The Buddhist doctrine can be divided mainly into two aspects: the emancipation of one's own mind from attachment on the one hand and the guiding of others from misery to happiness on the other.
The founder of Buddhism is not the creator of fortune or calamity, but rather someone who teaches people how to seek blessings and avoid calamity.
Fortune and calamity conform to the law of cause and effect which is wrought upon oneself by oneself alone through the time factor of past, present and future.
Each person thinks by himself and whether he puts his thoughts to action or not, he is bound to leave traces in his mind. His speech and action will also leave imprints in other people's minds depending on how they take to them. These impressions, whether they be good or bad will accumulate to be a force which will trigger future action, and this is called karma.
At present, people get on their lives in different environments all due to their past thoughts and action - the result of their past good or bad karma. Human relationships could fare for better or worse depending on the emotional involvement of one's past action and how it reacted in other people's minds at that time and a corresponding effect is thereby aroused.
Since the environment and one's encounters in life are all the result of one's own doing, so one has to accept whatever comes to him, whether it be good or bad. If his karma is such that he has to suffer in this life before his karma is exhausted, it is impossible for him to cut short his suffering by seeking a premature death. Every cause has its effect and it is only a matter of time. There is no place to escape to and no Buddha land to accommodate him.
One must realize that the future is in our own hands. If opportunities exist right now, one must make the most use by doing good deeds, to leave good impressions on others and to foster a good relationship with others. Then the future will be filled with blessings and happiness because those who have benefited from your action will seek to return the favour.
Life and death are also governed by the law of cause and effect. All sentient beings do not live just one life but continues on like running water in a stream, with an endless past and an endless future. The law of cause and effect not only extends through time, but also covers a very wide field. Apart from human beings and the animals domain, it also reaches the devas in the heavens above and hungry ghosts and hell beings in the hades below, a total of six states of being. Humans are born from these six sources and when they die, they head for these six states.
The life and death of beings are governed by their karma. Those who have done good deeds will be reborn in heaven as celestial beings or in humans as the most fortunate among men. Those who have done bad deeds will be reborn in humans as the unfortunate suffering masses, or in the hades as ghosts and hell beings or in the animals state. Those who are reborn in the heavens will be their blessings exhausted some day and if their previous bad karma has ripened, they may head straight to the states of woe to begin their suffering. Likewise, those who suffer in the states of woe and have exhausted their sufferings and their good karma has ripened, they will be reborn among the humans and devas. All beings transmigrate among the six states of being and this is collective retribution.
In each state of being, the type, degree, and intensity of good or bad karma vary from individual to individual hence the diversities of rich and poor, longevity and short life, and this is individual retribution.
The law of cause and effect is fair to all. Those who know the workings of this law will be responsible for their own actions. They will accept reality, be tolerant and alert, and engage in good deeds all the time.
For the beginners on the Buddhist path, the most important prerequisite is not to commit bad deeds so as to avoid degeneration into the states of woe. One step further and you learn to control your desires and stay away from selfishness. However, the mind is accustomed to clinging to delusions and it is not easy to calm down and it depends on the practice of meditation to rid oneself of impure thoughts and to achieve a state of perpetual tranquillity.
To tread the Buddhist path, you must not seek your own salvation alone, but those of others. The practitioner who is not subject to transmigration through his own effects may, by the power of his vows, be reborn in different states of being to teach the beings to be relieved of suffering and attain happiness. This is what is known as Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas have the innate disposition to help others, nurture the loving kindness and compassion to give, teach, and save beings in distress at any time and place, and to any people of whatever clam or race.
Those who practise the Buddhist way and can at the same time transform others to it are the real Buddhists.