Buddhism has taught me:
My teacher Lama Zangmo refers to me as an "aspiring Buddhist" because I'm forever on this journey of learning and exploring Buddhism. Contrary to what most people believe, to be a Buddhist is not a matter of believing, well not to me at least. To be a Buddhist means to understand, to know and to live by the teachings. I feel I've still got so much to learn and so I'll wear the badge "aspiring Buddhist for a while yet"
Humans are not superior to other living beings
Many of us in the west grew up believing that somehow humans are superior, that we have an entitlement to use this land for our own benefit. We grew up being told that animals are here for us, they were created to feed us. We were told that this planet is ours and as such we can treat it as we like.
Buddha taught that as human's we are privileged to have a better quality of life than many other beings on this planet, in this universe. We have the ability to "think" to make choices and to reason. But that does not make us more entitled, nor does it mean we are better. After all I haven't seen an animal destroy the planet yet!
"all beings tremble before violence, all love life, all fear death. See yourself in others, then who can you hurt?" - Buddha
So I now feel humbled to be a human yet try my best to not walk around with the arrogance of this human race believing that I have more right to be here than the dog, cow, pig or chicken.
What's more, Buddha helped me see that we are all part of the same human race, none of us are better than the next person. Things do not make you more valuable, your place in society does not make you more important, only the kindness of your heart can define you.
Compassion is true strength
The practice of compassion is at the core of Buddhist teachings and fundamental to practicing. Some view compassion as a weak response, after all if someone hurts us, surely we should hurt them back?
However history has shown us that meeting anger with more anger only leads to violence. It does not heal, it does not stop anything. Yet we persist. Even Jesus said "turn the other cheek" I don't know a religion that has ever preached violence or condoned killing.
To walk away, to stay silent, to not be the same us those that hurt us, takes enormous strength and it takes courage to practice compassion in the face of violence.
Does that mean we just let others get away with violence, with hurting us? Absolutely not. We deal with the root of the problem, we don't put a plaster over it and we don't dress it up as something else.
But mostly we do not hold onto it ourselves, we see the other person as having the potential to be better and if we can help them, then we do.
Self Compassion and Self Kindness is Buddhism to me
Learning to bring self compassion, self kindness and self acceptance into our lives is the hardest part of practicing Buddhism. It is also the most difficult part of teaching mindfulness, this is the part that most people struggle with.
In the west we are born to work towards something, to strive to become a better person, to achieve. We are told as children to work hard, get a good education, look good, dress well, get that good job and all the while our very essence is broken down.
We grow up forward thinking, never quite feeling good enough and self blaming when we don't succeed.
To be a human is to accept that we can never be perfect and trying to achieve this illusion that we can ever be perfect just helps to keep us in a state of striving for more.
"To find a Buddha all you have to do is see your nature" - Bodhidharma
And I guess for me the most important lesson that I've learned through studying Buddhist teachings is that we are all inately good, we are born with "Buddha nature". It's not out there, we have it inside us. So it is fruitless persuing happiness and peace externally, just get in touch with yourself and you will find your goodness where it's always been.