And what, bhikkhus, is ignorance? Not knowing suffering, not knowing the origin of suffering, not knowing the cessation of suffering, not knowing the way leading to the cessation of suffering. This is called ignorance.

                                                                                                            Buddha (Samyutta Nikaya Sutra 12.2)


     Over 2,500 years ago, a man named Siddhartha Gautama sat quietly in a place known as Deer Park in Sarnath, India, and began to offer simple teachings based on his own experience. Because his realization was profound in understanding life in the deepest way possible, he became known as the Buddha, which means “the awakened one.” The teachings he offered came to be known as the buddhadharma, and these form the core of Buddhism still today. The Buddhist teachings proclaim the possibility of awakening wisdom and compassion within every human being and they provide a practical method for doing so.

      Siddhartha Gautama was born into a wealthy clan in a small kingdom on the Indian-Nepalese border. According to the traditional story, he had a privileged upbringing but was jolted out of his sheltered life on realizing that all life includes the harsh facts of old age, sickness, and death.

      This prompted him to contemplate the meaning of life, death and suffering. Eventually he felt impelled to leave his family’s palace and follow the traditional Indian path of the renunciant, becoming a wandering holy man. After years of asceticism and meditation, he finally realized the “middle way” and, sitting under a pipal tree in BodhiGaya, he attained Enlightenment.

      For the next 45 years of his life, the Buddha travelled through northern India, spreading his understanding.  His teachings of The Four Noble Truths are perhaps the most basic formulation of his profound understanding of life. They are expressed as follows:

 1. All existence is subject to dukkha. The word dukkha has been variously translated as ‘suffering’, ‘anguish’,  or ‘unsatisfactoriness’  The Buddha’s insight is that our life encounters struggle – all conditions of happiness and joy are impermanent because all beings are subject to sickness, old age and death. This is the problem of existence.

 2. The cause of dukkha is craving. The natural human tendency is to blame our difficulties on things outside ourselves. But the Buddha said that the actual root is to be found in the mind itself. In particular, our tendency to grasp at things (or alternatively to push them away) places us fundamentally at odds with the way life really is.

 3. The cessation of dukkha is possible.  For the Buddha, “truth” is the antidote to the ignorance that, in the presence of impermanence, produces dukkha. Impermanence cannot be overcome, but ignorance can. This is nirvana, this is perfect peace.

 4. There is a path that leads to liberation. We cannot change the things that happen to us, but we can change our responses. The Eight-Fold Path is at the heart of the middle way, which turns from extremes and encourages us to seek the simple approach. The Eight-Fold Path is: Right View, Right Intent, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. Although referred to as steps on a path, it is not meant as a sequential learning process but as eight aspects of life, all of which are to be integrated in everyday life.

      Over time, Buddhism spread into three major branches: Theravada (Path of the Elders), Mahayana (Path of the Bodhisattva), and  Vajrayana (Diamond-like Path). From these major branches, many schools and sects have evolved.  These developments took place as Buddhism adapted to the conditions and cultures of the different countries it spread to.  However, the Buddha's Teachings have proved to be very resilient for while the outer forms may be dissimilar, the core Buddhist doctrines remain the same among the various traditions.  

      The essence of Buddhism is very simple: it is finding ways to transform oneself.  It could best be summed up as ‘learning to do good; ceasing to do harm; and purifying the heart’.   (The Dhammapada )



      Anchored in the Mahayana (Path of the Bodhisattva) tradition, Shin Buddhism is focused on the Three Pure Land Sutras: Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life, Sutra of Meditation of the Buddha of Infinite Life, and Sutra on the Amida Buddha. It is dedicated to the teachings of 13th century Japanese reformer, Shinran Shonin  (1173-1263), who is the founder of Shin Buddhism or Jodo Shinshu.

      As Shin Buddhists, we are called to entrust ourselves to the heart of Great Compassion, symbolized as Amida Buddha, to gracefully experience the unfolding of life and to practice love and compassion with others. As a result, we are spiritually transformed, experiencing a renewed life of joy, purpose, and gratitude, dedicated to promoting the welfare of all sentient beings.

      The heart of Shin practice is about integrating spirituality with daily living by developing deeper compassion; practicing monpo or deep hearing; and voicing the nembutsu (“Namu-Amida-Butsu”) as a direct expression of our trust in and gratitude for the ultimate Oneness of life.

      We are a community that supports one another’s spiritual growth, engages in service with our larger, outside communities, and strives to remember that we are all foolish humans doing the best that we can.