The Buddha said to not create any misdeed, perfect every virtue, tame your mind. These are the teachings of the Buddha.

The life of the Buddha

He founded a religion that has lasted two and a half millennia, but just who was Buddha?

He founded a religion that has lasted two and a half millennia, but just who was Buddha?

The life story of the Buddha begins in Lumbini, near the border of Nepal and India, about 2,600 years ago, where the man Siddharta Gautama was born.

Although born a prince, he realized that conditioned experiences could not provide lasting happiness or protection from suffering. After a long spiritual search he went into deep meditation, where he realized the nature of mind. He achieved the state of unconditional and lasting happiness: the state of enlightenment, of buddhahood. This state of mind is free from disturbing emotions and expresses itself through fearlessness, joy and active compassion. For the rest of his life, the Buddha taught anyone who asked how they could reach the same state.

“I teach because you and all beings want to have happiness and want to avoid suffering. I teach the way things are.”
– The Buddha

Buddha’s early life

Greco-buddhist representation of Buddha Shakyamuni from the ancient region of Gandhara, eastern Afghanistan. Greek artists were most probably the authors of these early representations of the Buddha.
Greco-buddhist representation of Buddha Shakyamuni from the ancient region of Gandhara, eastern Afghanistan. Greek artists were most probably the authors of these early representations of the Buddha.

India at the time of the Buddha was very spiritually open. Every major philosophical view was present in society, and people expected spirituality to influence their daily lives in positive ways.

At this time of great potential, Siddhartha Gautama, the future Buddha, was born into a royal family in what is now Nepal, close to the border with India. Growing up, the Buddha was exceptionally intelligent and compassionate. Tall, strong, and handsome, the Buddha belonged to the Warrior caste. It was predicted that he would become either a great king or spiritual leader. Since his parents wanted a powerful ruler for their kingdom, they tried to prevent Siddharta from seeing the unsatisfactory nature of the world. They surrounded him with every kind of pleasure. He was given five hundred attractive ladies and every opportunity for sports and excitement. He completely mastered the important combat training, even winning his wife, Yasodhara, in an archery contest.

Suddenly, at age 29, he was confronted with impermanence and suffering. On a rare outing from his luxurious palace, he saw someone desperately sick. The next day, he saw a decrepit old man, and finally a dead person. He was very upset to realize that old age, sickness and death would come to everyone he loved. Siddharta had no refuge to offer them.

The next morning the prince walked past a meditator who sat in deep absorption. When their eyes met and their minds linked, Siddhartha stopped, mesmerized. In a flash, he realized that the perfection he had been seeking outside must be within mind itself. Meeting that man gave the future Buddha a first and enticing taste of mind, a true and lasting refuge, which he knew he had to experience himself for the good of all.

Buddha’s enlightenment

The Buddha decided he had to leave his royal responsibilities and his family in order to realize full enlightenment. He left the palace secretly, and set off alone into the forest. Over the next six years, he met many talented meditation teachers and mastered their techniques. Always he found that they showed him mind’s potential but not mind itself. Finally, at a place called Bodhgaya, the future Buddha decided to remain in meditation until he knew mind’s true nature and could benefit all beings. After spending six days and nights cutting through mind’s most subtle obstacles, he reached enlightenment on the full moon morning of May, a week before he turned thirty-five.

At the moment of full realization, all veils of mixed feelings and stiff ideas dissolved and Buddha experienced the all-encompassing here and now. All separation in time and space disappeared. Past, present, and future, near and far, melted into one radiant state of intuitive bliss. He became timeless, all-pervading awareness. Through every cell in his body he knew and was everything. He became Buddha, the Awakened One.

After his enlightenment, Buddha traveled on foot throughout northern India. He taught constantly for forty-five years. People of all castes and professions, from kings to courtesans, were drawn to him. He answered their questions, always pointing towards that which is ultimately real.

Throughout his life, Buddha encouraged his students to question his teachings and confirm them through their own experience. This non-dogmatic attitude still characterizes Buddhism today.

“I can die happily. I have not kept a single teaching hidden in a closed hand. Everything that is useful for you, I have already given. Be your own guiding light.”

The Buddha, while leaving his body at the age of eighty

(Extract from www.diamondway-buddhism/buddhism/buddha)

Training in Bodhicitta to Find Our Buddha Nature

The following excerpt from the book Deepening Wisdom, Deepening Connection by Lama Tsomo[…], demonstrates how our misperceptions of reality may cause suffering. On the other hand, when we see with the eyes of Compassion, we can see the Buddha Nature of others and ourselves. Training in bodhicitta helps us see reality and live in a more connected and compassionate state with those around us.

Here’s another story that shows how you can clean your karmic windshield not only through Shamata but through the bodhicitta approach of Boundless Compassion. Remember, whatever transforms our karmic and habitual tendency toward self-centeredness removes obscurations from our lens—our windshield. It takes a lot of repetition to transform habits, creating and expanding new neural pathways, and dissolving the old ones.

The story of Asanga and Maitreya

Long ago, in ancient India, a Dharma student named Asanga had a goal: to see the Future Buddha Maitreya, who was already a great bodhisattva. He then planned on getting instructions from him. He began a Maitreya practice retreat in a cave on Kukkutapada Mountain. Asanga spent all his waking hours, every single day, reciting Maitreya’s mantra, visualizing him, making offerings to him and so on.

This went on for six years. He never saw Maitreya, even in his dreams. No sign of any kind. Nothing. He became discouraged and gave up. After completing the closing rituals for his retreat, he packed up his things and walked down the road in despair. He came upon a man rubbing a huge iron pole with a soft cloth.

“What are you doing, my friend?” Asanga asked.
“I need a needle, so I’m rubbing this pole, to fashion it into a needle.”

“Hmmm,” thought Asanga, “It would take him a century of rubbing to do the job. Yet he’s persevering. Here I am, supposedly a good practitioner, and I’ve quit my lofty goal after only six years. And my goal is way more important and beneficial than a needle could ever be.” He was embarrassed, regretful that he didn’t know the meaning of persistence. He turned around and went back to the cave.

For three more years he did nothing else but pray to Maitreya continuously. Still no sign whatsoever. This time he was positive that there was absolutely no hope of seeing Maitreya, that he was wasting his life, accomplishing nothing. Again, he ended retreat, packed up his few possessions, and walked down the path.

The first person he came upon was a man at the foot of a towering rock. The man was dipping a feather in water and stroking the rock.

“What are you trying to do here?” Asanga asked, more than a little bewildered.
“This rock is blocking the sunlight from my house, so I’m wearing it away,” the man explained.

Immediately Asanga’s mind went to the thoughts of three years before, and he returned to the cave, practicing with renewed vigor. Three years passed. Nothing, nada, zilch.

“That’s it!” he declared, now in complete despair. “No matter what I do, I see that if I do this for a million years, I’ll get nowhere.” He packed up his things and left for good.

Asanga meets Maitreya

This time he didn’t come upon any men doing bizarre things. He did come upon a dog, however. Her two hind legs were crippled, and she pulled herself along in the most painful way. Her hindquarters were covered with writhing maggots. Somehow she managed to find the strength to bite any hand that came near. Asanga was overcome with the most unbearable wave of compassion. His heart would break if he couldn’t help her.

But how? When he got near her, she snarled and tried to bite his hand. He could see that on top of everything else, she was starving. Without a thought, he cut off a piece of his own flesh and fed it to her. Clearly his years of meditating on the great, compassionate Bodhisattva Maitreya hadn’t been a waste. Would we have the compassion to feed our flesh to an ill-tempered, rotting dog?

Then he turned his attention to the maggots. He didn’t see how he could pick them off of her without crushing their mushy little bodies. But he felt compassion for them too. The only thing he could think of to use was, well, his tongue. He couldn’t bear to lick them off if he looked at the maggots, so he closed his eyes and bent down to begin.

His tongue touched the ground. He opened his eyes. No dog. He looked up. There was the huge, glowing Bodhisattva Maitreya! Asanga felt the force of his power and love pouring out in all directions. The first thing he thought of to say was, “Maitreya! Where have you been all these years! I’ve been praying to you, visualizing you, saying your mantra, and you never appeared in all that time!”

Maitreya smiled, “Asanga, I was there with you every single minute. And when you gave up, I appeared as the man with the scarf, the man with the feather, and now a dog.”

Asanga wept at the thought. “But . . . but . . .”

“You couldn’t see me because of your own past negative actions and obscurations. Over all those years, you cleared away almost enough of them, so that I appeared as a festering dog. Your act of compassion finally cleared away enough, and made your vision pure enough that you could see me.”

“No! That’s impossible. Anyone could see you the way you’re appearing now. You’re huge and glowing, and clear as day!”

“Your act of compassion finally
cleared away enough, and made
your vision pure enough that you
could see me”.

~ Lama Tsomo

“If you don’t believe me, let’s go into town and find out if anyone else can see me.” Asanga wasn’t convinced, so they went to the nearby village.

Asanga, Maitreya and the villagers

Asanga carried Maitreya on his right shoulder. He asked everyone at the market what they saw. Every one of them looked at him a little strangely and said they saw nothing. At last they came to an old woman at the edge of town, whose obscurations were relatively more cleared away than the villagers’. When Asanga asked her, she said, “The rotting corpse of a dog.”

After that, Maitreya took Asanga to a pure realm and gave him the very high teachings that he had so fervently prayed for. Asanga went on to become one of the greatest Buddhist masters of ancient India. He’s still famous today. His works are still studied, and he still inspires thousands of people.


I’ve just told you his story, and you’ve now just read it, so the benefit of all of Asanga’s hard work is still rippling out. This story reminds us that, in training in bodhicitta in general, and Compassion in particular, we can accomplish the two processes that lead toward enlightenment: clearing away obscurations, and bringing forth our Buddha Nature. You can see why Compassion is essential to Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism.

Even though buddhas and great bodhisattvas can appear anywhere, even in the Bardo (the dreamlike state between lifetimes) or our dreams, if we’re too caught in our own fixations and obscurations, we can’t see them. And even if we do see something, we can’t see these beings as they really are. When we see with the eyes of compassion, we see more truly.

Long before we ever get within a mile of enlightenment, we can see our loved ones, co-workers, and others with purer vision and more open hearts. I remember talking with one longtime Dharma student who shook his head and mused, “After practicing Dharma, we can master worldly life . . . but by then that’s not our goal.” He was pointing to the fact that we get better at worldly life after all this practice, but by that time what we really want to do is to wake up out of it, altogether.

“When we see with the eyes of
compassion, we see more truly”.

~ Lama Tsomo

Learn more about Deepening Wisdom, Deepening Connection

Excerpt, pages 56-59, from Ancient Wisdom for Our Times. Tibetan Buddhist Practice: Deepening Wisdom, Deepening Connection (c)2022 Lama Tsomo LLC. Published by Namchak Publishing Company LLC, USA.

The wisdom that knows the ultimate mode of being

As explained […] in Entering the Middle Way, the definition on an ultimate truth is that which is found by seeing the meaning of a real object of knowledge. The commentary on that says:

That is to say, the ultimate gains its own self-nature
through being the object of a particular
wisdom of those who perceive reality; it is not
established intrinsically. This is one nature.

This means that it is found by the uncontaminated exalted wisdom comprehending suchness and not established by way of its intrinsic nature, so this negates the preposition that something is truly established if found by uncontaminated meditative equipoise.

The words “a particular wisdom” mean that what is found by any wisdom of aryas is not sufficient and that instead ultimate truth is only what is found by a particular wisdom, [267] the wisdom that knows the ultimate mode of being.

Found means that it is established as such by that consciousness, the same as with conventionalities.

Yet how does it find it?

Yet how does it find it? While the eyes of someone with an eye disorder see floating hairs in the space before them, healthy eyes do not see even an appearance of floating hairs in that space. Likewise, those who are damaged by the eye disorder of ignorance observe an intrinsic nature of aggregates and the like.

Uncontaminated – exhausted all the imprints of ignorance

The uncontaminated exhalted wisdom of meditative equipoise of those who have exhausted all the imprints of ignorance and of aryas on the paths of learning, when perceiving suchness, does not perceive even subtle dualistic appearance, like eyes without a disorder.

The nature perceived through this type of perception is an ultimate truth. Entering the Middle Way (6.29) says:

Where false entities such as floating hairs
are imputed because of an eye disorder,
one with clear eyes sees things as they are.
Suchness should be known here in like manner.

Its commentary also says:

The buddhas’ ultimate truth is whatever reality of
the aggregates and so on that they, who are free
from the imprints of ignorance, perceive in the
manner of those free of eye disorder who see no
floating hairs.

The ultimate nature of Two Truths

The ultimate perceived in this manner is the ultimate nature of two natures that each and every subject has. More specifically, it is both the naturally pure nirvana, which is the emptiness of inherent establishment of subjects, and the nirvana that is a true cessation, which is reality free from all the various seeds of defilements.

(Excerpt is from Je Tsongkhapa’s masterpiece, The Middle Length Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment).

[*The Two Truths (conventional reality & ultimate nature). The true nature of reality – the selflessness of all phenomena (of person(s) and objects)].