Actually, Buddhism came first to Tibet in the early 700’s, but somehow it got mixed up with magical mystical aspects. It was about how to fly in the air and how to put daggers through rocks, and that type of thing. That occupied Tibet for 300 years. So, they really wanted to have something really nice, something that Buddha really experienced and what the early Indian masters practiced. Finally, they got this Bengalese guy, Atisha, who also happened to be a prince first. That master started the pure Tibetan Buddhism. That was in the 1100s. So, the Tibetans suffered for almost 400 years, not getting pure Buddhism.
The essence of the teaching that Atisha brought to Tibet in the 1100s can be summarized into three most important points:
The first is that we should not always be overpowered by attractions such as the luxuries and comforts of life. Our goal normally is that we want to be happy. But, the definition of happiness differs from individual to individual. What is happiness to us? To some people it is a lot of money; to some it is a very luxurious life. To some, it is all of the above. To some, it is to have enough comfort and nothing to worry about. But the majority of people go for money, wealth, and luxury.
So the first point, is to choose happiness as your goal, but that happiness should not be short-lived, but be with you all the time. I said “all” the time, speaking from the background of reincarnation, life after life. Happiness should not only be up to the time of death, but even beyond. As long as I exist in whatever form, I should have that happiness. That should be the goal of my spiritual path. That is my purpose, the mission of my life.
Two: yourself alone is not enough. What about your spouse, your children, your family, your friends, their friends, the children’s spouses, the grandmothers and everybody, including the mother-in-law? So we must have compassion and love to all human beings and to all beings.
That will be true love and compassion. But, a good goal and a good compassion is not enough if you are stupid.
You need the third aspect: wisdom. That doesn’t just mean knowledge, knowing where to go and what to do, but true knowledge of reality. What is the true reality of ourselves? That is the third point.
These three most important points are the essence of Buddhism: freedom from suffering, joy and happiness for our life and then not only for ourselves but for all, and thirdly, knowing what to do. That is the essence of Tibetan Buddhism. That’s it.
~ Gelek Rimpoche, Jewel Heart Northern Michigan, June 3, 2011