What relevance does Buddhism have to modern Britain?
Although Buddhism first appeared in India over two and a half thousand years ago, it has a timeless and universal relevance.
In a nutshell, Buddha explained that all our problems arise from confused and negative states of mind. He taught methods for ridding the mind of these destructive states and thereby realising true happiness and fulfillment.
These methods work for any mind, in any country, in any age.
What is meditation, and how does it work?
Meditation is basically a method for working on our mind. First we learn how to identify our different positive and negative mental states, and then we apply methods for eliminating negative states and cultivating positive ones.
As our mind becomes more positive our actions become more wholesome, and our overall experience of life becomes more satisfying and beneficial to others.
Do you have to be a Buddhist to benefit from meditation?
No. Anyone can learn basic meditation and experience the benefits. Buddhism is a non-evangelical religion.
Buddhists respect all people and are happy to help anyone regardless of whether they subscribe to another faith, or to none.
To progress beyond basic meditation, however, requires faith in the Three Jewels of refuge - Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha - but usually people find this develops naturally as they experience the beneficial effects of their meditation practice.
Is there just one Buddha, or can anyone become a Buddha?
Normally when we talk about Buddha we are referring to Buddha Shakyamuni(above), who appeared in this world over two and a half thousand years ago and revealed how to attain enlightenment.
He showed that the potential for developing the mind is infinite, and that following a true spiritual path leads eventually to a fully realised state of enlightenment, or Buddhahood. In this state all negativity has ceased and the mind abides eternally in an equipoise of perfect wisdom and compassion.
Everyone has the potential to become enlightened - we all have Buddha nature. Once our Buddha nature is awakened through meditation and other practices, we commit to attaining enlightenment for the sake of all living beings and become a Bodhisattva.
If we then follow the Bodhisattva path conscientiously we will eventually become a Buddha. Countless beings have already attained enlightenment and become Buddhas.
Who do Buddhists worship, and why?
Buddhists regard all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as perfect guides and role models, and as such naturally develop faith in them and rely on them as Spiritual Guides.
As a meditator approaches, and eventually attains, enlightenment he or she develops extraordinary mental powers. These include the ability to bless receptive minds with powerful transforming energy that greatly accelerates the process of mental development.
For this reason, Buddhists try through meditation, prayer, and various ritual practices to communicate with enlightened beings and receive their transforming blessings.