Buddhism (sanskr. Buddha - the awakened one) is a teaching that originated in the 6th century BC in ancient India. The founder of the Buddhism is considered to be Buddha Shakyamuni. Buddhism includes different visualization, meditation and behavior practices with the aim to gain based on comprehension of reality suchness non-conceptual, true, indestructible happiness. As the methods here are applied religion, philosophy, science, mental and physical exercises, rituals and ceremonies, although the essence of the Teaching (sanskr. Dharma) can not be accommodated in any of these forms, nor can it be given such form names. Buddha offers each of his followers suitable exactly for him method to discover the reality as it is, and to unify his nature with the harmony of this reality, in order to avoid misconceptions and wrong behavior tendencies, which are the cause of perverted views and wrong actions, ripening in undesirable results and not allowing experience of imperishable happiness.
Four seals. It is commonly accepted that a teaching corresponds to the Buddhist views, if it contains four Buddhist seals:
1. All compounded phenomena are impermanent.
2. All emotions are suffering.
3. All phenomena do not have real existence.
4. Nirvana is the true peace beyond notions.
All Buddhist schools and divisions ground their methods in Four Noble Truths - basic statements that Buddha has given in his first sermon:
1. The truth about continuing dissatisfaction (the truth of suffering).
2. The truth about the causes of continuing dissatisfaction (the truth of causes of suffering).
3. The truth about cessation of continuing dissatisfaction (the truth of cessation).
4. The truth of the path that leads to cessation of continuing dissatisfaction (suffering), is known as the sublime Eightfold Path.
It can be said that the heart of the Buddha teachings is the doctrine of interdependence; its comprehension helps beings to become aware of causes leading to undesirable phenomena, and to create causes that lead to desirable phenomena.
Buddhism means (vehicles) to travel the Path
Different approaches to progress towards the goal of the Teaching are symbolized by vehicles (sanskr. Yana).
1. Individual vehicle.
2. Comprehensive (All-inclusive) vehicle.
Individual vehicle leads to personal liberation from the endless, full of frustration chain of rebirths (Samsara). The follower of the Teaching feels deep disappointment in cyclical existence and generates unflinching desire to stop it. This vehicle is commonly referred to as the Lesser Vehicle (sanskr. Hinayana), but many of the proponents consider this word inappropriate and therefore the individual vehicle is often called Theravada (Doctrine of the Elders) - one of the schools that has survived to the present day. Scriptures of this tradition are called the Pali Canon, as they are written in Pali language, and are included in three collections of scriptures - Tipitaka (Eng. Three Baskets). They are: Sutra (Buddha's words), Vinaya (monastic discipline) and Abhidharma (philosophical system). It is believed that the followers of this vehicle attain the fruit of the Teaching by way of negation of the idea that there exists permanent and independent individual self. The teachings given by the Buddha to achieve personal liberation are called the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma (the first set of training).
Comprehensive (All-inclusive) wheel (Mahayana, Eng. The Great Vehicle) leads its followers to the full awakening where is achieved inherent Buddha nature and omniscience in order to lead all wandering in rebirths beings to the true happiness. The core of the Great Vehicle is generation and development of Bodhichitta (the mind of awakening). Explanation of Bodhichitta and practices depend to a great extend on the methods applied. This vehicle has two basic approaches (Development vehicle and the vehicle of Experience) and a specific approach (Dzogchen):
Development vehicle (Pāramitājāna - vehicle leading to the state beyond cognitive). The basis of this method is accumulation of favorable trends or mental habits (imprints) (so-called merits) by means of specific actions (generosity/giving, discipline, patience, diligence, meditative concentration), and a specific view (wisdom or enlightened mind). Teachings of the Development vehicle are associated with the second turning of the Dharma wheel (the second basket of teachings), where the emphasis is on loving kindness directed towards all living beings in three times and subtle analysis of nature permeating all phenomena (absence of true existence of phenomena or emptiness). Specific actions (Paramita) are consistently applied as an antidote to the states of afflicted mind. Realization of awakening (sanskr. Bodhichitta) is viewed from the absolute and relative points of view. Relative Bodhichitta includes Bodhichitta of intention (development of loving kindness and compassion based on firm commitment to reach the state of Buddha in order for all living beings to achieve the fruit – the state of Buddhahood) and Bodhichitta of action (practice of specific actions and view). Absolute Bodhichitta is a direct realization of empty nature of all phenomena.
The vehicle of experience, called the Diamond Vehicle (sanskr. Vajrayana), Tantra vehicle (sanskr. Tantrajāna), Secret Mantra vehicle (sanskr. Mantrajāna). Here the method utilizes awakening potential, which is inside every being, or buddha nature (sanskr. Tathāgatagarbha - the seed of the Thus Gone One). A practitioner has to clear away all transient obstacles that obscure the ever present awakening since beginningless times, allowing full blossom of buddha omniscience and endless positive experience. Specific feature of this vehicle is meditative connection with the deities, special correlation with them, rituals of empowerment. Antidotes are no longer used against afflicted states of mind, but the energy of afflictions itself is directed to transformation into favorable conditions and innate qualities. It is believed that exactly in this vehicle the greatest role belongs to the teacher. Teachings of the Experience vehicle are commonly referred to as the teachings of the Third Turning of the Wheel of Dharma (the third set of training).
Dzogchen. In the Vehicle of Experience a special place occupy methods under the common name of Dzogpa Chenpo or Dzogchen (the Great Perfection). Here the practices are aimed at seeing the natural state or awareness in any state of mind. For a long time the methods of Dzogchen remained the most secret.