Buddhists generally describe themselves as happy people. But becoming Buddhist doesn’t magically change the world around us to fit our needs. So what is it that changes?

To be a Buddhist, we don’t need to wear any special clothing, change our eating habits, or give up material possessions or a social life. It’s as simple as changing our perception — not taking the obstacles that come our way so seriously, and seeing everything around us as interesting and full of potential. Simple to say but not always easy to do.

By understanding the teachings and using tools like meditation, as Buddhists we gradually alter our view of whatever is happening in life. It’s not about putting on rose-tinted glasses but rather removing veils that prevent us from seeing how things really are.

The Buddha’s teachings are a great treasury of helpful advice and each tradition emphasizes different aspects of Buddhism. When it comes to living the teachings, monks, nuns, and lay people have quite different lifestyles. What can we say here about Diamond Way Buddhists?

Diamond Way Buddhists are lay people, often with families and regular jobs, who incorporate Buddhist methods into their daily lives.

What makes you a Buddhist?

In order to be able to become Buddhist, we need to take responsibility for creating our own lives, with the confidence that cause and effect, or karma, really functions. Through our thoughts and judgments, we create habits and attitudes that either limit or free us. Through experience, we see that we create today the causes of our situations tomorrow.

If we want to take this responsibility and decide to use this chance to reach the state of a Buddha, what do we need?

We need values that we can trust. Mind is the only thing that doesn’t change. It wasn’t born and cannot die. It is always and everywhere like space. Enlightenment, or Buddhahood, is a fully developed state of mind and is the goal of Buddhism. As Buddhists, we make a connection with this state – we open up to it – and this we call taking refuge. We also take refuge in the teachings (Dharma) that bring us to the goal, in our friends on the way (Sangha), and in our teacher (Lama).

From the state of complete joy and accomplishment of enlightenment, we can do the most to benefit others. So Buddhists also strengthen their determination to pursue this goal, so that we can share it with others. And to use whatever strength and insight we get on the way for the benefit of all. This noble aspiration is known as the Bodhisattva Promise.

How do we become enlightened?

Practicing meditation, we get used to being in a state with less disturbing emotions and more joy and clarity. Then we try to bring the perspective experienced in meditation into daily life. If a difficult situation comes up, can we see it from a bigger perspective with less drama? Can we see the potential even in that person who’s triggering our emotions today?

It is really important to start the day by remembering compassion. It doesn’t have to take long, but just for a moment be aware of how many beings there are and really wish that everybody becomes free from suffering. It makes a big difference if you wish that whatever you do will benefit them somehow.
Hannah Nydahl, interview in Buddhism Today

Our meditation practice is like a laboratory; we work on ourselves in a closed environment. Then we check our view and reactions in daily life — stuck in traffic, negotiating at work, or trying our best with our partners, co-workers, or children. The proof of spiritual development is being better able to handle real-life situations with grace, skill, and humor.

If this sounds reasonable and like something one can use, then it’s natural to ask where to begin.

Where to start?

The easiest way in the West is to find a Buddhist center near you, where you can get an introduction to Buddhism and learn meditation. There are usually books, magazines and recorded lectures available to check out. If you like the people and meditations in the Buddhist center, then it makes sense to visit a lecture by a Buddhist master like Lama Ole Nydahl or Karmapa when they teach in your city or country.