(The word ‘Buddha’ means 'Awakened One' or 'Enlightened One')
The Buddha's way of saving mankind was to teach them how to find salvation. He was not interested in alleviating a few chance cases of physical or mental distress. He was more concerned with revealing a Path that all people could follow.
According to the method introduced by the Buddha, each and every person must make the effort to train and purify himself to attain his own salvation by following the guidance given by the Buddha. 'You yourself make the effort for your salvation, the buddhas are only teachers who can show you how to achieve it.'
The Buddha's teachings, also known as The Dharma, are the Doctrine of Reality. It is a means of Deliverance from suffering and deliverance itself. Whether The Buddha arise or not, the Dharma exists. It lies hidden from the ignorant eyes of men, till a Buddha, an Enlightened One, realizes and compassionately reveals it to the world.
The Buddha's Teaching and message have had their effect on all people for thousands of years whether they believe in religion or not. They are not only meant for monks in monasteries. His Teachings are also meant for ordinary men and women living at home with their families.
When we recognize that all phenomenal things are transitory, are subject to suffering and are void of any essential reality, we will be convinced that true and enduring happiness cannot be found in material possessions and worldly achievement, that true happiness must be sought only through mental purity and the cultivation of wisdom.
The Buddha did not teach from theories. He always taught from a practical standpoint based on His understanding, His Enlightenment, and His realization of the Truth. His intention was to point out the futility of the worldly life and to show the correct, practical Path to salvation that He discovered.
The Buddha said, "Wise men give no credence to passing theories. They are past believing everything they see and hear."
The practical nature of Buddha's teaching is revealed in the fact that not everyone is expected to attain exactly the same goal in one lifetime, since the mental impurities are deeply rooted. Some people are spiritually more advanced than others and they can proceed to greater heights according to their state of development. But every single human being has the ultimate potential to attain the supreme goal of Buddhahood if he has the determination and will to do so.
The Buddha has said that it is because we fail to understand The Four Noble Truths that we have continued to go round in the cycle of birth and death.
His approach to the problems and suffering of mankind is straightforward and direct. His teaching illuminates The Way for mankind to cross from a world of darkness, hatred, and suffering, to a new world of light, love and happiness. Often, we only praise His Teaching and respect Him, but do not try to practice what He preached.
A sign board at partings of roads, for instance, indicates directions and it is left to the way farer to tread along the way watching his steps. The board certainly will not take him to his desired destination.
A doctor diagnoses the ailment and prescribes; it is left to the patient to test the prescription. The attitude of the Buddha towards his followers is like that of an understanding and compassionate teacher or physician.
For the Buddha, the entire teaching is just the realization of the unsatisfactory nature of all phenomenal existence or conflicts of life and the cultivation of the path leading away from this unsatisfactoriness. This is his philosophy. His sole intention and aim was to explain in all its detail the problem of suffering or unsatisfactoriness, the universal fact, to make people feel its full force and to convince them of it.
Buddha also taught that all existence is subject to the law of karma, that re-birth is the lot of man and that suffering is due to attachment - beliefs.
The Buddha emphasized the practical aspects of his teaching, the application of knowledge to life - looking into life and not merely at it. Wisdom gained by understanding and development of the qualities of mind and heart is wisdom par excellence.