Introduction to Buddhism
Two thousand five hundred and fifty years ago, the
historical Buddha enjoyed unique circumstances for passing on his
teachings. Born into a highly developed culture, he was surrounded by
exceedingly gifted people. After reaching enlightenment, he shared his
methods for discovering the mind for a full forty-five years. It is for
this reason that his teachings, called the Dharma, are so vast.
The Kanjur, Buddha´s own words, consists of 108 volumes
containing 84,000 helpful teachings. Later commentaries on these teachings,
the Tenjur, amount to another 254 equally thick books. This makes Buddha´s
final evaluation of his life understandable: "I can die happily. I did not
hold one single teaching in a closed hand. Everything that may benefit you
I have already given." His very last statement sets Buddhism apart from
what is otherwise called religion: "Now, don´t believe my words because a
Buddha told you, but examine them well. Be a light onto yourselves."
Such statements show the practical approach of Buddhism which is meant for
real life. When people asked Buddha why and what he taught, he replied: "I teach because you and all beings seek happiness and try to avoid suffering.
I teach "the way things are."
So, what is Buddhism? Buddha used the best description
himself. During the 1,500 years the teachings existed in India, they were
called Dharma, and for the last 1,000 years in Tibet, the name was Chö.
Both mean "the way things are."
Understanding "the way things are" is the key to every
happiness. Buddha himself is a teacher, example, protector, and friend.
His help allows beings to avoid suffering and to enter a state of increasing bliss while also liberating and enlightening others.
Excerpts from Lama Ole Nydahl: The Way Things Are, Blue
- Who is Buddha ?
The historical Buddha was born in approximately 570 B.C. in Northern India. As a young man he spent six years searching and meditating.
He then recognized the true nature of mind, thus becoming Buddha - the "awakened
one." His teachings, which make beings fearless, joyful and kind, are the
main religion of several East Asian countries.
Since the early seventies, Buddhism's profound view and
vast number of methods have inspired and fascinated a growing number of
people in Western cultures. Buddha is seen as a timeless mirror of mind's
- What is Buddhism ?
The Buddha gave methods by which full enlightenment may be
attained. He made clear which teachings relate to ultimate or conditional
truth. The Buddha showed his students in practical and understandable ways
how to use all experiences in life as steps toward enlightenment, giving
methods that lead to deep and lasting happiness.
He encouraged his students to be skeptical, inviting them
to thoroughly check for themselves, whether his teachings were dogmatic or truly liberating. Buddhist meditation methods can generate powerful inner
change enabling experiences to be integrated directly towards enriching
our lives. These skillful methods allow the levels of consciousness
already reached through meditation to become anchored in a way that they
are never again lost. The highest teaching known as Chag Chen or Dzogchen,
as Mahamudra or Maha Ati, allows us to open to the experience of total non-separation between subject, object and action.
- What is
Karma means cause and effect, not fate. The understanding
that each of us is responsible for our own lives makes it possible to
consciously generate positive impressions which bring happiness while
avoiding the causes of future suffering. Positive states of mind may be
effectively strengthened through the methods of the Diamond Way, while
negative impressions waiting to mature, can be transformed into wisdom.
- What is Meditation ?
In Buddhism, meditation means, "effortlessly remaining in what is." This
state may be brought about by calming and holding the mind, when
compassion and wisdom are realized, or by working with our bodie's energy
channels and meditating on light forms of the Buddhas.
The most effective method, if one can do it, is the
constant identification with one's own Buddha nature, and the experience
of always being in a Pure Land, both of which are taught in the Diamond
Way. When the oneness of the seer, what is seen and the act of seeing is
unbroken, in and between the times of meditation, the goal, Mahamudra is
- What is Liberation and Enlightenment ?
In the process of becoming liberated, one first discovers
that body, thoughts, and feelings are in a constant state of change and
flux. There is therefore no basis for a real existing ego or 'self.' One
stops feeling like a target, taking one's suffering personally. When one
thinks, "there is suffering" instead of "I suffer," one becomes
invulnerable and free.
Enlightenment is the second and ultimate step. Here, the
clear light of mind radiates through every experience. Past, present, and
future, "here" or "there," all are expressions of mind's timeless richness.
In enlightenment, mind naturally expresses fearlessness, joy, and
compassion and remains effortless and spontaneous in whatever happens.
What are the differences between Buddhist schools ?
The Buddha worked to benefit three kinds of people. Whoever
wanted to avoid suffering received the instructions about cause and effect
called Theravada or the "Small Way." Those who wanted to do more for
others were given the Mahayana or the "Great Way," the teachings on wisdom
and compassion. To people having strong confidence in their own Buddha
nature, Buddha taught the Vajrayana or the "Diamond Way."
Here, he manifested as forms of energy and light or
directly transmitted his enlightened view as a flow of awareness. On this
highest level the aim is the complete development of mind, the spontaneous
effortlessness of Mahamudra. The basis, way, and goal of this highest view
are transmitted under varying names by Tibet's three old Buddhist
transmissions, the Nyingma, Sakya, and Kagyu Schools.
- Diamond Way Buddhism in the
While there are many Buddhist centers of various lineages
active in the West, this homepage pertains to the 230 lay Buddhist centers
of the Karma Kagyu Lineage which have been started by Lama Ole Nydahl.
They are under the spiritual guidance of the 17th Karmapa, Thaye Dorje,
who now resides in New Delhi, India. These groups have a democratic structure and function through unpaid, voluntary work on the basis of
idealism and friendship. The members share the responsibility for guiding
meditations, answering questions and giving teachings. Lama Ole has so far
trained about 30 students who are now traveling and teaching in many
The Karma Kagyu school offers practical teachings
applicable to everyday life. It gives a wealth of methods for lay people
and yogis to develop mind's inherent richness and clarity both through
meditation and in one's daily activities. The roof of the self liberating
Mahamudra is supported by three pillars which are: verifiable non-dogmatic
teachings, meditation, and the means to solidify the levels of awareness
which have been attained.
The Diamond Way opens the most skillful methods of the
Buddha to the modern world. It helps us discover and develop our inner
richness for the benefit of all beings as well as ourselves.
- The Karma Kagyu Lineage
Karma Kagyu is one of the major Buddhist schools of Tibet.
As a lineage of direct oral transmission, it especially treasures
meditation and can, through interaction with a qualified teacher, bring
about the full direct experience of the nature of the mind. The Karma
Kagyu methods were taught by the historical Buddha Shakyamuni to his
They were later passed on through the Indian Mahasiddhas:
Padmasambhava, Tilopa, Naropa and Maitripa and the famous Tibetan Yogis
Marpa and Milarepa. In the 12th century, the monk Gampopa gave the
teachings to the first Gyalwa Karmapa whose successive incarnations have
kept them powerful and vibrant over the centuries. Today, great Tibetan
and Bhutanese teachers (lamas) such as Kunzig Shamarpa and Lopon Tsechu
Rinpoche transmit this unbroken tradition when visiting the many Karma
Kagyu centers around the world.
- The Karmapas
The Gyalwa Karmapas are unique among the great Lamas of
Tibet, having reached full enlightenment centuries ago. During a previous
incarnation Karmapa was at the side of the historical Buddha as the great
Bodhisattva Chenrezig or "Loving Eyes." In Sanskrit his name is
Karmapa spent many lifetimes as a yogi in India. From the
year 1110 to the present day he has been taking successive conscious
rebirths as the Karmapa or the "Black Hat Lama." He was the first
recognized Lama of Tibet. In 1959, during the Chinese destruction of
Tibet, the 16th
Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje
managed to leave the country with his students and the most
precious relics of his lineage, thus securing the transmission of the
Karma Kagyu lineage. With the help of increasing numbers of Western students the full knowledge about the nature of mind has reached the
modern world. In the winter of 1994 at the age of 10, the present
17th Karmapa, Thaye Dorje, recognized by
Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, escaped occupied Tibet to freedom in India, where
he is now being introduced to the modern world.
- Lama Ole Nydahl
Lama Ole Nydahl
and his wife Hannah were the first western students of the 16th Gyalwa
Karmapa. He recognized them as protectors of his lineage and asked them to
work for him. Since 1972, after three years of training in the Himalayas,
Lama Ole has given Diamond Way teachings in a new town nearly every day
around the world. He is always accessible to his students, and his
spontaneous joy and disregard of "holy cows" exemplifies the freedom
everyone can reach through the fearlessness of Mahamudra.
His latest book, "The Way Things Are," from Blue Dolphin
Publishing, is now available in all bookstores.