From the time of his nirvana, which occured when he was about 35 until his death at 80, the Buddha travelled extensively and energetically throughout northern India, teaching and establishing monastic communities of both women and men. In his last sermon, he encouraged his disciples to diligently seek the truth and not to hold on to that which is impermanent. The Buddha is the key figure in Buddhism, and accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules were summarized after his death and memorized by the sangha (the community of practitioners). Passed down by oral tradition, the Tripitaka, the collection of discourses attributed to Gautama, was committed to writing about 400 years later.
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso explains in “Introduction to Buddhism”:
“In general, ‘Buddha’ means ‘Awakened One’, someone who has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and sees things as they really are. A Buddha is a person who is completely free from all faults and mental obstructions. . . . There is nothing that Buddha does not know. Because he has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and has removed all obstructions from his mind, he knows everything of the past, present, and future, directly and simultaneously. Moreover, Buddha has great compassion which is completely impartial, embracing all living beings without discrimination. He benefits all living beings without exception by emanating various forms throughout the universe, and by bestowing his blessings on their minds.”
Buddhism, which teaches that the way to truth is a journey inwards and that all of us possess “Buddha Nature” deep within, beyond the threshold of the various levels of our social personalities, is growing rapidly throughout Europe and the rest of the Western world.
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.”
“All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.”