How does the mind work? Why do we suffer? How can we become more balanced, compassionate and happy? How can we overcome our fear of death and use it to live in a more fulfilling way? How does the external and internal world appear to us, and how does it actually exist?
These and similar questions are the subject of study and practice in Buddhism.
About 2’500 years ago Shakyamuni Buddha searched for the source of our constant underlying dissatisfaction and for the way to overcome it. Using advanced meditation methods, he achieved profound realizations, which he later passed onto his followers.
Among others, he recognized that our lives are filled with stress and dissatisfaction, anything from mental and physical pain to not getting what we want, and having what we do not want. The main source of this dissatisfaction is our grasping at the material objects and relationships that temporarily bring us pleasant experiences, which we then call happiness. Another source of suffering are our mistaken views of reality, for example our strong belief that things, people and we ourselves exist permanently and inherently from their and our own side.
Buddhism presents a systematic way to overcome suffering and confusion through freeing ourselves from attachment to material objects and through developing the correct view of reality. The practices to achieve this goal include meditation, ethical conduct and many others. Once we are no longer blinded by our fear, depression and suffering, we are left with unobstructed, deep and inexhaustible happiness, which each and every one of us can find naturally within ourselves. This state is called enlightenment or nirvana.
In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, which together with Theravada and Vajrayana traditions belongs to the main schools of Buddhism, one of the main steps on the path to enlightenment is to develop compassion, the altruistic sense of responsibility for all universal beings. Liberating ourselves from suffering is not the final goal of our journey – the Mahayana Buddhists seek liberation, so that they can help others to also reach this state. We recognize that everybody, just like us, wants happiness and does not want suffering. We are all interconnected and responsible for each other. The secret of true, permanent happiness is therefore a soft, open and caring heart, which embraces and includes all universal beings.