Some time ago we used this letter as a first communication.
As an introduction and opening of this group on Buddhism, it is convenient that some points are made clear.
The first is that Buddhism is not a religion, nor is it a philosophy.
Some would consider it to be a way of life, but, fortunately, this is not true either.
Buddhism is a way to find the true human being, his own nature; a nature that is hidden under the masks and games of this life.
Buddhism is a way of putting aside your own confusion, your greed, your hostility. This path that is Buddhism has a consequence, and this consequence is the elimination of suffering. Note that I say that it is a consequence, not a goal, nor an objective to be sought.
Usually, those who approach Buddhism thinking of themselves and their own suffering tend to arrive with a great weight on their shoulders, which is not easy to get rid of. But, on the other hand, if you come to Buddhism with the idea of finding in it a help for human beings and a correct and natural path, you will arrive at Buddhism with a good approach.
The second point is that there are not different forms of Buddhism. There is only one Buddhism. There is a Theravada path, an Avatamsaka path, a Yogacara path, multiple Tibetan paths, a Chan path, a Zen path, a Pure Land path, and many more… but all these paths lead to the same point: discovery through direct experience.
The direct experience of the truth of suffering, of compassion, of joy, of loving kindness, of equanimity, of the non-existence of the ego, and the truth of non-duality, of the unity of consciousness and, naturally, of the impermanence and death. This is a great direct experience, but there is much more, because once you have accepted these experiences, it is necessary to build a bridge between them and this life of the senses in which error reigns.
The third point is that the essence of Buddhism is this direct experience, and this experience has nothing to do with knowing things intellectually or academically. Right now I am writing academically, and you are reading academically. Obviously this is not enough, but it is the best way to start. If you talk to Buddhist teachers, especially if they are Mahayana, they will tell you not to read anything without the teacher having approved or accepted it. The reason for this is that you will not understand the essential truth that is beyond words, for it is necessary to cut first with the way you live and understand words and concepts to enter the first of the ten vows of Dharma. It is very easy to believe that you understand something when your intellect considers that it has understood it, but the human mind is tainted, and it works with its attachment to misconceptions and incorrect ideas, removing from it what is not in accordance with its ego.
Does not exist no substitute for direct experience, always remember this.
The fourth point is that certain paths and practices can be very attractive to you, and you can easily fall from attachment to your path and criticism of everything else. But any teacher who has really received the experience and the benefit of the path, and has accepted that important emptiness, really magnificent, but without any courage, can explain to everyone that the vajrayana path, which is mystical and secret; the mantras and mandalas of chenyen; the evolution of the pure land; the severe path of zen and the flexible path of chan are all the same. It is just different forms, designed to suit different human beings, with different personalities, customs, behaviors and temperaments, but all Buddhist paths must be respected equally: none is better or worse than other.
Finally, what prevails is that there are two great pillars of Buddhism: wisdom and compassion. Wisdom without compassion is worthless, and neither is compassion without wisdom. There are four characteristics that distinguish the human being from the rest of the the creatures: wisdom, compassion, creativity and a sense of humor. Let us use this list with wisdom that includes humor, with compassion that includes creativity, for the benefit of all human beings. Compassion and love for all the participants of this list, and welcome.