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Rather than a theologian or a systems thinker, the Buddha was a liberator, a spiritually attained practitioner and teacher of the path to nibbâna—freedom from hate, delusion, and fear. His goal was to help as many beings as possible live in equanimity, harmony, and loving-kindness. He was against all belief systems—a position that confounded many of his contemporaries, and that still puzzles people today who want to understand what "ism," what philosophy, he propounded. Many people still yearn to find in his words some "Buddhist fundamentalism" by which they can anchor ideological convictions and security against the turmoil of life.

The "Dhamma," or path to liberation, for which the Buddha was a spokesman, is not an idea; it is a mode of conduct and a way of life that leads to personal realization. Its goal is to release its practitioners from authorities and ideologies, not anarchistically or capriciously, but through training, by deepening their personal experiences of the nature of their true self and its ethical implications. It is through these long-cultivated, gradually deepening experiences that the Buddha led his followers to autonomy from ideas, philosophies, scriptures, even from himself. His classic similes focused on direct tangible experience. Like one from whom a poisoned arrow is removed, the student of Dhamma will experience relief from pain. Like one who eats nourishing food, the student of Dhamma will know the taste of liberation. These direct experiences of life's meanings and values are the Buddha's teaching.

—Paul R. Fleischman   

from the essay    
The Buddha Taught Nonviolence, Not Pacifism
© 2002 Paul R. Fleischman   

He called his a "Teaching for the removal of all grounds for views of all prejudices, obsessions, dogmas and biases." —Alagaddupama Sutta (MN 22)

The Experience of Impermanence  |  "On Buddhism & Buddha's Teachings"  |  Buddha's summation of Meditation
Paul Fleischman: Why I Sit  |  The Mirror: Advice on the Presence of Awareness  |  Austin Pick: A Wider Rotation