Buddhism and its Founder PDF Print E-mail

Just as a particular disease in the world can be treated by various methods in medicine, so there are different religions that bring happiness to human beings and others. Different doctrines have been expounded by different exponents at different periods and in different ways. But I believe they all fundamentally aim at achieving the same noble goal, in teaching moral precepts to mould the functions of mind, body and speech. They all teach us not to tell lies, or bear false witness, or steal, or take the lives of others, and so on. Therefore, it would be better if disunity among the followers of different religions could come to an end. Unity among religions is not an impossible idea. It is possible, and in the present state of the world, it is especially important. Mutual respect would be helpful to all believers; and unity between them would also bring benefit to unbelievers, for the unanimous flood of light would show them the way out of their ignorance. I strongly emphasize the urgent need for flawless unity among all religions. To this end, the followers of each religion should know something of the religion of others, and that is why I am presenting a brief introduction to the Buddhism of Tibet.

I must begin, however, by saying that it is very difficult to find exact English equivalents for the philosophical terms of Buddhism expressed in Tibetan. It is hardly possible (at present) to find a scholar who has both a perfect knowledge of English and a perfect knowledge of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and religion. Also, there are not many authentic translations for reference. Books written or translated in the past have certainly done a great service to Buddhism, but some of them are rather rough translations, providing only a superficial interpretation. I hope scholars in the future will solve this problem so that the more profound aspects of our religion can be communicated in English. In this booklet a very free translation is being used so that the English is as simple as possible. At present, I can only write on these matters with confidence in Tibetan, and for an English translation I have to rely on others. I can only hope that the translation is a precise rendering.

I have already explained in My Land and My People that we Buddhist[s], believe, that all beings are reborn, and strive, through a series of lives, towards the perfection of a Buddhahood. We do not take it for granted that this perfection will be attained in a single lifetime, although it can be possible.

Of the mind and body of a man, we consider the mind superior; both speech and body are subject to it. Sins do not affect the intrinsic nature of mind. The essential mind is naturally pure. Sins are the defects of the peripheral or secondary minds. In the quest for enlightenment, these defects are removed one by one from the peripheral minds, and when all defects are removed from them, true perfection, or Buddhahood, is attained.

We believe that during the present Kalpa (aeon) the incarnation of a thousand supreme Buddhas will take place in this world. Like our selves, these Buddhas were living beings before they attained perfection. These Buddhas have the power to project reincarnations of their mind, body, and speech into millions of forms within a moment of time. And they do this for the benefit of all living beings of worlds like ours. Each of these supreme incarnations will preach his own doctrine, and will work eternally for the salvation of all living beings.

We regard Lord Buddha, or Gautama Buddha, as he is also called, one of these one thousand Buddhas. He was born on a royal family in India over 2,500 years ago. In the early part of his life, he lived as a prince; but he noted instances of suffering which made him realize that human existence was precarious. He renounced his princely life and became an ascetic. From the point of view of ordinary beings, which is limited, his life was marked by twelve main events: his descent form the heaven called Tushita, his conception, birth, schooling, marriage, renunciation, penance, meditation under the Bodhi tree (the tree of enlightenment), conquest of mara (the tempter), attainment of Buddhahood, preaching, and departure from Samsara (the round of existence).

His teaching differs from that of other Buddhas; while most of them preached only on Sutra (doctrinal treatises), he preached also on Tantras (instructions on spiritual method).

After he attained Enlightenment, the Perfection of Buddhahood, at Buddha gaya , he preached three different sermons, each at a different place in the part of India known as Bihar . The first, at Varanasi (banaras), was on the Four Noble Truths, about which I shall have more to say. It was mainly addressed to the Sravakas (hearers) who were people gifted spiritually but of limited outlook. The second sermon, at Girdhakuta, was on Sunyata (Voidness), the non-existence of an ultimate self-nature. I shall refer to this again. This was addressed to Mahayanists, or followers of the Great Way , who were men of very high intellect. The third sermon, at Vesali, was intended primarily for Mahayanists of a lesser calibre.

Thus, he not only preached on Sutras for Mahayanists and Hinayanists (followers of the Greater and Lesser Ways, the two main schools of Buddhism). After attaining the status of Vajra Dhara, that is to say, on his initiation into the most profound methods, he also preached many Tantras for Mahayanists. The great scripture (translated in Tibet under the title of Kangyur) are all Lord Buddha's teachings.

The Kangyur has Sutra and a Tantra section. The Sutra section is further divided into three subjects: Vinaya, which concerns the principles of morality; Sutantra concerning meditation; and Abhidharma concerning philosophical work related to transcendental wisdom. These three sub-divisions are called Tripitakas, and their fundamental principles are known in Sanskrit as Shila, Smadhi and Prajnya. The Tantric part of the Kangyur has four subdivisions. In Tibet these sub-divisions of Tantra are sometimes included in the Sutantra division of the Sutra of Tripitaka.

By H. H. the Dalai Lama of Tibet