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“Does religion make people stronger, or does it weaken them? Does it encourage what is good or what is evil in them? Are they made better and more wise―or less so―by religion?” These are the questions we need to ask of all religions.

“So-and-so is sick. So-and-so is suffering financially. I must do my best to give them encouragement.” To think in this way, to offer prayers and take action for others’ happiness—this is the behavior of a true Buddhist.

A life lived without purpose or value, the kind in which one doesn’t know the reason why one was born, is joyless and lackluster. To just live, eat and die without any real sense of purpose surely represents a life pervaded by animality. On the other hand, to do, create or contribute something that benefits others, society and ourselves and to dedicate ourselves as long as we live to that challenge—that is a life of true satisfaction, a life of value. It is a humanistic and lofty way to live.

Attaining Buddhahood is not so much a “destination” or a special “state,” but a path, or orbit. To firmly establish ourselves in this orbit―to “attain Buddhahood”―means to solidify in our lives a spirit of yearning for the happiness of oneself and others, and to continuously take constructive action with that spirit.

Attaining enlightenment is not about embarking on some inconceivably long journey to become a resplendent godlike Buddha; it is about accomplishing a transformation in the depths of one’s being.

In other words, it is not a matter of practicing in order to scale the highest summit of enlightenment at some point in the distant future. Rather, it is a constant, moment-to-moment, inner struggle between the opposing courses of revealing our innate Buddha nature or allowing ourselves to be ruled by our fundamental negativity and delusion. This unceasing effort to polish our lives is the heart and essence of Buddhist practice.

Buddhism is not divorced from reality but is found within it, confronting human suffering head-on and teaching a way to overcome it. Buddhism is about transforming this world of suffering and hardship into a world of hope. Buddhism is in the here and now, not in some distant place.

Buddhism regards all colors, all fragrances, all inanimate and living things―birds, beasts, humans, and flowers, every blade of grass and tree―all the varied and beautiful phenomena in the universe without exception, as manifestations of the Buddha nature.

Buddhism teaches, “If you light a lantern for another, it will also brighten your own way.” Please be confident that the higher your flame of altruistic action burns, the more its light will suffuse your life with happiness. Those who possess an altruistic spirit are the happiest people of all.

Depending on the use to which it is put, religion can be a demonic force. Religion should bring us together, but it is exploited by some to create greater schisms among us. Nothing could be more unfortunate.

Religion must always be for the people. People do not exist for the sake of religion. This must be the fundamental guideline of religion in the twenty-first century.

The most basic Buddhist teaching is that everything is change, a never-ending series of changes. Nothing is ever still. What Buddhism seeks to do is, in the midst of that changing reality from which we can never divorce ourselves, in the midst of the “mud” of reality, to help us achieve a state of the highest hope and fulfillment and to lead society and our environment in the direction of peace and prosperity.

The point where Buddhism radically departs from the thought and religion that had existed previously is that it uncovered within the individual’s own life the “Law,” or limitless inner power, for resolving all suffering on the most essential level.

Buddhism is a teaching of unparalleled humanism that believes in the boundless potential within human beings.

Throughout his life, Shakyamuni encouraged people with his clear, sonorous voice. A Buddhist text describes how Shakyamuni warmheartedly welcomed everyone he met, expressing his joy at meeting them. He showed affection, joy and gentleness in all his interactions. To put others at ease and encourage them to speak up, Shakyamuni would always break the ice by initiating conversation. It was the power of Shakyamuni’s eloquence and sincerity that made it possible for Buddhism to gain wide acceptance among the people of his time.

When people become pessimistic, it is as if they hide themselves behind dark clouds that prevent joy and hope from entering their hearts. Buddhism is a teaching of supreme optimism. It is a teaching in which there is no despair; instead there is boundless hope, opening the possibility for boundless happiness.

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