I. Introduction to Buddhism


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Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha

    The word Buddha is a Sanskrit word which means "The Awakened One", one who is awakened to Reality, who understands true nature of the mind, the world, and all sentient beings. Other common epithets of the Buddha are: Tathagata (Thus Come One 1), or Bhagavat (World-Honored One).

    The Buddha lived approximately 3000 years ago (some say 2500). He was an Indian prince named Siddhartha, who gave up his throne in order to search for the Truth, to find a way to bring relief to the sufferings of humanity. After many years of diligent practice, he reached Supreme Enlightenment while sitting under a bodhi tree. He then exclaimed, "Wonder of wonders! All sentient beings are inherently complete and perfect! But they do not realize it because of their delusions and cravings." There upon He was known as Sakyamuni (or Gautama) Buddha, and embarked on an endless, compassionate journey to teach living beings how to see Reality, how to gain true wisdom, how to free themselves, and how to achieve true peace and joy. His teaching is known as the Dharma. The Buddha taught for 49 years until he entered nirvana at the age of 80.

    Many disciples of the Buddha, following the Buddha's example, renounced the home life to devote their lives to the practice of Enlightenment, to the gaining of wisdom that can transcend suffering, and to teach other sentient beings the same. They formed the ordained community of Buddhist monks and nuns known as the Sangha. Sangha means "harmony" or "harmonious assembly". The Sangha is responsible for practicing, achieving, preserving, and propagating the Buddha Dharma. Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are called the Triple Jewel.

Buddhist Ideal

    Buddhists believe that everyone can become a Buddha. Being a Buddha means being Awakened, free from delusions and sufferings, and perfect in wisdom and compassion.

    To be Awakened means to see Reality as it is, not as we think it is. To see Reality is to gain true wisdom and this wisdom will free us. We are not trapped by external conditions, but by our misperceptions and prejudices. Whatever we do, our actions create reactions that come back to affect us. Because of this, we are responsible for our own actions. Also because of this, we are responsible for our own salvation. And exactly because of this, each one of us is capable of achieving Perfection. We just need to know how. The Dharma teaches us how. There are many ways of practice, many "Dharma gates" to achieve Enlightenment, and they all fall into these general categories: performing good deeds, meditation, and studying the Dharma.

1. Tathagata means "acting in accordance with Truth". It also means "neither coming nor going."


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