Theravada Buddhism is a pragmatic, psychological approach to a wholesome way of life. Its teachings and practices focus on the development of positive human behavior. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is perfect mental health – the state of Nirvana. In the Buddhist view, an individual’s mental well being is proportional to his or her inner development of two primary qualities, compassion (ability to care for others) and wisdom (capacity for critical thinking). The continuous refinement and full development of these two qualities is the life-long challenge addressed by Buddhism.
The primary obstacle to the development of compassion and wisdom is self-centeredness (tanha). This selfishness, absence of empathy for the external world, and inadequate skills in critical thinking, all contribute to individual suffering and to subsequent collective social suffering. In the Buddhist view, the essence of a wholesome society is the mental health of its citizens.
Buddhism presents a systematic methodology for developing a wholesome way of life. This method is not based on any particular faith or religious dogma. It is, rather, a logic-based behavioral training wherein the individual is the focus.
The three parallel goals to be accomplished in achieving a wholesome way of life are summarized as follows: The first goal is the development of peaceful and respectful relationships, with one’s self, ones fellow human beings, other living creatures, and the ecological environment. The second goal is the development of keen focus and concentration. This concentration is mandatory in order to observe and analyze events with clarity and precision. The third goal is to develop insight and critical thinking skills that result in making better decisions. Continuous practice in these three areas leads to wisdom and enables one to understand the subtle phenomena of Cause and Effect and Universal Interconnectedness that generate compassion.
With each step of this systematic training one becomes incrementally more skillful at being mentally alert and socially productive.
Buddhism is undoubtedly the world’s oldest systematic approach to the analysis and healing of the human mind. The Buddhist way of life has been scrutinized, tested, verified and embraced by many eastern cultures over a period of two thousand six hundred years. It has been practiced by billions of people in the East. It is only during the last few decades that the practice of Buddhism has begun to take roots in the West.
It is obvious that today’s world, particularly, is in urgent need of this wholesome wisdom. The purpose of the American Buddhist Seminary is to study, practice and share this age old wisdom that is so practical and applicable, even in this modern, high-tech world.