Introduction to Buddhism
Buddhism is the term used in the West referring to the ‘religion’ founded around 2,500 years ago by the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, the famous Nepalese prince Siddhartha Gautama, who left his kingdom, to seek liberation from the inevitable sufferings of birth, ageing, sickness and death. What we call Buddhism in the West is called Dharma in Asia. Dharma, in essence, describes ways to stop our suffering, and the methods taught by Shakyamuni Buddha are called Buddha-dharma. Practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, Nangpas in Tibetan, are those who seek the solutions to their problems within themselves.
The Buddhist path is composed of a number of stages, which gradually guide us to change the way we relate to the world. By listening, understanding, creating familiarity with the teachings and practicing what the Buddha taught, we gradually stop searching the external world for the causes of our suffering and happiness and realise that it depends on no one or nothing else other than ourselves.
We spend our lives constantly searching for happiness and a sensation of well-being, but we often mistakenly believe that we will find it in material comforts. We try to avoid any people, situations, sensations or objects that we believe are threats to our happiness. We deeply believe that our happiness and unhappiness have external causes and exist independently of our inner world.
Through practicing Buddha’s teachings we start to find inside ourselves – by developing our positive inner qualities and abandoning our negative mental afflictions – the way out of suffering and the true causes of happiness. We must apply constant effort to recognise and abandon the actions, habits and thoughts we know result in suffering, and recognise and develop those actions, habits and thoughts that result in happiness.
Initially, Buddhism teaches us how to develop love for ourselves. Having clarity about what love is and how to develop it, is the first step to developing love towards other people. We can do this by diminishing our own selfishness, and developing patience, wisdom and compassion and performing actions that bring happiness to others. On a more profound level, love for yourself and others is based on a correct view of reality: the wisdom comprehending that all phenomena and the suffering and happiness of ourselves and others do not have an inherent independent existence, because they are in continuous transformation, depending on causes and conditions.
Siddhartha Gautama was born a prince in Lumbini, nowadays Nepal, 2.500 years ago. Siddhartha was, since his birth, surrounded by all the pleasures that the material world could offer. He had servants, power, wealth and fame. He was intelligent and since childhood excelled in languages, mathematics, logic, and the study of natural sciences. He was handsome and skilled in sports. At sixteen he married an exceptional woman and had a son. He was a man who appeared to have everything.
After his birth an astrologer had predicted that Siddhartha would either become a great spiritual leader or a great emperor. His father, fearing to lose his heir, tried his best to prevent him from seeing the suffering of others or feeling any kind of discomfort so that thoughts of renunciation would not arise in his mind. However, gradually, Siddhartha started to realise that neither fame nor pleasure, nor power or wealth were able to ensure true and lasting happiness and that all are subject to birth, ageing, sickness and death.
To find a solution to human suffering Siddhartha left his father’s kingdom to practice meditation and seek enlightenment. He experimented with many different kinds of yoga, meditation and diets. Finally after six years he realised that to be truly free of suffering he had to look within himself and overcome the ignorance, desire and hatred within his own mind, as well as the fundamental causes of his suffering: his alienated sense of awareness or self-grasping and the self-cherishing and selfishness that arises from that.
Finally in a northern Indian forest at a place called Bodhgaya he was able to achieve enlightenment – his mind became completely pure and expansive, filled with limitless love, compassion and wisdom. Nowadays, at Bodhgaya there still exists the descendent of the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment.
He became known as Buddha Shakyamuni: the word Buddha in Sanskrit means the awakened one, shakya refers to the clan to which Siddhartha belonged and muni means capable. After Buddha Shakyamuni, many other practitioners used his methods to also attain enlightenment and became Buddhas. In Tibetan, the word for Buddha is sang-gye. Sang means enlighten, purify, clean, eliminate completely all the defilements and mental afflictions such as anger, desire, pride, jealousy, envy, miserliness, ignorance, and so on. Gye means grow, increase, develop. A Buddha is someone who has eliminated all their afflictions and mental defilements and fully developed all the positive qualities.
The Buddhist teachings that we study and practice today originated in the ideas of Buddha Shakyamuni, who transmitted them to his disciples, who in turn relayed them to their disciples in an uninterrupted lineage. The teachings over the centuries have been adapted to fit in with many different cultures and mentalities. NgalSo Tantric Self-Healing is an adaptation of the Buddhist teachings by Lama Gangchen in a form suitable for modern society. Anyone, male or female, young or old, rich or poor, can become a Buddha if they use the correct methods to heal and transform their mind. Everyone has the fundamental quality to become a Buddha if they have the right information, right motivation and put into practice what Lama Gangchen refers to as Inner Peace Education or Inner Science.
The Four Noble Truths
The Four Nobel Truths are the first teachings given by Buddha after he attained enlightenment. They are known as the Noble or Aryan Truths because only people who have a direct understanding of reality are able to see the world in this way. In Buddhism there is no class or caste system, in fact there are only three kinds of beings: ordinary beings who perceive reality in a wrong way and as a result seek happiness in what cannot give them true happiness; arya beings who are on the path of awakening from this illusion; Buddhas or fully awakened ones.
Lama Gangchen gave the name NgalSo to his Self-Healing meditation methods. This two syllable Tibetan word literally means ‘relaxation’ but also contains the essential meaning of the Four Noble Truths: Ngal: the two things we need to abandon, which are suffering and the origin of suffering, and So: the two things we need to cultivate, which are true cessation of suffering and the path to awakening.
We are constantly searching for sensations and experiences which bring us feelings of happiness and well-being, whilst we desperately try to avoid unpleasant situations or suffering. However, the happiness we find – whether in our relationships, work, material possessions or fame – is only temporary. All the things we believe to be the causes of our happiness are actually in constant change, and sooner or later, we will be separated from them. It is also inevitable that we will face the sufferings caused by sickness, ageing and death. To overcome suffering, it is necessary, first of all, to recognise our own suffering as an illness.
2 The cause of suffering
Once we recognise that we are sick, we must investigate and understand the true causes of our sickness. If we check carefully, we will see that the suffering we experience in our everyday life is caused by our mental afflictions or defilements. All our actions of body, speech and mind are guided by our own anger, ignorance, desire and other disturbing emotions leading us to having thoughts, words and attitudes that result in suffering.
3 The cessation of suffering
Buddha taught that it is possible for everyone to overcome suffering. We all have the capacity to eliminate our negative emotions and afflictions and attain a state of deep inner peace. Through transforming our mind it is possible to reach a state of permanent satisfaction and happiness. The cessation is the result of the path which, when followed, leads to a definitive end of suffering.
4 The path to the cessation of suffering
The path that leads to the end of suffering, is to recognise and develop our own positive inner qualities. We have to abandon our negative mental defilements such as anger, pride, jealousy, arrogance and so on, and instead gradually develop to their maximum potential our positive qualities such as love, compassion, joy, generosity and wisdom. Buddha taught many different methods to do this, so that each person would find a path to happiness suitable for them. This is also why the NgalSo Tantric Self-Healing methods offer many different techniques, therapies, teachings and meditations.
The Sanskrit word karma means action. It is not something strange or mystical – it simply means that all the actions of our body, speech and mind produce results. Positive actions generate positive results, negative actions generate negative results and actions neither positive nor negative generate neutral results.
Whether an action is positive or negative is determined by our motivation or the intention through which the action is committed. Positive actions are those guided by positive emotions such as gratitude, love, humility, compassion and so on, with the motivation of giving happiness or relieving the suffering of others. Negative actions are those guided by negative emotions such as anger, jealousy, arrogance, envy and fear with the motivation of causing suffering or harm to others.
The more we perform certain types of actions, the more we create the habit to repeat that action: the more I tell lies, the easier it is to lie, the more I practice generosity, the easier it is to give.
Our actions do not end in the instant we stop to perform them. Although the action itself ends, the energy or force created by it continues as a seed or imprint we have planted in the mind. Karma is not static. A small negative action can become a big negative karma and a small positive action can be transformed in a big positive action if cultivated.
It is impossible to experience any sense of suffering or happiness without having first created the karma for that experience. All our actions of body, the words we say and the thoughts we have are imprinted in our very subtle mind and, sooner or later, we will experience the results.
The Sanskrit word bodhi means enlightenment and chitta means mind, so bodhichitta is the mind of enlightenment, the state of altruistic consciousness of those who, moved by great love and compassion, wish to attain enlightenment to be able to benefit all beings, without any exception.
The first step to develop bodhichitta is to have faith in the outer Buddha and in the Buddha we will become. The second step is to generate equal love and compassion for all other beings: love is the desire for others to be happy and compassion is the desire for them to be free from suffering.
Usually, we feel love and compassion for those who have helped us, aversion for those who have harmed us and indifference for those who did interact with us in a neutral way. To develop bodhichitta it is important to remove the ‘self’ from the centre of everything. The desire of happiness for other beings does not depend on how they see me, treat me or relate to me; we wish others to be happy simply because they are suffering and want to be happy.
Bodhichitta is a high state of consciousness; it brings great satisfaction and joy. However we have to apply constant effort to develop it. By gradually changing our small selfish heart into a big open heart it is possible!
Buddha always adapted his teachings to the mentality and capacity of each one of his disciples. For this reason within Buddhism, there exist two main systems: the Theravada School (the school of the elders) and the Mahayana School (the great vehicle). For historical reasons the Theravada School is dominant in South East Asia and the Mahayana is dominant in Northern and Eastern Asia.
In the Theravada School, greater emphasis is given to the teachings and practices that lead the practitioner to be completely free from their own suffering, attaining a state of great inner peace. In the Mahayana School, the goal of the practitioner is to attain an enlightened state of consciousness to be able to lead all beings to the same state.
It is important to clarify that, in this case, the term “great vehicle” does not imply that one school is superior or better than the other. It is great in terms of the number of beings one wishes to lead to nirvana and enlightenment. In the Theravada School one concentrates on achieving nirvana (the total cessation of suffering) for oneself whereas in the Mahayana School one aspires to bring vast numbers of beings to this state.
The Vajrayana Path (the Diamond Vehicle) is part of Mahayana Buddhism and was taught by Buddha Shakyamuni to some of his advanced disciples. Vajrayana is also known as the Quick Path to Enlightenment.
To a few fortunate disciples, the Buddha manifested in a pure form, called Buddha Vajradhara, and transmitted the teachings of tantra. The word tantra means continuum and concerns the flow of consciousness, moment after moment, life after life and between the waking, dreaming and deep sleeping states.
We need to awaken and purify all these levels of consciousness to become a fully awakened Buddha. It is not possible to be a tantric practitioner without having first developed unconditional love for all beings and an understanding of the correct view of reality. Therefore a tantric practitioner cannot abandon the sutra teachings, the Theravada and the Mahayana systems.
It is said that the Vajrayana – or tantra – is the quick path to enlightenment because the practitioner uses all their available resources to reach the enlightened state of consciousness. Among these resources are all the gross, subtle and very subtle energies of the body, mind and environment. It also recognises the power of our emotions and shows us how to use those energies positively rather than denying or repressing them.
We are extremely fortunate that the NgalSo methods, thanks to the kindness of Lama Gangchen, give us unprecedented access to the previously secret tantric meditations of the Ganden Nyengyu (the Ear Whispered or Secret Lineage of the Gelugpa meditational practices). We can now practice NgalSo Tantric Self-Healing, the essence of the Highest Yoga Tantras, or one of the many meditational deities of the four classes of tantra, in either Tibetan or in our own language.
The practices of NgalSo Tantric Self-Healing are open to everyone – as was the wish of Buddha Shakyamuni – to give to all who wish methods of healing, inner peace and personal growth.
The Sanskrit word tantra means continuum. Tantra is a system of ethics and meditation that gradually, over years, transforms the natural energy flows in our body, maximizing and deeply healing our body and mind. Our life energy moment-to-moment, day-to-day and life-to-life passes through a cycle of absorbing to the subtle level and then returning again to the gross level.
Each night when we fall asleep our inner elements and our gross senses and consciousness absorb and then for a brief moment our original mind, the clear light manifests, but most people don’t recognize this.
After this, our mind gradually becomes grosser and we dream, inhabiting the dream world in our dream body. Then our energy again becomes grosser and we wake up and find ourselves again in our gross body and mind. The same thing happens when we die. First our elemental energies and sensory consciousnesses absorb and then finally our original mind wakes up. When we fall asleep all this happens in a few minutes, but when we die it happens more slowly over several hours or even days.
In Tantric Self-Healing we learn how to wake up our original mind and subtle energies and begin to purify the flow of our life energy. Firstly by training in meditation we become conscious of our original mind whilst we fall asleep, we can recognize our dreams as dreams, and we integrate this energy with our waking state. All this is possible when we learn to use our channels, chakras, winds and drops, and especially when we learn to gather our energy within our central channel and wake up our original mind. We mix our blissful clear light mind with absolute space and this purifies our life energy continuum.
The various stages of this purification of our life energy are called the tantric grounds and paths and the final result of these is the achievement of the pure awakened mind; the dharmakaya, the pure awakened body; the sambhogakaya, and the nirmanakaya, the body and mind which contains the awakened body and mind.
Another important tantra is the lineage, the continuum of energy from one generation of Self-Healing teachers to the next. This doesn’t just mean giving information and teachings from generation to generation, it also means a mind to mind transmission of the experiences of Self-Healing so that they are new for each generation.