Buddhism and the Karma Kamtsang
Tibetan Buddhist Tradition

What is a Buddha?

A Buddha is someone who realises (i.e. makes real) the ultimate potential of the mind. Therefore, one day or another, we may all become Buddhas. The ultimate potential is a state of total, unlimited clarity, that knows everyone and everything. It is inseparable from an infinite, universal love and compassion and endowed with tremendous power to help others whose minds are open.

The journey to this ultimate state involves freeing the mind from its grosser limitations, such as anger, selfish desire, pride etc., and also its subtle limitations, mainly consisting of conditioned thought- patterns of dualistic perception (subject-object, me-you, mind-body etc.). Someone who completes this journey of liberation, perfectly, is a Buddha. Such was Sakyamuni, who achieved his total enlightenment over 2,500 years ago, in India.

Through the great clarity of his mind, he taught the universal truths of existence, in their entirety. There are thought to be 1,002 such teaching Buddhas during the lifetime of our solar system. Sakyamuni was the fourth.

General - the Buddha and His Teaching

A Buddha is not a saviour but a teacher. His teachings ("dharma") show us what to do in order to achieve the same state that he achieved. The dharma is perpetuated through the ages, as a living tradition of enlightened experience and as a philosophy, by those members of the Buddhist community who have themselves already achieved unmistaken insight. These are known as the realised sangha.

The Buddha's teachings spread from India throughout Asia, even reaching as far as Greece at one point (Buddhist Greek monarch - Melinder). They reached what are today Japan, Indonesia, Mongolia and Russia, and countries (such as China, Burma etc.) on the way from India to these continental extremities. Today they are to be found throughout the world.

The teachings themselves are addressed to 3 different audiences:

... those wishing to improve their worldly experience, in this life and future lives, through a better understanding of the causal mechanisms of existence.
... those who recognise the limited, anguished nature of worldly existence, wish to free from it forever and who therefore seek a lasting peace and happiness.
... those who want not just the peace and happiness of liberation from worldly suffering, but all the myriad qualities present in total enlightenment. These qualities enable great benefit for all other forms of conscious life, as we can see from the life of Sakyamuni Buddha.

Each of us is unique. We have different needs and different aspirations. Among those who benefit from practising the Buddhist meditation techniques and way of life, one can distinguish three major capacities (yãna):

... the hinayana - the first two audiences mentioned above. The keypoints of their spiritual path are non- violence, pure ethics and meditation (mainly concentration meditation).
... the mahayana - the third audience. Their path, which has a broader ethical dimension and a wider and deeper scope of meditation, is underpinned at all times by a compassionate longing to achieve the ultimate potential of one's own existence in order to be truly capable of helping others.