Background and Transmission of Diamond Way Buddhism to the West

From: Intercollegiate Network - Oct 10, 2011

Buddhism and academia reach far back to ancient India. Monastic institutions had evolved into strong places of learning, which sometimes later grew into enormous Buddhist universities. This occurred between the 6th and 12th centuries. It is around this time, 3rd-6th Centuries AD, that there is a surfacing of the Diamond Way (Vajrayana) teachings of the Buddha. Today, as I sit and write this in library of my own university campus, I cannot express how amazing it is to be able to bring back, along with many of my closest friends, the Buddha’s teachings into the academic environment. Yet, even more so, I am so excited to bring a connection point for young students to meet the Diamond Way Buddhist teachings of the Karma Kagyu Lineage and the extraordinary teachers like H.H. 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje, the 14th Kunzig Sharmapa, Lama Ole Nydahl, Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche and Jigme Rinpoche. So, it now seems smart to give you some background details of Buddhism, and the Karma Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The historical Buddha Shakyamuni was born around 560 B.C.E. to a royal family. From early childhood, he was surrounded by wealth and beauty, and enjoyed a sophisticated education. The texts describe him as tall, strong, and blue-eyed. When he was 29 years old, he left the palace for the first time and encountered an old person, a sick person, and a dead person, experiences he had never known before. He then realized that nothing was permanent and left his palace to meditate in the mountains and forests of Northern India. After a 6-year search for lasting meaning, he recognized the nature of mind while in deep meditation and reached enlightenment in what is Bodh Gaya in Northern India today.

Buddha teaches about ultimate and conditioned existence in a way that makes Buddhism directly relevant to our daily lives. Understanding this makes the experience of lasting happiness possible. Buddhism does not proclaim dogmas; rather, it encourages critical questioning. Using the right meditations, the intellectual understanding of the teachings becomes a personal experience. Additional methods solidify what is reached in meditation. The goal of Buddha's teachings is the full development of the innate potential of body, speech, and mind. Through his teachings, Buddha is seen as a timeless mirror of mind's inherent potential.

The Buddha's teachings, which make beings fearless, joyful, and kind, are the main religion in several East Asian countries. Since the early seventies, the profound Buddhist view with its vast number of methods has inspired and fascinated a growing number of people in Western cultures.