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Buddhism is the practice of the methods of meditation, contemplation, and self-development taught 2,500 years ago by Shakyamuni Buddha. The Buddha was not a god. Rather, he was an extraordinary human being who discovered and taught a philosophical and psychological system through which it becomes possible for us to free ourselves from fear and suffering.

The Buddha taught that everyone's mind has the potential to develop the compassion and wisdom necessary to achieve that freedom along with ultimate happiness, peace, and benefit to others. Yet, ordinarily, people behave in ways that are harmful to themselves and to others. As a result of these harmful actions, we all experience suffering.

Nonetheless, each of us longs to be free from suffering. Buddhism teaches, quite logically, that in order to change something, we must first understand its causes. Our suffering is caused by our harmful actions. When we look for the causes of those actions, we see that we behave in this way because of self-centeredness and confusion about the relationship between causes and their effects.

The life of Shakyamuni Buddha demonstrates that when selfishness and confusion are overcome, one's potential for goodness and insight is developed to its fullest extent. This is the enlightened spiritual state called Buddhahood.

The Buddha shared with the world the "path" he traveled in order to reach this state providing ultimate happiness, peace, and benefit to others. Buddhists strive to follow this path through emulating his example of careful morality, loving concern for the welfare of others, and meditation to pacify destructive emotions by removing selfishness and the confusion that prevents our understanding of the interdependent nature of our existence.

In this effort, our minds are our greatest resource. To help us overcome selfishness and confusion, the Buddha taught that, through meditation and contemplation, we could train our minds to function in more positive ways. Formal sitting meditation, called calm abiding, teaches us to access a clear and calm state of mind. In combination with contemplation, known as analytical meditation, this practice enables one to begin to generate compassionate love for all beings and to experience the wisdom of better understanding the true, interdependent nature of all phenomena.

Through cultivating compassion and wisdom, we discover new ways of relating to ourselves and our world. We find a growing sense of love and peace that allows us to begin to establish the positive connections with others that make life meaningful as we strive to progress on the Path to Enlightenment.

The meditation practices taught by the Buddha can help anyone gain peace of mind and insight into him or herself and the world, whether one considers oneself Buddhist or not.

A Traditional Buddhist Prayer

May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness;
May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering;
May all beings never be separated from the happiness that is without suffering;
May all beings abide in equanimity, free from self-centered destructive emotions.