• By Nhat Quan
    Self-responsibility, or the Buddhist spirit of enlightenment, in other words, is the path leading to the spirit of practice from the Buddhist point of view.
    The birth of the Buddha was a great joy for humanity, and his enlightenment was like a bright torch in the long dark night. He has transcended human abilities so that humans can now forever control their own destiny. With your own efforts, you free yourself from all pain, from physical to mental.
    Since ancient times, people were weak before the powerful forces of the vast universe, so they imagined a creator, then completely entrusted their destiny to that god, and then damned to the divine forces that their self created. Humans have given that god all power, so that when he blesses you, you will be happy, and when he brings disaster, you will have to endure hardship. From then on, a whole system of dogmas was established and forced people into slavery, forcing people to obey inhuman things, forcing people to blindly believe in absurd beliefs. Anyone who does not agree is considered a traitor. Since then, both the human body and soul have been imprisoned in hell but is called paradise. Because people are imprisoned in an illusionary paradise, there is no way to blame them, and there is no way to escape the control of those religious authorities.
    When the Buddha appeared, the light of His enlightenment dispelled those evil shadows, allowing people to realize that suffering or happiness is created by your own Mind. It's not because of a god or someone with the power to decide your destiny. There is no god who has the right to bless or bring disaster to you. Disaster or happiness are the consequences of your actions. According to the Buddhist law of cause and effect, it is called Karma.
    Buddha was born, and he showed you a healthy concept of life, a policy that you take full responsibility for all your actions, and are ready to accept all the consequences that result from good actions as well as negative ones. Don't complain about heaven and earth, don't blame yourself and blame your fate. But that doesn't mean you passively accept suffering as fate has arranged. Acceptance here is accepting responsibility for the good or bad karma you have caused in the past, not avoiding it. But at the same time, you also seek to convert bad karma into good karma through altruistic actions and keeping a compassionate and holy soul.
    During that karmic transformation, efforts to improve the mind are made continuously, until the soul is completely pure. That's when you become free and enlightened beyond all influence of karma, that's when you become a Buddha. The ability to become a Buddha is the potential in you, in every living creature, even in grass, trees, and rocks, there is that ability to become enlightened.
    This is the main and fundamental point of Buddhist teachings. Buddha nature is the potential for enlightenment within each of your minds. Buddha clearly showed you that everyone has that transcendent quality. The difference between enlightened people and ordinary people lies in their practice.
    The mind of an enlightened person is like a glass of water that has settled, all the mud and dirt are gone, and only the clarity of the water is revealed. The mind of an ordinary person is like a glass of muddy water, the soil is stirred up in a turbid mixture. The mud is like ambition, hatred, and ignorance. It is these mud and afflictions that obscure the purity of the true mind. The Buddha's enlightenment was the achievement of that settling process. This is the discovery of boundless human potential and also a great achievement that Buddha brought to you:
    - The vision of your true nature and that of the universe.
    Buddhism starts with humans and finds Nirvana right in your own mind, not with gods or in some distant paradise.
    After enlightenment, Buddha taught that humanistic principle for more than forty-nine years. He never claimed to be God or a saint but was just a normal and enlightened human being.
    During the preaching process, Buddha always reminded:
    - Water in the four seas has only one taste, the taste of salt, and my religion also has only one taste, the taste of liberation.
    That statement encompasses the basic goal of Buddhism and in more than forty-nine years of preaching, the Buddha taught only one path, which is the path to escape suffering. The first sermon on the Four Noble Truths at Deer Park was also the last sermon. That teaching is the core thought for the entire liberation philosophy of Buddhism. That principle is condensed in the first sermon to the five Kondanna brothers, the Four Noble Truths. The Four Noble Truths mean four wonderful truths, which are:
    - Suffering: Suffering is the basis of life.
    - Episode: The cause of suffering.
    - Cessation: Peace and cessation are the basis of liberation.
    - Way: The path leading to liberation.
    The Buddha often taught because living beings had many different levels and circumstances, so he taught in many different ways. From that basis, He established eighty-four thousand dharma methods, that is, eighty-four thousand different paths of practice, but in the end, they all lead to liberation. Since then, Buddhism has appeared in many sects, with other policies such as:
    - Zen Buddhism with its policy of abolishing the scriptures,
    - Come to Pure Land Buddhism with the practice of chanting, worshiping, and repenting.
    - Tantra with the method of chanting secret mantras,
    - The exoteric sects with the promotion of teachings...
    Formally, these sects seem to contradict each other in terms of policies and methods of practice, but in fact, these sects are all Buddhist sects. All are directed toward a single goal, which is enlightenment and liberation. The other different forms are just different means. For example, people go to the Temple by different means of transportation. Depending on each person's own abilities and conditions, they can choose an appropriate way, but everyone is aiming for the same goal, which is to reach the Temple.
    Since then, Buddhism has established a massive system of scriptures that no other religious or philosophical system in the world can compare with. But all of those scriptures only describe a single content, which is liberation.
    But liberation is only achieved in complete enlightenment with boundless compassion. Enlightenment is the ultimate development of wisdom and comprehensive understanding. The human mind is obscured by ignorance and afflictions, unable to see the true nature of things, from which erroneous perceptions arise, which is the root cause of suffering. That suffering only ends when the human mind is clear, misconceptions are gone, and the truth is clearly visible. In the process of practicing to develop wisdom, to brighten your mind, you must practice:
    - Selfish ambition is transformed into altruism,
    - Hatred is transformed into compassion,
    - Ignorance is transformed into wisdom. …
    During that transformation process, the inner mind is purified. Ignorance and afflictions are eliminated, leaving the mind completely clean. That is the pinnacle of wisdom and enlightenment. The light of enlightenment shines everywhere, this career can only be achieved through boundless altruism and infinite compassion. If enlightenment does not have compassion, it is selfishness. When your mind is still discriminating, clinging to self, and still thinking about yourself and others, you will still suffer in samsara and the six paths. Therefore, liberation is only complete when there is a harmonious combination of wisdom and compassion.
    Compassion is high and wide love, in the sense of:
    - Kindness is to help others suffer less and
    - Compassion is bringing peace and happiness to others.
    After being enlightened and liberated, you are no longer suffering due to the influence of physical and mental conditions. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have developed immeasurable compassion, the thought of those who are drowning in the ocean of suffering, and sought salvation. If you want to do like the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, then with people who are material suffering, you share food, clothes, and medicine, with people who are mentally suffering, you use words of comfort, use Buddha Dharma to guide others on the path of goodness and beauty. In the Mahayana scriptures, bodhisattvas are often mentioned with immeasurable compassion, such as:
    - Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, in the Universal Gate Sutra, with the vow to save suffering and rescue sentient beings. He listened to the painful cries of sentient beings in the Saha world to manifest salvation. Wherever there is a cry of pain, there is His presence. Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara made a vow:
    - When there are no more suffering beings in the world, then I will enter Nirvana.
    In the Ksitigarbha Sutra, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva vows to go to hell to save sentient beings with the great vow:
    - As long as hell is not empty, I will not become a Buddha. As long as sentient beings are not free from reincarnation, I will not attain Bodhi.
    With that great vow, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva rushed into the hells to save sentient beings. Only beings in those realms have a profound experience of suffering.
    In that constant suffering, the development of a new mind is profound and the will to seek liberation is strong. Perhaps in hell is where sentient beings realize the First Noble Truth of suffering most deeply. But the constant suffering does not give sentient beings the opportunity to practice. Without the protection of Bodhisattvas, those sentient beings will only endure constant suffering.
    In the Shurangama Sutra, Venerable Ananda made a great vow:
    - If there is still a living being who has not yet become a Buddha, I vow not to enter Nirvana.
    These sentient beings are not just sentient beings in one realm, but all sentient beings in the worlds of the ten directions, in the vast universe. With the infinite number of worlds and infinite sentient beings, you can see the great and limitless scope of the Bodhisattva's compassion.
    In Buddhism, love always goes hand in hand with understanding, this is the basis of transformation practice. These two standards are like human legs, you will be crippled if you only have one leg, so:
    - Compassion without wisdom is just pity and crying.
    - Wisdom without compassion is only dry and inhumane knowledge.
    Therefore, liberation is only truly liberation when people have fully developed their compassion and understanding. With the light of liberating wisdom, Bodhisattvas illuminate the suffering of sentient beings with immense love. Treat everyone and all species with equality, with all love and understanding to find ways to help.
    In short, Buddhism's liberation is centered on humans. Starting from human suffering, and then finding a way to liberate that suffering within human conditions and abilities. In his exploration of the infinite potential of the human mind, the Buddha showed you that:
    - Only you can free you from all suffering, no god can change your destiny or damn you. The principle of Karma lets you see deeply whether happiness or suffering is created by you, you are the master of your destiny. You must be responsible for yourself. Because of your delusion, you created a god and then became a slave to that god. Enlightenment is the correct recognition of that truth. 
    If you have any recommendations, please e-mail to: