What is the Buddhadharma?

The Buddhadharma describes a way to come to understand, and live in accord with, dharma. The Buddhadharma is best thought of as a set of observations, not a set of commandments, rules or beliefs. In its essence, the Buddhadharma observes that when human beings attend to three areas, they develop a purity of mind and heart that leads to freedom from suffering. So another way of thinking of the Buddhadharma is that it outlines—objectively, without reference to particular beliefs or religious faith or doctrine—a program to free yourself from suffering by purifying your mind and heart. The three areas that must be attended to are:

• ethical and moral behavior

• cultivation of mental stability, clarity and openness

• study of the teachings of the wise

These three areas are mutually reinforcing. Behaving ethically and morally leads to a more clear and stable mind. Increased mental stability and clarity helps us to behave ethically and morally. Both help us to be wise. Study of the words of the wise helps us to maintain mental stability and clarity and to behave ethically and morally. Since no religious tradition would disagree with these statements, and since the Buddhadharma literally says nothing for or against any particular religious faith or belief, taking up the practice of the Buddhadharma is completely compatible with all religions. There is no need to give up any religion (or to give up atheism or agnosticism) in order to practice the Buddhadharma.

Meditation is a practice that enhances our capacity for mental stability, clarity and openness, the second of the three areas. Without attention to the other two areas, it will be much less effective in helping you to purify your heart and mind. For more specifics of what meditation is, see “What is meditation?”