The Transmission of Buddhism to the West
In the mid-twentieth century, following the political upheavals in Tibet, many Tibetan Lamas travelled to the West and as a consequence the teachings of the Buddha are now available to Westerners. There are four major schools of Buddhism that were established in Tibet and are now established in the West: Sakya; Kagyu; Nyingma; and Gelug.
Each of these traditions possesses the skilful means that lead to realization. Each has developed its own emphasis on particular teachings and meditations to provide coherent systems of practice. Different systems will appeal to different people and you may find you have a natural affinity with the teachings of one particular school.
All these major schools continue to teach the the Three Baskets, the tantras and the shastras and appoint qualified teachers to transmit the Buddha’s teaching to their students . It is through the direct person-to-person transmission of the Buddhist teachings by qualified masters, followed by personal reflection and practice, and clarification of their meaning, that we gain confidence in them. Real confidence is achieved when the truth of the teachings is tested directly against our experience.
Buddhist Training in the West
Some believe that the traditional teachings and practices should be ‘re-invented’ for a Western audience to make them more accessible.
In Dechen we believe that Westerners should have the opportunity to receive and practice the teachings originally taught by the Buddha and practiced in India and Tibet. We focus on the proven methods of transmission and practice and distinguish between cultural custom and the actual teachings.
It took many generations for Buddhist teachings to become established in Tibet and had many challenges. The Tibetans became meticulous in learning the original teachings transmitted from India and emulating their predecessors’ approach to practice.
We should follow their example and learn and practice the authentic Buddhist training and teachings while remaining natural in our contemporary social setting.