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What is Buddhism?
• Buddhism is a way of finding peace within
oneself. It is a religion that helps us to find the
happiness and contentment we seek.
• Buddhists develop inner peace, kindness and
wisdom through their daily practice; and then
share their experience with others bringing real
benefit to this world. They try not to harm others
and to live peacefully and gently, working
towards the ultimate goal of pure and lasting
happiness for all living beings.
History of Buddhism
• The founder of Buddhism in this world is Buddha
Shakyamuni. He was born as a royal prince in 624 BC in
a place called Lumbini, which was originally in northern
India but is now part of Nepal. ‘Shakya’ is the name of
the royal family into which he was born, and ‘Muni’
means ‘Able One’. His parents gave him the name
Siddhartha and there were many wonderful predictions
about his future. In his early years he lived as a prince
in his royal palace but when he was 29 years old he
retired to the forest where he followed a spiritual life
of meditation. After six years he attained
enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya,
• He was subsequently requested to teach and as Venerable
Geshe Kelsang
• As a result of this request, Buddha rose from meditation
and taught the first Wheel of Dharma. These teachings
which include the Sutra of the Four Noble Truths and other
discourses, are the principal source of the Hinayana, or
Lesser Vehicle, of Buddhism. Later, Buddha taught the
second and third Wheels of Dharma, which include the
Perfection of Wisdom Sutras and the Sutra Discriminating
the Intention respectively. These teachings are the source
of the Mahayana, or Great Vehicle, of Buddhism. In the
Hinayana teachings Buddha explains how to attain
liberation from suffering for oneself alone, and in the
Mahayana teachings he explains how to attain full
enlightenment, or Buddhahood, for the sake of others.
Both traditions flourished in Asia, at first in India and then
gradually in other surrounding countries, including Tibet.
Now they are also beginning to flourish in the West.
• In all Buddha Shakyamuni gave eighty-four
thousand teachings. His intention in founding
Buddhism was to lead living beings to
permanent liberation from suffering. He
realized temporary liberation from suffering
and difficulties is not enough. Motivated by
love and compassion his aim was to help living
beings find lasting peace or nirvana.
• They believe that the mind is neither physical, nor
a by-product of purely physical processes, but a
formless continuum that is a separate entity from
the body. When the body disintegrates at death,
the mind does not cease.
• The continuum of our very subtle mind has no
beginning and no end, and it is this mind which,
when completely purified, transforms into the
omniscient mind of a Buddha.
• Every action we perform leaves an imprint, or
potential, on our very subtle mind, and each
karmic potential eventually gives rise to its
own effect.
• After we die our very subtle mind leaves our
body and enters the intermediate state, or
‘bardo’. In this subtle dream-like state we
experience many different visions that arise
from the karmic potentials that were activated
at the time of our death.
• we do not choose our rebirth but are reborn
solely in accordance with our karma. If good
karma ripens we are reborn in a fortunate state,
either as a human or a god, but if negative karma
ripens we are reborn in a lower state, as an
animal, a hungry ghost, or a hell being.
• This uninterrupted cycle of death and rebirth
without choice is called ‘cyclic existence’, or
‘samsara’ in Sanskrit.
• By practicing the Buddhist path to liberation and
enlightenment, however, we can destroy self-
grasping, thereby liberating ourself from the cycle
of uncontrolled rebirth and attaining a state of
perfect peace and freedom.
We shall then be in a position to help others to
do the same.
Buddhism in the modern era
• With the fast pace and high stress of modern life many people are
becoming interested in the peaceful philosophy of Buddhism. In
particular there is a very deep interest in learning how to meditate,
both to overcome stress and anxiety, and to deepen one’s spiritual
experience. In response to this growing interest Kadampa Buddhism
offers many different ways of learning about Buddhism and
practicing meditation.
• Kadampa Buddhism was first introduced to the West in 1976 by the
renowned Kadampa Buddhist Master, Venerable Geshe Kelsang
Gyatso. Since then he has worked tirelessly to provide all the
conditions necessary to support contemporary practitioners. He has
written twenty-one authentic books on Buddhism that are now
being translated into many different languages.
• Geshe Kelsang has also established over 1100
Kadampa Buddhist centers and study groups in
40 countries around the world where people of
all cultures can train in meditation and other
Buddhist practices.
• These centers all have qualified
local teachers and offer introductory classes,
structured study programs, and meditation
retreats. All Kadampa Buddhist Centers are open
to the public.
• Every year Kadampa Buddhists from around the
world gather for meditation festivals in
the USA and Europe, including two in England,
where they receive special teachings and
empowerments and enjoy a spiritual holiday.