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism are Mahāyāna combined with Vajrayāna methods and techniques. Thus, the major schools of Tibetan Buddhism are all similar in that there is no substantial difference between them from the first development of enlightenment thought up to the final attainment of enlightenment. There is only one noteworthy difference: the lineage. Different lineages formed based on where the teaching started in India. The lineages then came to Tibet through various translators and then down through various masters and have continued to this day. Since each lineage is different, the emphasis of each is somewhat different. Some schools emphasize study, others emphasize meditation, and so on. But among the major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the goal and motivation from the beginning to the end of the path is the same.

From Basic Teahings of the Sakya Tradition, by His Holiness the Sakya Trichen.

Fundamental Teachings

The Four Noble Truths includes both the cause and result of saṃsāra, and the cause and result of nirvāṇa. There are four noble truths: 1) the truth of suffering, 2) the truth of the cause of suffering, 3) the truth of cessation and 4) the truth of the path. 

Generally speaking, there are three different types of suffering: 1) the suffering of suffering, 2) the suffering of change, and 3) the suffering of the conditional nature of all things. The suffering of suffering is visible suffering, the suffering we consider to be suffering, such as physical pain, mental anxiety, and so on. Everything is changing; anything that is gained through causes and conditions is impermanent. If it is impermanent, it is suffering because it does not remain. So we experience the suffering of change, including the change from feeling happy to feeling unhappy. And then there is the suffering of the conditional nature of all things: no matter how much we work, how many actions we perform, or how much effort we make, there is no end. Like the nature of fire is hot, whether it is a small fire or big; the nature of saṃsāra is suffering, whether in the lower realms or the higher realms.

What is the cause of suffering? The cause of suffering is actually actions and defilements. Where do defilements come from? They come from ignorance, from self clinging. Our true nature of mind is pure but we do not recognize this; instead we cling to a “self” without authentic reasons and logic. We cling to our overall existence; we mistakenly believe that our being exists as a self.

The third and fourth truths are the cause and result of nirvāṇa. The third truth is the truth of cessation. For example, when you are sick, you seek to recover from the disease and become healthy. Similarly, what we are seeking is to be free from suffering. But nobody else can remove your suffering. Each person has to work their own way out of suffering. The Buddha said, “You yourself are you own savior.” Nobody else can save you; only you can save yourself.

How, then, should we practice? We must eliminate our defilements such as anger, hatred, desire, pride, and stinginess, through different methods and practices such as meditations and contemplations on loving kindness and compassion, breathing practices, concentration practices, interdependent origination practices, and so on. There are so many different types of meditations and methods. Through these meditations, we reduce or suppress the impure mental states which are causing non-virtuous actions, and we develop the positive qualities of our minds that eliminate these impure mental states. Yet this method alone yields only temporary results.

From The Four Noble Truths, by His Holiness the Sakya Trichen

In Mahayana, every practice that we do is not for our own sake, but rather for the sake of all sentient beings. To have this goal, we need to have compassion.

We begin by cultivating the loving kindness we already have, and then work on increasing it. Next, we should try to develop loving kindness toward more difficult objects, like our enemies. We should attempt to transcend the superficial distinctions between people we see as friends, enemies, and those we treat with indifference. We should try to see that we have been closely related to all three: friends, enemies, and indifferent persons at one time or another.

By understanding our relatedness to others, and seeing that they have given us much love and kindness as our relatives and friends, we can finally develop loving kindness for all sentient beings indiscriminately. It is possible for us to wish all sentient beings to be happy and to have the cause of happiness. In this way we must cultivate and build up loving kindness toward all.

From Basic Teahings of the Sakya Tradition, by His Holiness the Sakya Trichen.

Compassion is generated by focusing on a particular sentient being that is suffering, and wishing that they be free from suffering and its causes. As in the meditation on loving kindness, we start first with easier people, and then gradually build up to more difficult ones, and finally apply the meditation to all sentient beings.

We have been born in countless lives since beginning-less time. So therefore, there is not a single sentient being who was not our parent at one time or another. Every sentient being has been a parent to us and in the past gave us as much love and care as our present mother. For this reason, we must help all mother sentient beings.

From Buddhist Ethics, by His Holiness the Sakya Trichen

On the basis of loving kindness and compassion, then create the enlightenment thought, also known as “bodhicitta.” Enlightenment thought is the resolution, “For the sake of all sentient beings, I must attain perfect enlightenment and shall undertake the bodhisattva path.” Loving kindness and compassion are very essential. But loving kindness and compassion without bodhicitta will not lead to ultimate enlightenment.

In order to be completely free from saṃsra, one must completely cut the root of saṃsra, which is self clinging. In reality there is no “self” to cling to. Yet due to delusion, which we call dualism, we experience defilements, and through defilements we perform negative actions which trap us in the realm of existence. We must create bodhicitta to crush self clinging, which is the source of all suffering. In order to crush self clinging, we must practice the two bodhicittas, which are known as relative bodhicitta and absolute bodhicitta. Relative bodhicitta can only suppress and deactivate self clinging; absolute bodhicitta will completely eradicate self clinging.

From Basic Teahings of the Sakya Tradition, by His Holiness the Sakya Trichen.

The Lord Buddha said that everything that is created by causes and conditions is impermanent. This applies in particular to human life. We have no possibility of knowing how long our life will be. Our only certainty is that one day we will die. Furthermore, death could occur at any moment.

Impermanence is actually a great thing, because if we realize impermanence, we naturally lose our attachment to ordinary things and we enter the spiritual path. If we have already entered it, meditating on impermanence will speed up our practice, and if we are already at an advanced level, it will help us to realize ultimate truth.

Lord Buddha said that anyone who thinks about impermanence is making an offering to the Buddha. One who can think about impermanence is one who has received the prophecy of the Buddha.

As ordinary persons, we have many perceptions, but the best perception we can have is that of impermanence. Through remembering impermanence, we can be released from all forms of suffering. The main source of our suffering is attachment, and by remembering impermanence, we lose this attachment and become free from suffering.

From Peace and Impermanence by His Holiness the Sakya Trichen

The Buddha’s teachings say that all sentient beings, not only human beings, but all sentient beings, possess Buddha Nature. Everyone has the seed of Buddhahood, and if we meet with the right methods, we can accomplish the ultimate achievement. According to the Buddha’s teachings, we are all equal. I feel that the Buddha was the first to give equal rights, not only to human beings, but to all sentient beings. Every sentient being has Buddha Nature, and so everyone has a chance to attain Buddhahood.

But at the moment, we do not realize this. We cannot see our Buddha Nature, the true nature of our mind, because our view is covered by the obscuration of deflements and the obscuration to knowledge. Because of this, because of our lack of wisdom and our great ignorance, instead of seeing the true nature of our mind, we cling to ourselves as a self, without any logical reason. Due to a long-time build-up of strong habitual tendencies, we cling to a self. And when we cling to a self, then naturally, there are others. And when we have self and others, there is attachment to one’s own side and anger towards others, and there is ignorance. These are the three main defilements. From these arise pride, jealousy, stinginess, and all the negative emotions, and when we perform deeds driven by the defilements, we get caught up in what we call samsara, or the cycle of existence.

From The Practice of Ngödro, by His Holiness the Sakya Trichen

 The Buddhist idea of love and compassion, that all beings should be protected, goes deeper and wider than ordinary considerations.

Right from the beginning, the Buddha Himself taught that life is precious. Life is not only precious to us, but it is precious to every living being, from the tiniest insect to the highest god. Every life is precious. This is the most important thing that we must realize. Life is what is most precious not only to ourselves, but also to every single other being. And so, when we experience our own feelings, we can remember how every individual also has the same kind of feelings. We have to always remember how precious life is and how we need to protect its many forms. In order to protect life, we also need to protect the environment that harbors it. No one can live in a place where there is no water, where there are no trees, and so on. Our lives are completely dependent on our environment. 

According to the Buddha’s law, monks are not allowed to chop trees, pluck flowers or cut grass. Actually, the Buddha was a precursor of the environmentalists. Buddhism teaches us that we should make this world beautiful, free and clean, not only for human beings but for every living being that inhabits it. And so it’s important that we endeavor with all our strength to make things better, and for this, we first need to deeply realize how precious life is, how important it is to make this life healthier for all, happier and longer, and how crucial it is that we create a sustainable environment.

From Global Environment from a Buddhist Perspective, by His Holiness the Sakya Trichen