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Introductions to Buddhist Philosophy & Practices

Tibetan Buddhism offers a vast and profound body of teachings and spiritual practices. These date back approximately 2,500 years to Shakyamuni Buddha, and remarkably, have been passed down in an unbroken lineage going back to the Buddha himself. The teachings are aimed at accelerating the spiritual development of the practitioner for the benefit of all sentient beings. At their core is a deep awareness of the nature of suffering and a consistent emphasis on compassion.

Tibetan Buddhism: a Multifaceted Path
People from any and all spiritual or religions backgrounds are welcome to practice Tibetan Buddhism. There is no requirement to leave behind the religion of one's background. It is not necessary to "be a Buddhist" in order to attend meditation sessions at our center. Indeed, Tibetan Buddhism is nonsectarian and welcomes the participation of individuals from all faiths and paths.

In his book, Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, John Powers explains: "Because of its multifaceted nature, [...] there is no one 'truth' that can be put into words, nor is there one program of training that everyone can or must follow. Tibetan Buddhism recognizes that people have differing capacities, attitudes, and predispositions, and the Dharma can and should be adapted to these. Thus, there is no one church in which everyone should worship, no service that everyone must attend, no prayers that everyone must say, no text that everyone should read as normative, and no one deity that everyone must worship. The Dharma is extremely flexible, and if one finds that a particular practice leads to a diminishment of negative emotions, greater peace and happiness, and increased compassion and wisdom, this is Dharma"

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 realizations of those teachings; the cessation of problems and their causes, and the realizations or paths which lead to that cessation. 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 people who put the Buddha’s teachings into practice.

The Dharma is our real refuge, the medicine we take which cures our problems and their causes. The Buddha is like the doctor, who correctly diagnoses the cause of our problems and prescribes the appropriate medicine. By assisting us in the practice, the Sangha is similar to the nurse who helps us take the medicine.

What are the various Buddhist traditions?
Generally, there are two divisions: Theravada and Mahayana.

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 emphasizes meditation on the breath to develop concentration and meditation on mindfulness of the body, feelings, mind and phenomena in order to develop wisdom.

The Mahayana (Great Vehicle) tradition, based on the scriptures recorded in Sanskrit, spread to China, Tibet, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, etc. Although in the Theravadin practice love and compassion are essential and important factors, in the Mahayana they are emphasized to an even greater extent.

Within Mahayana, there are several branches: Pure Land emphasizes chanting the name of Amitabha Buddha in order to be reborn in His Pure Land; Zen emphasizes meditation to eliminate the noisy, conceptual mind; Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle) employs meditation on a deity in order to transform our contaminated body and mind into the body and mind of a Buddha.

 

Links

Colorado Ratnashri - Boulder
Garchen Buddhist Institute
Tibetan Meditation Center - Main North American Seat of the Drikung Kagyu
 

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