Rather than saying “Buddhism” is a type of religion, it is better to regard it as “teachings by the Buddha.” Also, the most basic foundation of Buddhism is to “clearly believe the law of cause and effect.” Where we go after death and if we will no longer transmigrate and can break away from the suffering of birth, aging, illness, and death all depend on what you do from now on and what teachings and lineage you follow. All the consequences are determined by the causes we have created due to “The law of cause and effect never errs.” That is why the Buddha taught us, “Abstain from whatever that is evil, and do all that is good.”
Why do we need to learn Buddha Dharma and understand Buddha Dharma? The most fundamental reason is as we live in this world, we must clearly believe the law of cause and effect. You need to know what effect will be created in the future from the mindset and ideas you give rise to at this moment. If today, you waste your time and ruin your health, be aware of the consequences tomorrow. Causes and effects form the incessant transmigration. Therefore, good causes will lead to good results. The same is true on the opposite. That is why we need to have a positive attitude to face our life and treat every day and every consequence in a proactive manner.
How can one attain liberation and end the cycle of birth and death? His Holiness the Buddha told us to proceed in the two aspects of cultivation and Dharma practice and not to miss either of the two! “If you practice the Dharma but do not cultivate yourself, you will not be able to attain accomplishment. If you cultivate yourself but do not practice the Dharma, you will not be able to generate realization powers. If you have listened to the teaching of the Dharma and cultivation, yet you do not put it into practice, it is as if you are trying to catch the moon from the moon’s reflection in water.
When you look at the many so-called Dharma masters, Dharma kings, rinpoches, and great knowledgeable and beneficent persons, if they do not mention cultivation to you and only say practicing a Dharma or just studying the theory of emptiness in Buddhist sutras can lead to accomplishment, then they are absolutely outside practitioners or demons. They can even be called evil practices. They are not authentic Buddhism. This is also a very important criterion for evaluating holy gurus.
In other words, other than concretely implement “cultivation” and “Dharma practice,” there is no second path leading to “accomplishment and liberation!” “You must cultivate yourself. If you do not cultivate yourself, you cannot attain accomplishment. You must learn the Dharma. If you only cultivate yourself but do not learn the Dharma, you also will not be able to attain accomplishment. These two points are very important and are interrelated. Neither can be missing.” This is also an important standard for you to judge whether the master you choose to follow can lead you to accomplishment and liberation.
Perhaps many people would say, since they have done very little study in Buddhist books and due to other conditions, “We do not know…” and “Who should we believe after all?” Actually, the answer is very simple. His Holiness the Buddha has told us long ago to rely on the “four points,” which are, “relying on the Dharma, not people;” “relying on wisdom, not consciousness;” “relying on the truth, not words;” and also “relying on the definitive truth, not non-definitive truth.” All need to use these four points to measure. What is to be measured? Following the principles of causality and attaining accomplishment, you measure if your master has taught you to transform causality through cultivation, and how many disciples have attained accomplishment from the Dharma transmitted by this master. All must be based on real examples and real evidence, not empty theories or meaningless words!
The above is my understanding from learning from Buddha, benefits and reflections that I would like to share with you all. I respectfully pray for all living beings to take refuge in true Dharma early and thus attain enlightenment early! Amitabha!