(These are extremely simplified explanations, to point curious people in the right direction.
These explanations are based on our observation and readings,
so we encourage you to send your suggestions, comments, corrections,
or anything you have that will help us with this simple introduction to Buddhism.)

The Art of Compassion: When we are born, our safety is dependent on the compassion of our parents. If they were treated cruelly, they may lack compassion and may be harsh, cold, or even abandon you. If there is a drought, disease, or other disaster in your area, your chances of living more than a few years may be completely dependent on the compassion of total strangers from around the world to offer relief. To have a happy childhood, you need a compassionate community and government that provides a safe place for you to play. If your siblings or friends are treated with hate and abuse, they will likely be sad, or worse, unwilling to trust, unwilling to bond with you. To find love and pleasure you will need to get close to people who may have been hurt or even tortured. This may make it difficult for even you to make them happy. It’s hard to be happy when those we love are sad or angry because of the world around them. When you get sick, and when you get old, you will depend 100% on the compassion of others to pick you up, to feed you, to find cures for your discomfort, etc,. Your life, and every ounce of happiness in it is dependent upon others being kind to you and those around you. The need for compassion for all people is essential to every moment of joy we hope to have.
-DA., summary of speech by The 14th Dalai Lama

For most Buddhists, the search for our Buddha Nature is the search for a purified self of absolute Loving Kindness, free from any hate, anger, and self-limiting ego. Believing that hate and anger are like a cancer that harms and endlessly frustrates its host, Buddhists hope to clear away such sickness from the mind.

For some, this search includes a desire to use a purified mind to evolve and gain a greater perspective of the universe, sometimes called “enlightenment.” “Buddha” literally means “Awakened One.” Siddhartha (also called Shakyamuni, Sage of the Shakya tribe), the first documented Buddha to try to share insights he discovered, was believed to have opened his mind and “enlightened” his heart to a path which eases the suffering of life and builds a compassionate bond with all other living things. Buddhism is about following that path and his teachings. While most Buddhists believe this pursuit of “enlightenment” cultivates compassion which allows one to deal better with obstacles in life, some also hope to become better prepared and more prosperous and happy in their next life, believing that positive and negative emotions permeate and follow our existence into the next life. Some just believe that the “Enlightenment” sought after is the path of absolute compassion itself. “The pursuit has its own rewards.”

While different Buddhist sects might appear to pursue and hope for different goals with their study and meditation, they are all on the same path, benefiting from the same teachings. “Some get their nutrients in vitamins, taken on a regimented basis, some like to cook and prepare healthy nutritious meal, others exercise regularly to help their bodies better absorb the nutrients in the food available to them…but they all have studied and understand the benefits to such nutrients, pursuing them in their own way that best fits their lifestyle and culture.” — Many branches of the same Buddhist tree.

Enlightenment…through meditation 
The search for Enlightenment through meditation was around long before Buddhism. It was during such a quest that Siddhartha Buddha discovered the root of his teachings about the need for absolute compassion for all living things. Meditation’s ability to focus our thoughts is “Enlightenment” enough for most, but for the more curious there is hope of other great discoveries.

It has been said that when one truly frees their mind from the cloudy negative emotions of judgmental hate and anger, the mind becomes like a clear pond, where we can see all the way to the bottom. “Enlightenment” may include a vision of all living things as one continuous life force, one family, a universal harmony that stretches through time. It has been noted many times in history, in many different religions, that there have been people who have documented a life-changing glimpse into an infinite galaxy of energy that is impossible to comprehend with simple words. All the different stories seem to agree that it is only at moments when we are calm and at peace that we have true clarity into anything within our own lives, and it is speculated that an absolute meditative clarity can clear our view of the ever-turbulent and distracting world so we may see into a great new beyond.

One true story tells of a famous American Performer who became a Buddhist. He went to group meditation classes to learn how to better calm his mind and find great insights into himself. At the classes, each student was periodically taken into private conversation with the instructor, to share thoughts and wisdom, to evaluate what each had learned and felt so far. The famous person noticed the other students seemed to feel joy after their private sessions, so the famous person, not wanting to appear dumb or uncommitted, worried about what he would tell the instructor. He was anxious to have a profound thought to share. When his private session with the instructor started, he opened his mouth and began to utter some theoretical nonsense he thought might be impressive. The instructor quickly told him to stop and go back to meditating. Feeling like a phony, he tried harder to gain some true insights, concentrating with all his might. When his turn came again, he struggled to articulate something or to at least ask what he should be trying to come up with. Again the instructor dismissed him, and the pressure continued. He was sure he was failing and was very embarrassed. Again and again he tried to have a meaningful conversation with the instructor, but the instructor always dismissed the famous person without explanation. Frustrated and fed up, he guessed that maybe meditating just wasn’t for him. When he sat with the instructor again, he gave up, said nothing, waiting to be dismissed so he could quit and go home. Then the instructor said, “Good, now we can begin.” 

Clearing the mind isn’t a goal that can be pursued aggressively. It takes absolute patience with one’s own mind to release and unlearn what a lifetime of worries and thoughts have cluttered the brain with. The search for the Buddhist Nature within us all is also the search for the person we were before we were born and clothed with the heavy ways of the world. As a child marvels in wonder and acceptance of everything, so too should be our hearts. “Enlightenment” may not be a literal x-ray view of truth and reality, but a state of mind so pure it can transcend anything, an ultimate detachment from burdens that allows the mind and body to merge with all that is good and pleasant…or it may be much more then that. 
“You must unlearn what you have learned.” — Yoda 🙂

How Buddhists Meditate
A common practice to start learning about what mediation has to offer is to relax and think of nothing while counting VERY slowly to ten. Each slow breath in should count as One and then out should count as Two, and so on. Only the numbers are allowed to enter your mind. If you catch your self thinking ‘I’m up to four, that’s pretty good’ or ‘this is easy’ you must stop and start over. Any thought other than the numbers requires you to start over. It’s not a test, don’t feel bad about distractions, just note it and start over. Keep doing this to obtain a clear, focused mind, unpolluted by daily worries and thoughts. Rarely, does anyone reach “ten”, or bother to brag about it if they happen to. It is the attempt itself that washes the mind; obtaining the goal is not necessary. Free yourself from ego and just practice for its own rewards. 

Some Buddhists meditate in a groups. (Often called Sitting Zazen) Sharing the struggle and pleasure of meditating helps encourage their dedication and motivation to maximize the meditative benefits. Most Buddhist meditate alone, often just to help clear the mind of stress. 

I remember reading about the Dalai Lama’s challenge to people to try to go ten whole minutes without having a negative thought. I immediately scoffed, ‘that’s stupid, of course I can do that’… and suddenly realized I had just failed. Avoiding negative thoughts is much harder than you might realize.– summarized from The Art of Happiness

Like listening to soothing music, chanting a calming mantra is often easier than just sitting down and trying to empty the mind on your own, like stretching before exercise. Many Buddhists find that chanting a verse that reminds one of their compassionate goals and intentions helps focus the mind and drown out the clutter of thoughts and negative impressions the day has left on them. Some chant “Amitabha Buddha”, while others chant a favorite Buddhist saying, Om Mani Padme Hum (“Salutations to the Jewel of the Mind which has reached the Heart’s lotus”) over and over to establish a mental connection to all levels of consciousness. Amitabha Buddha is from the Pureland Buddhism where there is great emphasis on bonding with Amitabha’s level of compassion and his goal of bringing all living things to a Pure Land of absolute compassion. Others see the chants as requests for blessings from Buddhas who have come and gone before us.

“The way of the Buddha is to know yourself; to know yourself is to forget yourself; to forget yourself is to be enlightened by all things.” — Dogen, creator of Soto Zen Buddhism

The first “Buddha” was not a god or a messiah, just a man with a vision of how to lead a better life. His teachings lead us to a path to our own wisdom, our own happiness…nothing more, nothing less. 

More than 2500 years ago, in the land known today as Nepal, at the foot of the Himalaya mountains, there lived a prince whose name was Siddhartha Gautama. At the age of thirty he realized the full impact of the existence of human suffering, left his palace, gave up his life of luxury, and for six years practiced many kinds of ascetic methods in search of a way to save human beings from suffering. Finally, by applying his own method of insightful contemplation, he was “enlightened” to an awareness far beyond words. This gave him a wisdom about the necessity and proper implementation of compassion that could ease our own suffering. When he decided to share this with anyone willing to listen, people began to call him Buddha Shakyamuni (Wise Sage of Shakya people). From then on, “Buddha” is a title given to one who achieves complete enlightenment; that is, one who achieves infinite wisdom and infinite compassion. Buddha Shakyamuni traveled to many places on the Indian continent and taught his disciples and the public for over forty-five years before he passed away at the age of eighty.

The story of Siddhartha’s life is told many ways, often with auspicious magical signs in nature, hinting of his coming birth. Often the tales contribute some of his wisdom to the acts of friends or to past lives, but what he taught is far more important than who he was. His teachings helped many people, especially those less fortunate, and with all the other worldly tales of other magical religions, and with so many unexplained events in nature, it was not uncommon for folklore to grow quickly in praise of those greatly revered. Then again, with so much that we still don’t know about the universe, perhaps the power behind the natural cycles of life creates auspicious events and people for reasons we many never fully grasp – “I wasn’t there, how would I know what really happened?”

“Rely not on the teacher, but on the teaching. Rely not on the words of the teaching, but on the spirit of the words. Rely not on theory, but on experience. Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe anything because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything because it is written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” — the Buddha, Kalama Sutta

The great thing about Buddhism is that you don’t need to have “blind faith” in any of it. For example: There is a tale about a woman whose child died and she went to the Buddha seeking relief from her suffering. He essentially told her to start by finding others who had also lost their children, and find ways to help them. Doing charity for others helps our focus with our own grief, plus it helps us bond with others so we don’t feel so alone when pain strikes. This is the foundation for modern Group Therapy. “The best way to be an expert about something is to write a book about it.” In successful therapy groups, like Alcoholic Anonymous, etc., people who know what the pain feels like often know best what it takes to endure. They can truly sympathize, without being judgmental. In fact, a recent poll found that the majority of people who found therapy fulfilling were in group therapy.
     Now, what if this particular Buddhist tale did not actually happen? Who cares? It is a wise teaching worth observing. We’re never asked to worship the Buddha himself, just appreciate and learn from the teachings we find useful. All else we are free to disregard, just as the Buddha said.

“Since my first Buddhist readings, I’ve been prepared to dismiss what I don’t relate to or don’t understand or find impractical, but years later, all the tales I’ve read are like this one mentioned here…simple, useful, and not dependent on anything I can’t verify in my own life.” — DA, Founder of


First teaching….
Four Noble Truths
(summary version)

1. Suffering is inherent in life. (eventually, we’ll all feel frustration, pain, and sorrow)
2. There is a cause, which is selfish cravings and attachment.
3. There is a cure which leads to lasting happiness and freedom from suffering.
4. The Eight Fold Path…Healthy (Right/correct) Views, Healthy Intentions, Healthy Discipline, Healthy Livelihood, Healthy Efforts, Healthy Mindfulness, and Healthy Concentration…is a path we can walk to ease and end our suffering.

Elaboration on The Four Noble Truths:
The first noble truth is that life is frustrating and painful. There are times when it is downright miserable. There’s disease, injury, high rent, final exams, pizza with bad toppings, natural disasters, and death. Things may be fine with us, at the moment, but if we look around, we see other people in the most appalling conditions, children starving, hatred, wars, people being tortured, and so on. We, ourselves will some day grow old, get sick and eventually die. The fear of this alone causes great discomfort. And happiness is never guaranteed…many are born and die without ever having smiled. A person with “Noble” intentions never forgets that even while life is pleasant for them, others aren’t so lucky. Only the selfish and arrogant forget this truth, and live as if their current bliss will last forever.

The second noble truth is that suffering has a cause. We suffer because we are constantly struggling to survive and find happiness the best way our limited experiences have taught us how. We are constantly trying to improve our existence. All the things that help make us happy can be taken from us in fires, thefts, disease, death, etc. It is our “attachment” to these things that cause us pain, frustration, and sorrow. And the harder we struggle to establish ourselves, protect our objects of pleasure, and our relationships, the more painful our experience becomes when these things leave us. The more we love, the more it hurts when that loved one dies. 

The third noble truth is that the cause of suffering can be ended. Our struggle to survive, our effort to prove ourselves and solidify our relationships is unnecessary. We, and the world, can get along quite comfortably without all our unnecessary posturing. We could just be a simple, direct and straight-forward person. We could form a simple relationship with our world, our coffee, spouse and friends, our state of mind. We do this by abandoning our expectations about how we think things should be. 

This is the fourth noble truth: the way, or path to end the cause of suffering. The central theme of this way is meditation and practice of mindfulness and awareness to live a better life that is more harmonious with our ever-changing world. We practice being mindful of all the things and desires that we use to torture ourselves. We become mindful by abandoning our expectations about the way we think things should be and we begin to develop awareness about the way things really are. We stop being so manipulative, possessive, and complex, so we can truly appreciate all that is simple and beautiful with our current world. Understanding this is the first step down the path toward our own Buddha Nature…our own peace and complete harmony with the universe. This path begins with a never-ending study of the many stories about the best way to live, breathe, talk, act, love, and think, all so our mind finds lasting freedom from suffering.

The Path to Freedom From Suffering is a “Middle Path”
The Middle Path:
“Fair goes the dancing when the Sitar is tuned,
Tune us the Sitar neither low nor high,
And we will dance away the hearts of men.
The string overstretched breaks, the music dies,
The string overslack is dumb and the music dies,
Tune us the Sitar neither low nor high.”

“If you pull a guitar string too tight, it will snap. If you let it out too loose, it will make no noise. Only medium tensions allow the guitar to work. So too is the path to contentment.” -summery of ancient tale

“Be not a victim or an aggressor, merely a human in conflict with nothing.”
“Do not starve or become greedy, merely use only what you need to live and find happiness.”


When attacked there are three choices…

1. Counter attack at the aggressive extreme — “kill the enemy before they kill you”…even with the danger that such reckless aggression might hurt the innocent.
2. The Middle Path….walk away, live to see another day and search for a more peaceful resolution, or if you can’t leave, protect yourself as best you can.
3. Let them kill you at the passive extreme.

When a customer steals from you…

1. Attack them even at the risk of your own life.
2. The Middle Path….neither overly aggressive or overly passive…call the police, take them to court. Prevent them from having access to your products or services again.
3. Let them get away with it…the opposite extreme.

When love has faded in your relationship…

1. Leave, replace them with another lover, demand ecstasy all the time or move on.
2. The Middle Path….talk with your lover, search for solutions that make a fair compromise, go to therapy, add new activities to the relationship, spice things up, or determine wisely if moving on is truly the best solution for everyone.
3. Stay, do nothing, accept being miserable…the other extreme.

When you feel you’re being deceived…

1. Run away from chance, trust no one.
2. The Middle Path….give the benefit of the doubt, but prepare for the possible loss, as they say with investing in the stock market “never invest what you can’t afford to lose”, there are no rewards without risk and all things die and pass away eventually…so be prepared.
3. Let people take advantage of you.

“Avoid extremes in life. The Middle Way gives sight to the eyes and clarity to the mind and this leads to wisdom and peace.” — Buddhacarita

Examples of The Middle Path in nature:

The sun gives life to plants that help us breathe, and life to foods we need to eat.
But the Sun also causes skin cancer, droughts, and starvation.
Only the Middle Path, a wise evaluation on monitoring and regulating the difference between too much and too little, can allow us to live in harmony with the Sun.

Food keeps us alive. Too much causes weight gain and heart trouble. Only the pursuit of the Middle Path helps us find the proper balance.

If our bodies get too cold, we die. If our bodies get too hot, we die. Our lives depend on our ability to maintain a Middle Path environment to keep our body in balance.

All things in the universe can be helpful and destructive. It is only our wisdom that pursues moderation and proper balance that protects us. Look around, the Middle Path in life is used everyday by people in search of peaceful, healthy resolutions. The study of the Middle Path, the awareness of it, like many Buddhist teachings, helps us when we’re uncertain of our course of action.

Freedom From “attachment”…the cause of suffering.
Our “attachment” to our property is the only thing that causes us pain when there is a theft or fire and we lose our “things.”
It is our “attachment” to ideas and our ego that hurts us when others disrespect our beliefs.
It is only “attachment” to our comfort and our bodies that allows us to experience pain.
It is only our “attachment” to our desires that causes us to be irritated when things change and we can’t get what we want.
“Freedom from attachment” is not an abandonment of the senses, pleasures, and our responsibilities.
The Middle Path also shows us that extreme “detachment” is just as bad as extreme “attachment.” “Do not be too attached to your own detachment, find the Middle Path.” — Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist teacher

Even the Dalai Lama mentions attachments that need to be tempered with logic and reason. “Due to my nutritional needs, I’m not a total vegetarian.” — The Dalai Lama, Living a Better Way, page 68. “Sometimes even Tibetan Buddhists put too much emphases on ceremony and ritual.” — The Dalai Lama, Living a Better Way, page 57. He loves his country’s traditions, but he also sees how extreme attachments to tradition can be wasteful and even hurtful. For example…long ago Tibet could have over-powered China, but while China evolved and merged with new technologies, Tibet fell behind, too attached to tradition to monitor and incorporate advances from the outside world. He would never give up their rich culture, but he has taken note that too much isolationism has cost them dearly.

“You can be a Catholic, a Mormon, a Muslim, anything, and be a Buddhist as well.” — World Dictionary of Religions 

“Buddhist practice can be maintained without leaving one’s faith of birth.” – Time Magazine, OCT 13th 1997


  • Aboriginal Spirituality: “We are as much alive as we keep the Earth alive.” – Chief Dan George
  • Baha’i Faith: “Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself.” – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings
  • Buddhism: “Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” – The Buddha, Udana-Varga 5.18
  • Christianity: “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” – Jesus, Matthew 7:12
  • Confucianism: “One word which sums up the basis of all good conduct. . . loving kindness. Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.” – Confucius, Analects 15.23
  • Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” – Mahabharata 5:1517
  • Islam: “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.” – The Prophet Muhammad, Hadith
  • Jainism: “One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.” – Mahavira, Sutrakritanga
  • Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary.” – Hillel, Talmud, Shabbath 31a
  • Sikhism: “I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all.” – Guru Granth Sahib, pg. 1299
  • Taoism: “Regard your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” – T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien, 213-218
  • Unitarianism: “We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part.” – Unitarian principle
  • Zoroastrianism: “Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself.” – Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29

To be a Buddhist, one merely seeks refuge, comfort, and wisdom in the teachings of Buddha (see The Three Jewels). The Buddha was a wise man who showed a path toward peace and enlightenment. Buddha insisted not to seek enlightenment in his image, but in deep contemplation and understanding, learning from all that the world has to offer, including other faiths and teachings.

When going to school as a child, you studied many subjects like math, science, literature, etc., even though you may have had a desire to perhaps specialize in one subject or another. Even if you wanted to be a mathematician, or an English teacher, having exposure to all the subjects helps broaden your perception and educate you to the available choices. To address the philosophy of life, the universe, and everything, one must at least be aware of what is out there. Only study math and that is all you will know and understand, limiting your potential wisdom. 

If you’re attached to a single idea, it limits your ability to grow, like a child attached to only one kind of food. If that particular food runs out or fails to provide all the nutrients you need, pain and suffering will come. Be open to new ideas and thoughts, grow from your exposure to them, incorporate their positive qualities into your life, and be aware of their negative qualities so you can best avoid similar dangers. 

If a person who believed the world was flat refused to even read about the new evidence, they’d always think the world was flat and fail to evolve and perhaps miss opportunities to improve their life. Such stubborn attitudes sooner or later result in negative consequences.

“Be careful of attachments to anything…set your mind free and let your spirituality flow like a kite with the wind of wisdom regardless from which direction that they come.”

“But remember, extreme winds can cause great damage to your kite, just as extreme religions can bring great turbulence and the storms of war. Pursue your spiritual wisdom cautiously.”

“Rely not on the teacher/person, but on the teaching. Rely not on the words of the teaching, but on the spirit of the words. Rely not on theory, but on experience. Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe anything because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything because it is written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” — the Buddha

“There is a distinction between the essence of a religion and the superficial, ceremonial, ritual level. In India, Tibet, China, Japan, or wherever, the religious aspect of Buddhism is the same, but the cultural heritage is different in each country. Thus, in India, Buddhism incorporated Indian Culture: in Tibet, Tibetan Culture: and so on. From this viewpoint, the incorporation of Buddhism into Western culture is also possible.” — The 14th Dalai Lama

“Do not see the full realization in one teaching, one phenomena, one body, one sentient being. You should see the full realization everywhere, in all places.” — the Buddha

“If you keep your fists closed, you will obtain only a few grains of sand. But if you open your hands, you will obtain all the sand in the desert.” — Dogen Kigen, Zen teacher 

Once a man asked Buddha what the point of Buddhism is if it does explain the facts about the afterlife. Buddha said, “If hit with an arrow, shall we debate who shot the arrow and why, before we pull the arrow out and seek medical help? Let’s assume that floods, droughts, disease, earthquakes, and everything else that causes suffering in life are like that arrow. Now we could argue for eternity over who shot the arrow, what their name is, where they come from, what they were doing before they shot the arrow, how they made the arrow, and whatever else we may be curious about. But first, while we still live, shouldn’t our priority be the tend to the injury the arrow caused?” 

There are some people that believe that as long as there is suffering in the world, the only faith needed is that which motivates one to seek cures to that suffering. And just as most faiths don’t tell you where to live, not all faiths tell you what to think about the after-life. Some leave it to the individual to ponder whatever they like about the universe, as long as they help their fellow humans enjoy the little bit of life we all have left. 

Wisdom from other religions

“I like the way most Christian Nuns and Monks are only allowed to join when they’ve reached adulthood, and I’ve tried to encourage our monasteries to adopt similar policies.”— The Dalai Lama

“Of faith, hope, and love, the greatest of these is love” “Though I have all faith, so that I could move mountains, without charity, I am nothing.” — The Judeo/Christian Bible

“The thing about Zen Buddhism is that it pushes contradictions to their ultimate limit where one has to choose between madness and innocence. And Zen suggests that we may be driving toward one or the other on a cosmic scale. Driving toward them because, one way or the other, as madmen or innocents, we are already there. It might be good to open your eyes and see.” Thomas Merton, 1915-1968. Author of The Seven Storey Mountain, and an ascetic Roman Catholic monk. During his last years, he became deeply interested in Asian religions, particularly Zen Buddhism, and in promoting East-West dialogue. After several meetings with Merton during the American monk’s trip to the Far east in 1968, the Dalai Lama praised him as having a more profound understanding of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known. (more coming soon)

God and Buddha
The first recorded Buddha, Siddhartha (also called Shakyamuni Buddha, Sage of the Shakya tribe), never claimed to be a God. He was just a wise man who taught that absolute compassion for all living things could bring inner peace and great wisdom. Later, other great teachers taught similar lessons and offered non-judgmental wisdom for peace of mind, and many of them are also considered Buddhas. Buddha merely means “Awakened One.” However, Buddha may sometimes be referred to as “Lord Buddha” by those who consider his teachings to be their sole guiding piece of wisdom in life. And there are those who do consider God (as described by other religions) and Buddha to be part of the same living energy that holds the universe together.

“Is there a God? How would I know? Ask me when I’ve died.” — Zen Buddhist saying

The first step toward true wisdom is accepting one’s own ignorance.
Of all the things in the universe, in a single lifetime the average person will surely not come to know more than one percent of all the things that can be known. Some Buddhists feel that for such a person to profess anything about the making of the universe as fact is to be blindly arrogant. Other Buddhists may express confidence in one theory or another about the nature of the universe, through personal observation or research, but a Buddhist should never be attached to an idea so dogmatically that they fail to evolve when new information presents itself.

While some Buddhists do believe in God, or accept the possibility of an all-ruling single God, most Buddhists feel it is simply more important to be compassionate than to worry about the possible existence of something that can’t be proven. “Surely, if one of the many world religions is correct and there is a God, that God is not so egotistical and insecure as to torture good caring humans, in any kind of “Hell” type situation, simply because they failed to praise and worship Him. Would any God be worth worshiping if they tortured good caring people? Therefore, it is surely more important to be kind and good than to worry about appeasing the ego of any possible omnipotent beings that may or may not be real.”

Gates of Heaven and Hell — famous Buddhist tale
“Monk, show me the Gates of Hell,” said the Warrior to the monk. “Prove to me that my killing harms me more than it harms my victims.”
The monk replied gently, “You are just a stupid Warrior. You’re too dumb to understand.”
“How dare you insult me!” screamed the Warrior. Pulling out his sword, he prepared to kill the monk. “I’ll strike you down for that.”
“Welcome to the Gates of Hell,” said the monk calmly.
The Warrior was stunned. He slowly put away his sword realizing that he was a slave to his own anger. Mere words could trigger his rage. “I never even questioned it. I just wanted to kill.” He politely sat down by the monk. “Please teach me more.”
The monk smiled. “Welcome to the Gates of Heaven.”

In 2000, there were over 565 million known Buddhist recorded as members at different Buddhist services world wide. There were about 5 million in America alone. (The first American Buddhist magazine The Buddhist Ray, was first published in 1888)

Just as there are many different denominations of Christianity( Baptists, Catholics, Mormons, etc.), different denominations of Judaism, different denominations of Muslim, and so on, there are many forms of Buddhism. There are both casual and strict sects that practice Buddhism in slightly different way. Some adhere to rituals that reinforce their sense of faith and belonging to a community, some only use rituals they feel help focus the mind and cultivate inner peace, but others merely study and train themselves causally in whatever way they feel best promotes their compassionate nature. 

“Some like their tea hot, some like it with ices, some like it with lemon, some like it with honey, some like green tea, some like black tea, some like their tea with a hint of cinnamon. Tea is good for you, but only you can decide how you like it.” 

“Some get their nutrients in vitamins, taken on a regimented basis, some like to cook and prepare healthy nutritious meal, others exercise regularly to help their bodies better absorb the nutrients in the food available to them…but they all have studied and understand the benefits to such nutrients, pursuing them in their own way that best fits their lifestyle and culture.” 

When Buddha lay dying, he insisted that his followers find their own path to the lifestyle that best promoted the ideals of compassion and wisdom. Some feel seclusion and mediation for personal enlightenment is best for them…to weed out the noise of conflict and anger in the world. Some feel a life of charity is best. Some feel a balanced combination is best. Some feel they need to follow Buddha’s teachings rigorously. Some feel that since Buddha had no guide himself, every life and every generation is unique and each person should find their own wisdom in their own world. While other personal opinions do exist, these are the more common popular thoughts on being a good Buddhist.

The generally used definition of what makes someone a “Buddhist”  is the decision to take refuge in the “Three Jewels”:
–The Buddha — His ideal is our ideal self…wise, enlightened, compassionate, free of ego.
–The Teachings (The Dharma) — The stories, the tales of kind doings, the words that calm us.
–The Community (The Sangha) — The teachers, monks, nuns, and friends, that offer us new tales and wise interpretations that help guide us on our journey.

Taking refuge in the “Three Jewels” is just a way of saying that you try to learn from the Buddha’s example, from the lessons in the Buddhists stories, and participate in some way with others with the same interests.

“How do you become officially a Buddhist? Well, unlike some religions, membership can be a little vague. If you say, “I’m a Buddhist”, you’re not likely to be questioned by anyone, because there aren’t any universal badges of membership. A Catholic gets baptized, a Jewish man gets circumcised, but a lay Buddhist (non-monk) isn’t necessarily required to go through any special ritual. As a Buddhist, you don’t have to make a big deal of being a Buddhist. Feel free to keep a low profile in the broader community if it’s easier for you. Keeping a little bronze Buddha statue on your desk at work isn’t going to win you any special points. Were he alive today, the Buddha wouldn’t care whether you denied his Buddhahood to the world, or had an image of him tattooed on your forehead. As a Buddhist, you can even participate in other religions.” —

There are three main schools: Theravada (“the Doctrine of the Elders,” adhered to by about 38 percent of all known Buddhists), the form closest to that taught by Gautama Buddha; Mahayana (“the Great Vehicle,” about 56 percent), which has allowed the most innovations and adaptations in Buddhist doctrines; and Tantrism or Vajranaya (“the Diamond Vehicle”), also known as Tibetan Buddhism, which adds elements of Hindu-like deities and ceremony ( about 6 percent).

Some forms of Buddhism born out of the Hindu societies go into detail about other worlds and other lives since such ideas where already a great part of the established culture.

For some Buddhists, “karma” is the good or the bad we create that follows us into our next life to weigh us down or set us free. For others, it isn’t so literal, just an observation that a hateful person is bound to encounter painful retaliation to their outgoing hate, and a loving person is more likely to be happy and loved in return. …”what goes around, comes around.”

Rebirth is a common theme in the traditional Buddhism in cultures where reincarnation was already widely accepted as fact. Reincarnation and the pursuit of “enlightenment” were not created by Buddhism, but they are a part of its early theme since such ideas were common where Siddhartha Buddha was raised. Not all Buddhists believe in literal Rebirth and Karma theories, nor are the principles of the Buddha’s teachings dependent upon such ideas. (Plus, it should be noted that “Rebirth” is not actually the same as “Reincarnation” as described by other faiths – this is a common misunderstanding.)

According to some Buddhist teachings the change from one existence to another goes on indefinitely until the chain of endless rebirth (samsara) breaks, which occurs when “enlightenment” frees the mind from the concept of birth and death. The realization of having no birth and death is called “Nirvana.” One who achieves the status of Nirvana breaks the chain of samsara and becomes one with the universe. (this is an extremely simplified explanation)

(Coming Soon — Click here for an interesting discussion on the subject of Rebirth as described by traditional Buddhists) 

When Siddhartha Buddha died, around 450 B.C.E., he left no designated leader or strict rules to govern the continued teaching of his ideas, but as he died he did push for continued cultivation of the principles he started. “Go, take what you’ve learned, and become your own guiding light.” — The Buddha. In a way he challenged his disciples to be their own Buddhas and work out cultural and philosophical differences amongst themselves. Anyone truly on the Buddha path wouldn’t have trouble finding comfortable compromises and resolutions in a civilized manner. The people didn’t need another god to worship, debate, and fight over…they needed to apply the given principles in their own lives and cultures and find their own enlightenment.

After his death, a great “Council” meeting of Buddha’s disciples was held to attempt to form a governing body that would insure the support of a long line of monks and nuns that would pass on the Buddha’s teachings. This led to…

THE THERAVADA (The Teachings of the Elders), the oldest form of Buddhism direct from India. Common in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, etc. Now growing in America and Europe. “Saffron Days in LA” is a popular book by a Theravada Buddhist monk living in Los Angles.
The Theravadins may be called the most orthodox school of Buddhism. This school admits the human characteristics of the Buddha, and is characterized by a psychological understanding of human nature; and emphasizes a meditative approach to the transformation of consciousness. The teaching of the Buddha according to this school is very plain. He asks us to ‘abstain from all kinds of evil, to accumulate all that is good and to purify our mind.’ These can be accomplished by The Three Trainings: the development of ethical conduct, meditation and insightful-wisdom.

THE MAHAYANA (The Great Vehicle, the outreach to help others)
Common in Tibet and Nepal. Now growing in America and Europe.
The ideal of the Mahayana school is that of the “Bodhisattva,” a person who delays his or her own enlightenment in order to compassionately assist all other beings. When previous sects of Buddhism were inclined to avoid conflict with other cultures by insisting on isolation and focus on personal salvation, the Mahayana followers reevaluated the Buddha’s teachings and felt that a Middle Path was better. Not isolation, not blatant promotion and inevitable conflict, but a middle ground of self-cultivation and public service. To help others, one needs to interact with the rest of the world and risks persecution and temptations. The Mahayana feel the pursuit of personal enlightenment is important, but part of that is giving up the focus on the “self.” The focus is the helping of others as best as possible without losing the “self” to the temptations of the world such as hate, anger, desire, etc,. The Mahayana tries to incorporate many of the other sects teachings, avoiding those ideas that exclude the benefits of the other sects’ teachings. The Mahayana is more of an umbrella body for a great variety of schools.

PURE LAND (Buddhism and heaven-driven desires merged)
China and Japan. Now growing in America and Europe.
This lineage was founded in 402 C.E. by Hui Yuan. The Pure Land lineage held that the spiritual quality of the world has been in decline since its height during the lifetime of the Buddha, and taught followers to cultivate themselves through prayer and devotion. They hope to be reborn in the heavenly paradise of the Buddha Amitabha. The story of Amitabha Buddha, who used his accumulated kindness merits to create a Pure Land in which we may perform spiritual practice in a comfortable and wholesome atmosphere, reminds us that we need to allow ourselves spiritual “pure space” in our own daily lives, and also that we must do our best to deal compassionately and kindly with our fellow sentient beings, so that they can also have tranquility in their lives and progress toward enlightenment. The importance of prayer is emphasized, along with the revered recognition of helpful Buddhist saints (Bodhisattvas), like Quan Yin, that hear our prayers and offer guidance.

Common in Japan and Vietnam. Now growing in America and Europe.
Zen is a teaching outside the scripture. Buddha didn’t have scrolls to study and rituals to obey…he found his enlightenment on his own. The founder of Zen felt too much emphasis was being put on the research and translation of esoteric texts. Perhaps if we clear our minds we can find our own Buddhahood within the beauty around us, within the passing of nature, within ourselves. Zen (Ch’an) is derived from the Sanskrit term “dhyana” (meditation). This lineage emphasizes meditation as the only means to a spiritual awakening beyond words or thought, dispensing almost entirely with the teachings and practices of traditional Buddhism. Ch’an is thought to have been brought to China by the enigmatic South Indian monk Bodhidharma in about the year 500 C.E.

The earliest forms of Zen generally avoided intellectualism and de-emphasized scriptures, doctrines and ceremonies. Eisai, whose form of Zen took on the name of Rinzai (Lin-chi, Ch.) used the koan or meditational riddle (example: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”) as a means of transcending linear thinking. Soto Zen (Ts’ao-tung, Ch.), tracing its roots back to Dogen (d. 1253 C.E), reaffirmed the necessity of the basic Buddhist teachings to avoid unhealthy detachment from important social events, but de-emphasized the use of koans and focused on extended meditation and lessons from ones own life.

TIBETAN BUDDHISM…Tantrism or Vajranaya (“the Diamond Vehicle”)
Common in Tibet and Nepal. Introduced to Tibet in 173 C.E, became national religion around 1300 C.E
Tibet originally had an animal/deity religion called “Bon.” Tibetans took the principles of the Mahayana ideas on Buddhism and used their current deities to make visual representations of states of mind, dangers in the world, etc. Now an angry demon deity was a symbol used to represent the emotion “anger” and how it haunts the lives of humans. This helped avoid conflict with the current religion still sacred to many citizens and it helped to tell the Buddhist stories in paintings to the masses who couldn’t read. Debate over the proper lifestyle and ritual practices of followers created four main schools of Buddhism in Tibet, with the Gelug-pa (yellow hats) as the most prominent with their Dalai Lama lineage.
     In 1959, with the acceleration of Chinese aggression in Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama sought asylum in India. He set up a government-in-exile to take care of education, culture, settlements, monasteries and the political issue of Tibet. In this way, significant steps have been taken towards the maintaining the Tibetan cultural heritage.
     Though their philosophy on humane treatment and social responsibility, as taught by the Buddha, is the same as most Buddhist sects, their ritual and practice is entirely cultural and very unique. However it is true that several Americans have now been trained and ordained in this style, and there are many American devotes of Tibetan Buddhism…often attracted to the rich artistic side and ritual focus the faith offers.
     In exile, more than 200 monasteries and nunneries have been re-established in India, Nepal and Bhutan. Around 600 Tibetan Buddhist centers are functioning as religious and cultural centers in various countries around the world.

“There is a distinction between the essence of a religion and the superficial, ceremonial, ritual level. In India, Tibet, China, Japan, or wherever, the religious aspect of Buddhism is the same, but the cultural heritage is different in each country. Thus, in India Buddhism incorporated Indian Culture: in Tibet, Tibetan Culture: and so on. From this viewpoint, the incorporation of Buddhism into Western culture is also possible.” — The 14th Dalai Lama

While “Western Buddhists” can adopt other cultural styles and practices, for most traditional Buddhists, we will always be considered “Western Buddhists.” If a founding principle of our “culture” is to be highlighted as our strength, many would say diversity and individual freedom is our great contribution to Buddhism. It then stands to reason that no two “Western Buddhists” will necessarily practice the same way. Many Western Buddhists propose that the focus and study of all Buddhist history should be our bible, and our practice and ritual should be left to the individual. As each person takes what best benefits them out of all that Buddhism has to offer, we maintain our respect for other cultures and maintain our own diversity and individuality.

(More Types of Buddhism Coming Soon)

“Some like their sugar in candy, others prefer it in their coffee, some like brown sugar, some like powdered sugar”

Growing Buddhist Culture
Each of these different schools of Buddhism has heroes, legends, Buddhas, and great stories about their origins and teachers, all worth reading. Over 25% of the earth’s population has been Buddhists. Thousands of sacred texts, including the oldest known block-printed book (704 B.C.E.), have been created by Buddhists. (Gutenberg’s famous press-printed books were in 1450 C.E., 2150 years later than the printed Buddhist teachings) Over a million different books have been published on the subject in every major language on the planet. Its popularity has only declined under violent genocide attempts from extreme Muslim groups, Christian groups, and later Communism. Buddhism started in India, was driven almost totally out by jealous religious groups, but flourished in other countries and even become the official state religion in several places. Now it has begun to return to India as it also continues to grow in the rest of the world. Thanks to media attention, the persecution of Buddhists is harder to get away with and it is again becoming a well-known religion appealing to all kinds of people. Several counties now allow Buddhist monks and nuns to hold official, government recognized, weddings and other ceremonies. In America, several people have now completed the years of study required to become fully ordained monks and nuns. From national cancer therapy centers, to homeless outreach programs, and even the largest AIDS hospice in America, have all been founded by Buddhists. Over a thousand Buddhist temples and retreats have sprung up in America alone (five right here in the local Denver area). Buddhist compassion is again becoming a major help to those suffering all around the world.

“Zen Buddhists in San Francisco run two of the better-respected AIDS hospices” – Time Magazine

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in traditions simply because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in revered books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But when, after observation and analysis, you find anything that agrees with reason, and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” — The Buddha’s Kalama Sutra

“If you see the Buddha in the road, keep driving on…” – Buddhist saying
…don’t lose sight of your own Buddha Nature and project it on someone else. Teachers, in books and in person, can offer guidance and advice to help you find The Path, but only you can walk it. Learn from the success and failures of others but no one can learn for you.

“Don’t over praise the finger pointing to the moon. Admire and study the enlightenment of the moon, not the finger guiding you in the direction of the moon. Teachers are guides, not gods.” – Summary of Buddhist story

“I have no magical powers…” –The 14th Dalai Lama, Imagine All The People
Winner of the Wallenberg Award, Albert Schweitzer Award, and the Nobel Peace Prize

The Dalai Lama (Ocean of Wisdom) is sometimes considered a “Pope” figure to Tibetan Buddhism. He is the 14th in a lineage of Dalai Lamas the Tibetan people believe are reborn to help guide them. “To me ‘Dalai Lama’ is a title that signifies the office I hold. I myself am just a human being, and incidentally a Tibetan, who chooses to be a Buddhist monk.” — The Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama is also believed to be a manifestation of Chenrezig, in fact the seventy-fourth in a lineage that can be traced back to a Brahmin boy who lived in the time of Buddha Shakyamuni. “I am often asked whether I truly believe this. The answer is not simple to give. But as a fifty-six year old, when I consider my experience during this present life, and given my Buddhist beliefs, I have no difficulty accepting that I am spiritually connected both to the thirteen previous Dalai Lamas, to Chenrezig and to the Buddha himself.” –The 14th Dalai Lama.
     His extensive experiences make the Dalai Lama’s opinions on Buddhist matters well regarded. However, he does not have any sort of authority over individuals and or Buddhist teachings. He is merely the spiritual guide and unofficial ambassador for the Tibetan people. In his office as a leader, thanks in part to his own ruling to make Tibet’s government democratically run, he is officially subject to the Tibetan peoples’ constant evaluation, he is allowed very little personal property and no personal money, and he can be removed from office if he fails to live up to their expectations.
     He was only a teenager, barely taking his official oath of office, when China started invading (1950) Tibet. First with manipulation, trying to get the Dalai Lama to surrender the country to the Chinese, then with full-scale military attacks against any citizen showing an alliance with the Dalai Lama or Buddhism. Hundreds of thousands of unarmed people were killed. Over 6,000 monasteries, temples and historic structures have been looted and razed, their ancient irreplaceable religious art and literature destroyed or sold by the Chinese.
     The primitive time and limited culture of the Tibetans only allowed means to send a few hand-carried letters to leaders in other countries begging for help. The current President of the United States at that time, replied in a famous letter that said he simply declined an interest in getting involved. India was the only country willing to help, in the form of sanctuary.
     After fleeing Tibet under the escalating Chinese military invasion in 1959, he continues to live in exile in a refugee camp donated by the sympathetic Indian government. Within four years, all the refugee camps were totally self-reliant, freeing up the Dalai Lama’s time to pursue help in attempting to convince the Chinese government to allow other Tibetans to be freed from prisons and consider allowing the Tibetan region some sort of independence, at least in regards to religious freedom.
     The Dalai Lama has written numerous educational books and spiritual self-help guides out of simple compassion and to help pay for his people’s needs and to make the rest of the world aware of the brutality, mass killings, and life imprisonments inflicted on the Tibetans. Thanks to some sponsors in the last decade, such as several famous Americans and Britons, the Dalai Lama has finally been able to arrange to visit many other countries to help spread the message of what has happened to them, but it has taken a very long time to build up such support.
     Today China is an economic powerhouse every industrialized nation does business with, employing their cheap labor rates and unregulated working conditions, making corporations unwilling to support sanctions against China as it would hurt their business. Since politicians depend on corporations for donations to their re-election funds, the public outcries have only managed to get a few politicians to mention a concern over “China’s lack of human rights and continued religious persecution”. Growing popularity of religions in China has made the government lighten-up a bit on its persecution of religious people, but Tibet is still captive, and anyone with even a small picture of the Dalai Lama will go to jail.
     “For those of us in exile, our priority must be resettlement and the continuity of our cultural traditions. With Truth, Justice and Courage as our weapons, we Tibetans would eventually prevail in regaining freedom for Tibet.” –The 14th Dalai Lama    (For more go to

Thich Nhat Hanh
Born in Vietnam, in 1966 he toured the United States and other countries to beg people to help stop the killing in Vietnam. He was banned from returning to his home country by the communist government, so he set up a refuge camp called Plum Village in the South of France. He has authored over 70 books on peace, compassion, on “Jesus and Buddha as brothers”, and he is considered to be one of the most respected Zen Buddhist monks. He was nominated by Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize. Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Living Buddha, Living Christ” sold 100,000 hardcover copies the first year.
“Waking up in the morning, I smile
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Pema Chodron
Ane Pema Chodron was born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown in 1936, in New York City. She attended Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. She taught as an elementary school teacher for many years in both New Mexico and California. Pema has two children and one grandchild.
     While in her mid-thirties, Ane Pema traveled to the French Alps and encountered Lama Chime Rinpoche, with whom she studied for several years. She became a nun in 1974 while studying with Lama Chime in London. The success of her books, “The Wisdom of No Escape,” “Start Where You Are,” and “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times” has made her something of a celebrity as a woman Buddhist teacher.

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
Shunryu Suzuki-roshi, a Japanese Zen priest belonging to the Soto lineage, came to San Francisco in 1959 at the age of fifty-four. Already a respected Zen master in Japan, he was impressed by the seriousness and quality of “beginner’s mind” among Americans he met who were interested in Zen and decided to settle here. As more and more people of non-Japanese background joined him in meditation, Zen Center came into being and he was its first abbot. Under his tutelage, Zen Center grew into City Center, Green Gulch Farm and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. He was undoubtedly one of the most influential Zen teachers of his time. Some of his edited talks have been collected in the books Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness: Zen Talks on the Sandokai. Suzuki-roshi died in 1971.

Zentatsu Richard Baker-roshi
Zentatsu Richard Baker-roshi was second abbot of Zen Center, serving from 1971 until 1983. He was instrumental in the purchase of Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and Green Gulch Farm. He was also the leading force in setting up Zen Center’s financial base of support, including Greens Restaurant at Fort Mason and Tassajara Bakery in San Francisco. In his teaching, Baker-roshi emphasized Zen’s yogic teachings and the relevance of Zen to contemporary philosophical and social issues. He is presently the spiritual head of Dharma Sangha, with locations in Crestone, Colorado, and the Black Forest of Germany.

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the world’s leading campaigners for democracy and a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1991. Aung San Suu Kyi’s deep Buddhist training is the basis of her life, her work, and her exemplary response to the difficulties of her current situation. Six years under house arrest made Aung San Suu Kyi a legend. Her release in 1995 was a victory over Burma’s brutal strongman. “Sometimes I didn’t even have enough money to eat,” she went on. “I became so weak from malnourishment that my hair fell out, and I couldn’t get out of bed. I was afraid that I had damaged my heart. Every time I moved, my heart went thump-thump-thump, and it was hard to breath. I fell to nearly 90 pounds from my normal 106. I thought to myself that I’d die of heart failure, not starvation at all. Then my eyes started to go bad. I developed spondylosis, which is a degeneration of the spinal column.” Suu Kyi was confined to her house from 1989 to 1995, and her release then was marked by jubilant scenes as crowds thronged the street outside her residence. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) is regarded by many in the international community as Myanmar’s legitimate government. It won the country’s last elections in 1990 by a landslide, stunning the junta which refused to hand over power. “The struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma is a struggle for life and dignity. It is a struggle that encompasses our political, social and economic aspirations.” — From Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s opening keynote address at NGO Forum on Women, Beijing 1995.
She was arrested again by Myanmar’s military government in 2002.

Dogen Kigen Zenji (1200 – 1253) 
Dogen Zenji, Soto Zen Master, the founder of Eiheiji was born in 1200 A.D. When he was 24, he went to China and devoted himself to true Zen practice under the strict guidance of Nyojozenji at Mt.Tendo. After having “dropped off both body and mind”, realizing the way of the Buddha, he returned home in 1228. He lived at Kenninji temple for 3 years, then founded his first temple, Kosho-Horinji in Uji, Kyoto. In 1244 Dogen zenji and his followers visited Shii-no-Sho in Echizen (now Fukui Prefecuture) to build a mountain temple. He was offered land and other help for this by Yoshishige Hatano, a samurai who was one of his most devoted lay followers. Dogen thus founded Eiheiji , where he devoted himself to training his followers in the perfection of Zen practice in every action of daily life. He died on September 29, 1253, leaving a number of noted books including the Shobogenzo, Gakudo Yojinshu, and Eihei Dai Shingi. Dogen zenji’s authentic Zen has been scrupulously observed by his successors. Even today, both priests and lay people devote themselves to his practice of Shikantaza (“just sitting”). His monumental Shobogenzo (Treasury of the True Dharma Eye), densely poetic in style, is one of the most brilliant gems of Japanese philosophy. In accord with the Mahayana Buddhist insight that the world of enlightenment (nirvana) is not different from the world of impermanence (samsara), Dogen understands all things as being basically already enlightened. Thus Zen practice is to be understood as itself a manifestation of – rather than a means to – enlightenment. Dogen developed a sophisticated philosophy of temporality, in which everything in the world ‘generates’ its own time (and with some remarkable parallels to ideas in Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger).

The Rev. Haju Sunim (Linda Murray) has been a student of Samu Sunim’s since she first showed up on a motorcycle for a full morning meditation sitting in Toronto, Canada in 1976.  Since that time she has dedicated her life to the Dharma, most recently as the resident priest and spiritual director responsible for the Ann Arbor Zen Buddhist Temple in Michigan, where she has lived since 1982.  Much loved, Haju is an example of “an ordinary Buddha, a Buddha of deep humility and compassion” according to Samu Sunim.  She was ordained a priest in 1991 and was recipient of his Dharma transmission in July, 1999.  Haju Sunim was born in Vancouver, Canada in 1944.  She taught in alternative schools in British Columbia and in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser College.  As a single mother Haju raised two daughters. 


H.G. Wells, author, “Buddhism has done more for the advance of world civilization and true culture than any other influence in the chronicles of mankind. … It is possible that in contact with Western science, and inspired by the spirit of history, the original teaching of Gotama, revived and purified, may yet play a large part in the direction of human destiny.” ~ H.G. Wells
Albert Einstein, scientist, “If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism. … The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the material and spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description.” ~ Albert Einstein. May 19th, 1939, Princeton University
Aldous Huxley, author, “Alone among all the great world religions, Buddhism made its way without persecution, censorship or inquisition. In all these respects its record is enormously superior to other religions, which made its way among people addicted to militarism.” ~ Aldous Huxley
C.G. Jung “As a student of comparative religions, I believe that Buddhism is the most perfect one the world has even seen.” ~ C.G. Jung 
Arthur Schopenhauer, “If I am to take the results of my philosophy as the standard of truth I should be obliged to concede to Buddhism the preeminence over the rest.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer 
Bertrand Russell, “Of the great religions of history, I prefer Buddhism …” ~ Bertrand Russell 
Friedrich Nietzche, author, “Buddhism is a hundred times more realistic than other religions.” ~ Friedrich Nietzche 
Gandhi, peace activist, “In his own life, He made out for himself an imperishable name. He lives today in the lives of millions of human beings. Let each one take for himself as much of the message of the mercy and piety that Buddha came to deliver. We have to translate that message in our own lives. … The thought that Buddha gave about 2500 years ago will never vanish.” ~ Gandhi

Oliver Stone, Director, openly raising his 3-year-old daughter, Tara, in the Buddhist tradition.
Martin Scorsese, Director of big-screen Buddhist movies like Kundun. Openly shares stories about Buddhism changing his life.
Goldie Hawn, Actor, presented introduction at a major Buddhist event.
Sir Anthony Hopkins, Actor, is known to own many Buddha statues
Sharon Stone, Actor, met with the Dalai Lama in person
Shirley Maclaine, Actress
Richard Gere, Actor, founded Tibetan House Foundation in NY, fired Hollywood’s first Tibet-related shot heard round the world at the 1993 Academy Awards ceremony where he startled global viewers by using his time at the microphone to protest China’s occupation of Tibet. Has just published a book of photographs featuring Buddhism’s holy places. “When I first got involved with the Tibetans, they could have really just glommed onto me as a movie star,” Richard Gere continues. “I mean, I’ve been glommed onto by other people in political or social ways, trying to get money and whatnot. Instead, they gave me a book and some cookies and tea. They never asked for anything! These people don’t want anything but my own happiness!”
Ang Lee, Director, (Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tiger – Hidden Dragon, The Ice Storm), directs “Chosen,” a mini movie about a young Tibetan monk being chased.
Roberto Baggio, international football player 
Michael Stipe, R.E.M. singer 
Adam Yauch, Singer from the Beastie Boys, openly Buddhist since 1992, has organized Tibetan Freedom concerts
Flea, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist self-declared Buddhist
U2, popular music band, wrote and published special song about a famous female Buddhist activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, being held hostage by the Myanmar’s military government. They also keep updated information on her on their website. They also played a The Tibetan Freedom Concert in NY, June 10, 1997, Downing Stadium, for FREE with groups like Alanis Morissette, a Tribe Called Quest, the Foo Fighters,Pearl Jam, and R.E.M.
Leonard Cohen, Philosophical Songwriter, he has been studying with a Japanese teacher of Rinzai Buddhism. He regularly retreats in a Buddhist monastery 6,200 feet up on Mount Baldy, northeast of Los Angeles. He also narrated The Tibetan Book of the Dead for a documentary.
Steven Seagal, action-adventure film star was hailed as the reincarnated Tulku of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, a school older than the Dalai Lama’s
Brad Pitt, Actor, stared in Seven Years in Tibet, spoke with admiration for the Tibetan Buddhists’ civilized ideals. 
Sylvester Stallone, Actor, writer, producer, In RAMBO III, John Rambo seeks a secluded life in a Buddhist monastery in search of inner peace.
Harrison Ford, Actor, appeared with his two young children and his wife at Buddhist event
Melissa Mathison (wife of Harrison Ford), scriptwriter, wrote Buddhist movie Kundun
Rebecca De Mornay, Actress
Sydney Pollack, Producer
Leonard Nimoy, Star Trekker, prominent attendant at Buddhist Charity Event
Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, Actors, seen at Buddhist fund raising events
Robert Thurman, author of many Buddhists books, once a Buddhist monk, father of actress Uma Thurman, personal friend of the Dalai Lama,
Martin Luther King Jr, Activist, nominated Thich Nhat Hanh (famous Vietnamese Buddhist, writer, activist) for the Nobel Peace Prize. “Thich Nhat Hanh is a holy man, for he is humble and devout. He is a scholar of immense intellectual capacity. His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.”— Martin Luther King Jr
Tina Turner, Singer, practices the chants of Soka Gakkai, a school that originated in the profusion of Japanese Buddhism
Phil Jackson, Chicago Bulls coach and author of Sacred Hoops, a spiritual guide for athletes, calls himself a Zen Christian
Herbie Hancock, Singer, Chants Buddhist Mantras
Philip Glass, Composer, board member of the International Buddhist Film Festival
Henry David Thoreau, writer, “some will have bad thoughts of me, when they hear their Christ named beside my Buddha.”
Alan Ball, writer, director “American Beauty” “Six Feet Under”, self-declared “casual Buddhist”
Madeleine Albright, has had meetings with the Dalai Lama
Albert Gore, Vice-President, spoke with the Dalai Lama twice
William Clinton, President of the United States, spoke at length with the Dalai Lama three times
Colin Powell, Secretary of State, urged the Chinese government to initiate a dialogue with the Dalai Lama
George W. Bush, President of the United States, spoke with the Dalai Lama in his private residence. His wife also started a fund raiser to help rebuild the Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Cindy Crawford, model, chatted with the Dalai Lama at a fund raising dinner for the Himalayan Foundation.
Chris Isaak, singer, Actor star of Little Buddha. “Nepal was a beautiful country” “So what gets me off? Tibetan incense, etc…” — Chicago Sun-Times
Keanu Reeves, Actor, star of Little Buddha “The more I read about it (Buddhism), the more I contemplate some of the questions that it puts forward. The man who taught me to meditate said to me, ‘As soon as you think you know something, you don’t know it.’ I try to be more altruistic since completing Little Buddha. I have become totally sensitized to other people’s pain. I have become more patient. I almost take reincarnation for granted. It never seemed to me to be something that wouldn’t happen. There is definitely transmigration of energy.” — Bite Magazine (United Kingdom) Leslie O’Toole May 1, 1994
Sting, singer, former lead singer of The Police, went to Buddhist retreat July 25th 2001, Red Feathers Lake Colorado, helped build 18 foot tall Buddha statue. Video of event can be seen at
Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner from Saturday Night Live, started a chain of cancer counseling clinics across America lead by a Buddhist Nun. The Wellness Community is a non-profit organization that helps cancer patients and their families with emotional support and other services. The Community also offers Tai Chi classes, massages and other wellness programs for everyone.


There are over 565 million known Buddhist recorded as members at different Buddhist services world wide. There are over 5 million in America alone. (The first American Buddhist magazine, The Buddhist Ray, was first published in 1888)

“Zen Buddhists in San Francisco run two of the better-respected AIDS hospices” – Time Magazine

Back in 1938, a Japanese monk, noting that it took China three centuries to adopt Buddhism from India, said introducing it in America would be like holding a lotus to a rock and waiting for it to take root. It has been only 60 years.

Several European countries now allow Buddhist Monks and Nuns to perform legal weddings!

Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion at Harvard University, says there are 1,500 Buddhist centers in the United States alone. The 102,000-square-foot, $25 million Hsi Lai (“Coming to the West”) Temple in Hacienda Heights, California, is the largest Buddhist structure in the Western Hemisphere. 

In spite of a nearby hurricane threatening the coast, NY city police reported that over 75,000 people showed up in central park Sept 19 2003 to see the Dalai Lama speak. 

When the World Trade Center terrorist attacks occurred, The Dalai Lama held a fund raiser and sent $30,000 to help out with the relief effort. He sent the Mayor of NY his sympathy and begged the President to be careful not to feed the cycle of violence with reckless violence in response to the attacks. 

Of all the world religions, when someone studies them all before selecting one and instead of just accepting their parents’ faith without question, Buddhism is the number one “voluntarily selected” religion in the world.

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