Over 2,500 years ago, a man who had been searching for the truth for many, many lifetimes came to a quiet place in northern India and sat down under a tree. He continued to sit under the tree, with immense resolve, and vowed not to get up until he had found the truth.
At dusk, it is said, he conquered all the dark forces of delusion; and early the next morning, as the star Venus broke in the dawn sky, the man was rewarded for his age-long patience, discipline, and flawless concentration by achieving the final goal of human existence, enlightenment.
At that sacred moment, the earth itself shuddered, as if ‘drunk with bliss,’ and as the scriptures tell us, “No one anywhere was angry, ill, or sad; no one did evil, none was proud; the world became quite quiet, as though it had reached full perfection.”
This man became known as the Buddha.
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying – Sogyal Rinpoche
Buddha Shakyamuni, the Indian prince Gautama Siddhartha, attained enlightenment in the sixth century BCE. He taught the spiritual path known today as Buddhism.
Buddha, however, also has a much deeper meaning. It means anyone who has completely awakened from ignorance and opened to his or her vast potential for wisdom. A buddha is one who has brought a final end to suffering and frustration, and discovered a lasting happiness and peace.
During the Buddha’s lifetime, the influence of his teachings was confined to a relatively small area in northeast India. In the centuries after his enlightenment, however, Buddhism spread throughout the whole of the East.
Buddhism was introduced to Tibet in the eighth century by Padmasambhava, a great master and saint who is considered by Tibetans to be the ‘Second Buddha’.
Today, more and more people around the world are recognizing the tremendous gift that Buddhism has to offer, one offered with no notion of conversion or exclusivity, and to people of any faith or none.
These teachings hold the key to qualities that we urgently need today—the peace of mind to bring us inner strength, confidence and happiness, and the compassion and good heart to help us free ourselves from our destructive emotions.
In a world racked by turmoil and mental suffering, the Buddhist teachings could not be more practical. They speak to us all, and any one of us can put them into action so as to live our lives with more wisdom and more compassion.