Buddha – Buddhists – Buddhism
There are many buddhas, millions of them and many are alive today. The term “buddha” means “awakened one.” The historical Buddha did not claim to be enlightened, he said that he was “awake,” free from the confines of delusion that distorts reality. All of us are “awake” to some degree, able to recognize our mistakes, resist the urge to say or do something that might cause suffering, and have insights about being a better person. The insights of the historical Buddha are The Four Noble Truths, and The Eightfold Path, a prescription for awakening to true-nature, free from the bondage of conditioned mental, emotional, and physical habits that cause suffering.
We do not automatically become a Buddhist by studying and practicing Buddhist teaching. Millions who follow other faith traditions read and practice Buddhist teachings and find their faith enhanced by doing so. Buddhist practice, especially meditation, is a common sense ecumenical approach to spirituality that deepens the ability to take personal responsibility for everything we’re experiencing. If I need help with a legal matter I seek out a good lawyer. If I need help with a tax issue I consult a good accountant. If I want to learn meditation, I seek out a good Buddhist teacher.
The Buddha Dharma is the collected experience of practitioners for the past 2500 years. The instructions offered here are not new, I did not make them up, I learned them from my teachers pass them onto you with their blessings. The dharma is offering us a framework to perceive and respond appropriately and skillfully to reality. We are not asked to believe anything, but to verify true-nature for our self.
In one of his first teachings the Buddha said, “When I awoke, all beings awoke.” In this short insight, the Buddha affirms that everyone has the potential for spiritual awakening, to realize both the relative and absolute nature of reality. Millions have done so. Awakening is not exclusive to Buddhists or Buddhism, this is one of many paths, and possibly the most direct one that does not require belief in any doctrine. Prayer, contemplation, meditation, and devotion are practices that are universal to all spiritual traditions. The doctrine free technique of Buddhist meditation is also universal without diluting or compromising the teachings of any other tradition.