What Is the Essence of Buddhism?
In this very special era, few people value a spiritual life that seeks inner happiness, but many exhaust themselves in the pursuit of material wealth. Can Buddhadharma truly provide real value to modern people? Although many believe that religion primarily provides comfort and structure to help deal with the uncertainties surrounding life and death, true Buddhadharma teaches us how to abandon nonvirtuous thoughts and deeds, cultivate positive virtues and purify the mind. Buddhadharma remolds one’s character and brings about inner peace and happiness.
Nowadays, in China and western countries, very few people pay attention to religious faith and culture. The majority put more emphasis on economic development and material prosperity. For example, they attach great importance to wealth and possessions, and, spend lots of time trying to obtain them. We live in a very special era when few people, whether from East or West, try to find inner happiness, rather, many of them exhaust their strength day and night in order to gain more material wealth. As a result, they become very busy and restless. This is the reality of this age.
Fortunately, a great number of people increase their happiness through engaging in the practice of the Buddhadharma. The pity is that many of them may have little understanding of the Dharma. They are more interested in the external trappings of Buddhism: building splendid temples and Buddha statues, making prostrations, circumambulating holy mountains, etc., and regard these deeds as the Dharma. In fact, these are part of the Dharma but do not constitute the essential core actions of Buddhism.
What is the genuine Buddhadharma? Its essence is to abandon non-virtuous deeds, cultivate virtuous deeds and purify the mind. That is, one should always engage in virtuous deeds that benefit oneself and others, and abandon non-virtuous deeds and negative thoughts such as hatred, aggression, etc. One must not be enslaved by negative thoughts and maintain a peaceful and happy mind. Such culture or education is Buddhadharma, as defined by the Buddha 2500 years ago.
Although Buddhism is known as a religion, it is more proper to define it as an education, for it provides extensive knowledge in many disciplines such as astronomy, geography and so on. By following the teachings and practicing accordingly, our virtues will increase and we will understand the value of these teachings. Thus, Buddhism is more of an education than a religion.