"From my perspective, Buddhism is not a religion that demands blind faith in dogmatic beliefs. Neither is it a philosophy that traps us in an idealized world, nor a cultural phenomenon that stubbornly clings to old traditions. Buddhism, in fact, is a systematic methodology of practices through which we free others and ourselves from suffering and attain real happiness.
True happiness is achieved through the direct understanding of the way things are, through compassionately working for the ultimate happiness of others and through confidently developing our previously dormant capacity for enlightenment.
All of this is based on the understanding of selflessness, which is the foundation of Buddhism."
- Trungram Gyaltrul Rinpoche
The best explanation of the Buddha's teachings is summarized in the Sanskrit word "dharma" which means "the way things are." At the age of 35, after six years of deep meditation, Buddha perceived the true nature of mind. This realization is the definition of awareness - moving beyond the obstructions of ego and self absorption in order to see clearly and simply the way things truly are. Awareness is both the path and the final goal of all Buddhist teachings.
Buddha was a human being, nothing more. When asked by a follower who he was, he answered with a simple truth: "I am awake." He was a human being who had discovered, through hard work and patience, a path to a freedom of mind which released him from the fear, clinging and drive for personal security that lies at the heart of how humans live.
This freedom of mind is called Liberation or Enlightenment. It is an experience of seeing directly, in that moment before ideas, thoughts, beliefs, emotions and ego filter or shape our experience. Though impossible to express satisfactorily in words, when one achieves enlightenment it can be seen as the ultimate in mental calmness, inexpressible joy and unfettered clarity.
Meditation and the associated teachings are the tools that help us gain the ability and the confidence to 'let go' and realize this kind of total awareness. At first we glimpse it in brief flashes during quiet sitting. Then, over time, we learn how to extend our experience - to maintain it through our daily life. The Buddhist practice of 'being present in the moment' or mindfulness, is a fundamental part of bringing our meditation experience into everything we do.