Buddha Shakyamuni attained full enlightenment 2500 years ago in Bodh Gaya, India. From his enlightened wisdom and compassion, he showed how we can all find solutions to our problems and experience lasting freedom from suffering. From these precious teachings, called Dharma, all the different forms of Buddhism developed.
Buddha explained that all our problems and suffering arise from confused and negative states of mind, and that all our happiness and good fortune arise from peaceful and positive states of mind. He taught methods for gradually overcoming our negative minds such as anger, jealousy, and ignorance, and developing our positive minds such as love, compassion, and wisdom. Through this we will come to experience lasting peace and happiness.
These methods work for anyone, in any country, at any age. Once we have gained experience of them for ourselves, we can pass them on to others so they too can enjoy the same benefits.
Meditation is at the heart of the Buddhist way of life—the perfect method for understanding and working on our own mind. Through meditation we first learn to identify our different negative mental states known as “delusions,”and then learn how to develop peaceful and positive mental states or “virtuous minds.”
In our daily lives - the meditation break - we strive to practice and maintain these virtuous minds and use our wisdom to solve our problems. As our mind becomes more positive, our actions become more constructive and our experience of life becomes more satisfying and beneficial to others.
Anyone can learn basic meditation techniques and experience great benefits, but to progress beyond basic meditation requires faith in the Three Jewels—Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. This kind of faith naturally develops as we experience the benefits of meditation practice and personally verify that Dharma is changing our lives for the better.
Every living being has the potential to become a Buddha, someone who has completely purified his or her mind of all faults and limitations and has brought all good qualities to perfection. Our mind is like a cloudy sky, in essence clear and pure but overcast by the clouds of delusions. Just as the thickest clouds eventually disperse, so too even the heaviest delusions can be removed from our mind. Delusions such as hatred, greed, and ignorance are not intrinsic parts of the mind. If we apply the appropriate methods they can be completely eliminated, and we shall experience the supreme happiness of full enlightenment.
— Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche, The New Eight Steps to Happiness
Having attained enlightenment, we shall have all the necessary qualities—universal love and compassion, omniscient wisdom and boundless spiritual power—to lead all living beings to the same exalted state. This is the ultimate aim of Mahayana Buddhism.