Introduction to Buddhism
Two thousand five hundred and fifty years ago, the historical Buddha enjoyed unique
circumstances for passing on his teachings. Born into a highly developed culture, he was
surrounded by exceedingly gifted people. After reaching enlightenment, he shared his methods
for discovering the mind for a full forty-five years. It is for this reason that his teachings, called the
Dharma, are so vast.
The Kanjur, Buddha´s own words, consists of 108 volumes containing 84,000 helpful teachings.
Later commentaries on these teachings, the Tenjur, amount to another 254 equally thick books.
This makes Buddha´s final evaluation of his life understandable: "I can die happily. I did not hold
one single teaching in a closed hand. Everything that may benefit you I have already given." His
very last statement sets Buddhism apart from what is otherwise called religion: "Now, don´t
believe my words because a Buddha told you, but examine them well. Be a light onto
Such statements show the practical approach of Buddhism which is meant for real life. When
people asked Buddha why and what he taught, he replied: "I teach because you and all beings
seek happiness and try to avoid suffering. I teach "the way things are."
So, what is Buddhism? Buddha used the best description himself. During the 1,500 years the
teachings existed in India, they were called Dharma, and for the last 1,000 years in Tibet, the
name was Chö. Both mean "the way things are."
Understanding "the way things are" is the key to every happiness. Buddha himself is a teacher,
example, protector, and friend. His help allows beings to avoid suffering and to enter a state of
increasing bliss while also liberating and enlightening others.
Excerpts from Lama Ole Nydahl: The Way Things Are, Blue Dolphin 1996.
Who is Buddha ?
The historical Buddha was born in approximately 570 B.C. in Northern India. As a young man he
spent six years searching and meditating. He then recognized the true nature of mind, thus
becoming Buddha - the "awakened one." His teachings, which make beings fearless, joyful and
kind, are the main religion of several East Asian countries.
Since the early seventies, Buddhism's profound view and vast number of methods have inspired
and fascinated a growing number of people in Western cultures. Buddha is seen as a timeless
mirror of mind's inherent potential.
What is Buddhism ?
The Buddha gave methods by which full enlightenment may be attained. He made clear which
teachings relate to ultimate or conditional truth. The Buddha showed his students in practical and
understandable ways how to use all experiences in life as steps toward enlightenment, giving
methods that lead to deep and lasting happiness.
He encouraged his students to be skeptical, inviting them to thoroughly check for themselves,
whether his teachings were dogmatic or truly liberating. Buddhist meditation methods can
generate powerful inner change enabling experiences to be integrated directly towards enriching
our lives. These skillful methods allow the levels of consciousness already reached through
meditation to become anchored in a way that they are never again lost. The highest teaching
known as Chag Chen or Dzogchen, as Mahamudra or Maha Ati, allows us to open to the
experience of total non-separation between subject, object and action.
What is Karma ?
Karma means cause and effect, not fate. The understanding that each of us is responsible for our
own lives makes it possible to consciously generate positive impressions which bring happiness
while avoiding the causes of future suffering. Positive states of mind may be effectively
strengthened through the methods of the Diamond Way, while negative impressions waiting to
mature, can be transformed into wisdom.
What is Meditation ?
In Buddhism, meditation means, "effortlessly remaining in what is." This state may be brought
about by calming and holding the mind, when compassion and wisdom are realized, or by
working with our bodie's energy channels and meditating on light forms of the Buddhas.
The most effective method, if one can do it, is the constant identification with one's own Buddha
nature, and the experience of always being in a Pure Land, both of which are taught in the
Diamond Way. When the oneness of the seer, what is seen and the act of seeing is unbroken, in
and between the times of meditation, the goal, Mahamudra is reached.
What is Liberation and Enlightenment ?
In the process of becoming liberated, one first discovers that body, thoughts, and feelings are in
a constant state of change and flux. There is therefore no basis for a real existing ego or 'self.'
One stops feeling like a target, taking one's suffering personally. When one thinks, "there is
suffering" instead of "I suffer," one becomes invulnerable and free.
Enlightenment is the second and ultimate step. Here, the clear light of mind radiates
through every experience. Past, present, and future, "here" or "there," all are expressions of mind's
timeless richness. In enlightenment, mind naturally expresses fearlessness, joy, and compassion
and remains effortless and spontaneous in whatever happens.
What are the differences between Buddhist schools ?
The Buddha worked to benefit three kinds of people. Whoever wanted to avoid suffering
received the instructions about cause and effect called Theravada or the "Small Way." Those
who wanted to do more for others were given the Mahayana or the "Great Way," the teachings
on wisdom and compassion. To people having strong confidence in their own Buddha nature,
Buddha taught the Vajrayana or the "Diamond Way."
Here, he manifested as forms of energy and light or directly transmitted his enlightened view as a
flow of awareness. On this highest level the aim is the complete development of mind, the
spontaneous effortlessness of Mahamudra. The basis, way, and goal of this highest view are
transmitted under varying names by Tibet's three old Buddhist transmissions, the Nyingma,
Sakya, and Kagyu Schools.
Diamond Way Buddhism in the West
While there are many Buddhist centers of various lineages active in the West, this homepage
pertains to the 230 lay Buddhist centers of the Karma Kagyu Lineage which have been started by
Lama Ole Nydahl. They are under the spiritual guidance of the 17th Karmapa, Thaye Dorje, who
now resides in New Delhi, India. These groups have a democratic structure and function through
unpaid, voluntary work on the basis of idealism and friendship. The members share the
responsibility for guiding meditations, answering questions and giving teachings. Lama Ole has
so far trained about 30 students who are now traveling and teaching in many countries.
The Karma Kagyu school offers practical teachings applicable to everyday life. It gives a wealth
of methods for lay people and yogis to develop mind's inherent richness and clarity both through
meditation and in one's daily activities. The roof of the self liberating Mahamudra is supported by
three pillars which are: verifiable non-dogmatic teachings, meditation, and the means to solidify
the levels of awareness which have been attained.
The Diamond Way opens the most skillful methods of the Buddha to the modern world. It helps us
discover and develop our inner richness for the benefit of all beings as well as ourselves.
The Karma Kagyu Lineage
Karma Kagyu is one of the major Buddhist schools of Tibet. As a lineage of direct oral
transmission, it especially treasures meditation and can, through interaction with a qualified
teacher, bring about the full direct experience of the nature of the mind. The Karma Kagyu
methods were taught by the historical Buddha Shakyamuni to his closest students.
They were later passed on through the Indian Mahasiddhas: Padmasambhava, Tilopa, Naropa
and Maitripa and the famous Tibetan Yogis Marpa and Milarepa. In the 12th century, the monk
Gampopa gave the teachings to the first Gyalwa Karmapa whose successive incarnations have
kept them powerful and vibrant over the centuries. Today, great Tibetan and Bhutanese teachers
(lamas) such as Kunzig Shamarpa and Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche transmit this unbroken tradition
when visiting the many Karma Kagyu centers around the world.
The Gyalwa Karmapas are unique among the great Lamas of Tibet, having reached full
enlightenment centuries ago. During a previous incarnation Karmapa was at the side of the
historical Buddha as the great Bodhisattva Chenrezig or "Loving Eyes." In Sanskrit his name is
Karmapa spent many lifetimes as a yogi in India. From the year 1110 to the present day he has
been taking successive conscious rebirths as the Karmapa or the "Black Hat Lama." He was the
first recognized Lama of Tibet. In 1959, during the Chinese destruction of Tibet,
the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje
managed to leave the country with his students and the most
precious relics of his lineage, thus securing the transmission of the Karma Kagyu lineage. With
the help of increasing numbers of Western students the full knowledge about the nature of mind
has reached the modern world. In the winter of 1994 at the age of 10,
the present 17th Karmapa,
Thaye Dorje, recognized by Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, escaped occupied Tibet to freedom in
India, where he is now being introduced to the modern world.
Lama Ole Nydahl
Lama Ole Nydahl
and his wife Hannah were the first western students of the 16th Gyalwa
Karmapa. He recognized them as protectors of his lineage and asked them to work for him.
Since 1972, after three years of training in the Himalayas, Lama Ole has given Diamond Way
teachings in a new town nearly every day around the world. He is always accessible to his
students, and his spontaneous joy and disregard of "holy cows" exemplifies the freedom
everyone can reach through the fearlessness of Mahamudra.
His latest book, "The Way Things Are," from Blue Dolphin Publishing, is now available in all