Introduction to Buddhism
The founder of Buddhism in this world was Buddha Shakyamuni, who lived and taught in India some 2,500 years ago. Since then millions of people around the world have followed the pure spiritual path he revealed.
Buddha’s principal motivation was to end the suffering of all living beings. Towards that end, he explored many of the spiritual paths available during his day. After spending several years practising in several different traditions, he concluded that none of the teachings of his time could lead to permanent liberation from suffering. He chose to meditate, and vowed not to arise from meditation until he discovered a method to end all suffering. After several days of intense meditation, he realised the true nature of phenomenon, specifically the true nature of suffering. He also realised a true method to end suffering.
If Buddha could have ended all suffering for all beings, he would have done so. However, he realised that we are all responsible for our own experience; indeed, we all create our own worlds. Therefore, it was not within his power to end our suffering directly. However, it was within his power to teach a valid method by which we could end our own suffering. So Buddha spent the remaining 45 years of life teaching.
Buddha explained that all our problems and suffering arise from confused and negative states of mind, and all our happiness and good fortune arise from peaceful and positive states of mind. He taught methods for gradually overcoming negative states of minds such as anger, jealousy and ignorance, and developing positive minds such as love, compassion and wisdom. If we choose to practise these methods sincerely, we will come to experience lasting peace and happiness.
These techniques work for anyone, in any country, at any age. Once we have gained experience of them for ourselves we can pass them on to others so they, too, can enjoy the same benefits.
The Old Kadampa Lineage to the present New Kadampa Tradition
In the word ‘Kadampa’, ‘Ka’ refers to Buddha’s teachings and ‘dam’ refers to Atisha’s instructions on Lamrim (the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, also known as Kadam Lamrim). ‘Kadam’ therefore refers to the union of Buddha’s teachings and Atisha’s instructions, and sincere practitioners of Kadam Lamrim are called ‘Kadampas’.
There are two Kadampa traditions, the ancient and the new. Practitioners of the ancient Kadampa tradition appeared to emphasize the practice of Kadam Lamrim of Sutra more than the practice of Tantra. Later, Je Tsongkhapa and his disciples emphasized the practice of Kadam Lamrim of both Sutra and Tantra equally. This new tradition founded by Je Tsongkhapa is called the new Kadampa tradition.
After Je Tsongkhapa, the New Kadampa lineage flourished for hundreds of years, reaching the present day through immensely pure lineage Gurus such as Je Phabongkhapa and Vajradhara Trijang Rinpoche.
In recent years, this precious lineage has been preserved and promoted throughout the world by the contemporary Buddhist Master, Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche, the present day lineage holder.
What is Lineage?
The lineage of these teachings, both their oral transmission and blessings, was then passed from Teacher to disciple, spreading throughout much of Asia, and now across many countries throughout the western world.
Buddha’s teachings, which are known as ‘Dharma’, are likened to a wheel that moves from country to country in accordance with changing conditions and people’s karmic inclinations.
The external forms of presenting Buddhism may change as it meets with different cultures and societies, but its essential authenticity is ensured through the continuation of an unbroken lineage of realised practitioners.
Modern Kadampa Buddhism
The dawn of modern Kadampa Buddhism
In 1981 Venerable Geshe-la’s Spiritual Guide, Vajradhara Trijang Rinpoche, encouraged him to develop a new presentation of Kadampa Buddhism for the modern world that everyone throughout the world could easily understand and practice. Thus, Modern Kadampa Buddhism was born.
Since that time Venerable Geshe-la has worked tirelessly to develop and promote the precious gift of Modern Kadampa Buddhism. This new presentation faithfully preserves the original meanings of the lineage of Kadampa Buddhism all the way back to Buddha himself while presenting them in a contemporary and easily accessible way.
Above all it is an international presentation open to everyone, not anchored in any specific country or culture.