Approximately 2,500 years ago, a man named Siddhartha Gautama sat beneath a bodhi tree in north-eastern India. According to his followers, his mind ascended ever higher states of consciousness until he gained 'enlightenment' and became the Buddha, 'the Awakened One'. He had experienced the unfolding potential of the human mind and heart, its wisdom, compassion and deep joy. After this, the Buddha taught for 50 years, attracting followers from every area of his society: monks, nuns, mothers, merchants, kings, outcasts, who all wished to realise their human potential. After his death and over many centuries, his teaching spread across Asia until approximately a third of the world's population was 'Buddhist'. In the twentieth century, the teaching became established in the West, where it was entitled 'Buddhism'.
The Buddha taught from his own experience. He had seen the complex network of conditions that underlie how life is and all its events. He had understood that all things are impermanent yet deeply interconnected and that we are likely to suffer when we don't live in accordance with these truths. His response was a deep compassion. He knew that human consciousness can transcend these facts of existence and so he encouraged working with the nature of our minds. He saw that we can be more, 'skilful' in our ethical lives by being realistic rather than guilty around our failings. We can then work with how our minds create our action and thus who we are. He knew that we can change our tendencies.
The Buddha recognised the importance of meditation for refining our consciousness, releasing us from negativity and opening up new, creative states of mind. He emphasised mindfulness and loving kindness. He realised that we could move towards a compassionate, liberating insight into how things truly are and live in accordance with this. The Buddha simply invited us to take responsibility for ourselves and to follow his path if we wish. He said 'Come, see': try it out, judge by your own experience and see if it works.