Introduction

                                                   

What is Buddhism?

The best explanation of the Buddha's teachings comes from the Buddha himself. In Sanskrit the teachings are called the Dharma and in Tibetan Chö. Both mean «the way things are«. So Buddhism can be seen as a set of tools that enable us to see things as they really are here and now. Buddhism has no dogmas and allows question marks to be placed everywhere. Buddha's teachings aim at the full development and freedom of body, speech and mind.

Who was Buddha?

Buddha was born in India about 2560 years ago into the royal family of a highly developed culture. The young prince enjoyed extremely privileged circumstances and up until the age of twenty-nine he had known only pleasure. Leaving his palace for the first time, his world was turned upside down. Over three consecutive days he saw a very sick person, somebody old and someone who had died. Upon his recognition of the inevitability of old age, sickness, death and the impermanence of everything, he became deeply troubled. The next morning, he passed a Yogi in deep meditation and their minds met. Inspired by this, the prince then left his home and family and wandered the country in search of teachings that could overcome death and suffering. He studied with various teachers, but none of them could lead him to his ultimate goal.
At the age of 35, after six years of deep meditation, he realized the true nature of mind and was enlightened. He became awakened to the essence of all things: the all-knowing space that makes everything possible, its radiant clarity that playfully expresses mind's richness and its limitless love that obstructs nothing. For the next 45 years the Buddha taught the methods to reach the goal of enlightenment to thousands of gifted students.

Is Buddhism a philosophy, a psychology or a religion?

Buddhism can be regarded as a philosophy insofar as its teachings represent a complete and logical view, but it is not just a philosophy. Philosophy can explain things on the formal level of words and ideas, whereas the Buddha's teachings work with one's totality. While both philosophy and Buddhist practice lead to clarity of thought, only the latter can lead to permanent transformations because it gives the practical key to inner and outer events experienced everyday.
Because of the ability of its teachings to transform those who practice them, some people consider Buddhism to be a kind of psychology. The varying schools of psychology all try to help people neither to be a burden on society nor to have too many personal difficulties. While both psychology and Buddhism can change people, the latter is for the already healthy. It can be said that Buddhism starts where psychology stops. Diamond Way Buddhism becomes relevant from the point where people are already stable, where they experience space as blissful and not threatening. From this level the teachings develop the limitless courage, joy and love, which are mind's inherent wealth.
Applying the teachings to one's life will raise a deep confidence in their skilfulness giving all situations the taste of meaning and growth. Once the awareness of the conditioned nature of all things grows, fixed concepts will fall away and the perfect qualities of body, speech and mind will naturally appear. The end result of practice - full enlightenment or Buddhahood - surpasses the intellectual or therapeutic goals of both philosophy and psychology, it is a state of perfection beyond concepts.
Combining the logical view and the transformative power with methods to obtain lasting and beyond personal mental states, Buddhism is over all a 2500 year old religion of experience.

What are the basic points in Buddhism?

There are four basic thoughts that give a lasting meaning to our life. The first thing that we appreciate is our very rare and marvelous chance to be able to meet with enlightened teachings, and to be able to work with and learn from them. All beings want happiness and want to avoid suffering. Even an ant will crawl very far to avoid being killed, and human beings will go to all lengths in order to feel good. So, meeting with teachings that bring lasting happiness is very important.
After this, we understand we will not always have this chance. Whatever was born, will die, whatever came together will fall apart, and whatever appeared will disappear. Our time is limited. It is certain that our lives will end, but we do not know when. So recognizing that we have this chance now and actually wanting to use it is also something extremely valuable.
The third thing we understand is that the world is really a matrix of causes and effects and that our present actions, words and thoughts will become our future. Whether we realise it or not, everything we do, say or think leaves impressions both inside ourselves and outside in the world. These impressions will later return to us. Negative impressions especially will manifest as suffering or unpleasant situations in the future unless we use meditations that dissolve them.
Finally, we recognise the fact that there is no alternative to using the teachings. Enlightenment is highest joy. There is nothing more fulfilling and total than this state of oneness with all things, all times, all beings, and all directions. Also, how will we benefit others if confused and suffering ourselves?
So considering these four factors gives the basis for buddhist practice and meditation. In contrast, however, if we cling to our ordinary values we cannot avoid suffering. If we keep thinking »I am my body« and »These things are mine«, old age, sickness, death and loss will be exceedingly unpleasant. Noboy can avoid pain by saying: »This stuff with enlightenment is too difficult for me«, because if we were born, we'll surely die. There is no greater purpose in life than to find values which permanently overcome suffering and death. The benefits of enlightenment are therefore immeasurable for both oneself and all other beings.

Are there different types of Buddhism?

Buddha gave instructions to three main types of people. Those who wanted to avoid suffering received information about cause and effect. Those who wanted to do more for others were given instructions on compassion and wisdom. Where people had a strong trust in their own and other's Buddha-nature, he shared the direct view of mind called the Great Seal (tib. Chagchen, Skt. Mahamudra). The first one of these levels is called the Small Way or Theravada, the second one the Great Way or Mahayana and the third the Diamond Way or Vajrayana.