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Buddhist History

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Buddhism systematically teaches that everyone has had many lives and believes there are countless universes, according to people's past actions. Therefore, there are countless enlightened beings, known as Buddhas and Bodhissattvas, to help us. This eon is called "a fortunate eon" because Buddha Shakyamuni appeared on our planet and taught different teachings. The term Buddha in Tibetan (Sangay) means "fully awakened one."

Twenty-five hundred years ago, the historical Buddha lived a family life with the name of Sidhartha and had a child in Rajagir, India. At the age of 29 he understood true suffering and generated great compassion and then engaged in vigorous practices for many years to overcome suffering and the cause of suffering. Finally at the age of 37 he achieved Buddhahood in Bodhgaya under a Bodhi tree. This place is considered the holiest of all places in the Buddhist world. After Siddhartha became enlightened, he taught for 40 years. His teaching deals with the endless suffering of cyclic existence.

Buddha taught three main teachings called The Three Dharma Wheels. His first teaching, or turning of the Dharma Wheel, was on The Four Noble Truths. The second teaching was mainly on the Perfected Wisdom. His third teaching was on The Clear Discrimination. At the age of 81, the Buddha passed away. This last deed is very a powerful reminder of the impermanent nature of all living beings.

After the Buddha passed away, there were three councils to keep the Buddha's teachings. It was during the last council that the teachings were put into writing and preserved in a temple or in monasteries in the form of scriptures.

After the Buddha's death, his Mahayana teachings were preserved by heavenly beings such as gods, nagas and other sprits. As the Buddha predicted, the two great revivals of the Buddhist teachings occurred by two renowned scholars, Nagajuna (400 years after Buddha's death) and Asanga (900 years later.)

While Buddha was teaching the 2nd Dharma lesson, the Perfected Wisdom, he also taught the tantric (esoteric) teachings in South-ern India. The conciliation of most these profound teachings after Buddha's passing was made by Bodhisattvas, the advanced disciples of the Buddha who follow the Mahayana teachings and seek full enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. The tantric teachings are thought to be at the Northen part of Mount Sumeru, a mystical place where there are many Bodhisattvas. It is said that many saints brought the tantric teachings to India from the pure land. Buddhism originated in India and migrated to other countries, both as Mahayana and earlier forms of Buddhism.

Tibetan Buddhism

The four Major Tibetan Buddhist sects are Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Geluk. These, in turn, are divided into two Tibetan Buddhist traditions: the old and new tantric traditions. Vajrayana Diamond path is the most dominant Buddhist tradition in Tibet. It is also called Tantric Buddhism or "esoteric Buddhism." The earlier Buddhist texts that have been translated into Tibetan are called the Nyingma, or "the old tantric tradition." The Indian Buddhist texts, translated by great translators such as Rinchen Sangpo and others during the period of the second dissemination in the 10th century, are called "the new tradition."

In the 7th Century a Tibetan king founded the first written Tibetan language and established laws based on Buddhist teachings which mysteriously appeared five generations before him. This king was considered the manifestation of the Buddha of Infinite Compassion. During his reign, many Buddhist sutras were translated into Tibetan. In Tibet, even small children can recite the mantra of Buddha of compassion: OM MANI PADME HUM.

During the reign of the king Tritsong Deutsan, many scriptures were translated into Tibetan. This king founded the first Buddhist monastery in 763 AD. The design of the building was based on the largest Indian monastery.

Under the rule of King Ralpachan, the third great Dharma King, in the ninth century, Buddhism continued to flourish as more texts were translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan.

There are 101 scriptural volumes of Buddha's original teachings and 225 commentaries translated into Tibetan by Buddha's great followers, Tibetans, Indian yogis, and scholars. As generations went by, Buddhism was highly respected as the most dominant religion in Tibet. Religious kings, great translators, and both Indian and Tibetan scholars solidified this position.

Later in 9th century, the evil king Langdharma and his ministers persecuted Buddhists. Tibet remained in the dark for 70 years. Two monastic traditions came from the lower and upper regions of Tibet, and these gradually spread to the center and the Dharma came alive again.

A Bodhisattva Yeshi Od, out of great compassion for the Tibetan people, worked hard and to invite the great master Atisha to Tibet in the 11th Century to refine the teachings. Atisha taught Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, the complete form and proper procedure of practice. Atisha's presence in Tibet was extremely productive and his great kindness to the Tibetan people and their religion is well remembered.

Buddhist Practice

Buddhists believe that the mind is the forerunner of all acts and experiences. All sufferings and miseries are rooted in a polluted mind or thoughts. Examples of polluted thoughts are anger, hatred, selfishness and intolerance. Consistent meditation on compassion and wisdom cleanse a polluted mind by degrees. It forcibly guides us into a joyous path, which takes us eventually to everlasting happiness. We can overcome suffering and achieve happiness according to our own mental ability and efforts.

The Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are the three main objects of refuge in Buddhism. The Buddha is a perfect teacher who shows an unmistakable path, which he has already walked correctly through his own effort. Dharma is a personal realization that one achieves by practicing the Buddha's teachings. The Dharma resembles medicine that cures disease directly rather than indirectly. Furthermore, Dharma is like a safeguard. Dharma means, "to hold." It holds one directly from falling into an ocean of unbearable suffering. Meditation is the key instrument to achieve the higher mental qualities of Dharma. Consequently, Dharma is the foremost object of refuge among the three. Sangha can be considered one's spiritual community, or people who inspire each other to engage in following virtuous paths.



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