The Buddhist Journey

Life is a journey as we travel through life with the three basic practices (vehicles or yanas)

(All quotes are of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche unless otherwise noted)

"In the beginning there is open space, and within that space is primeval intelligence, (vidya). It is like a completely open and spacious room in which you can dance about and not be afraid. You are this space; you are one with it. But you become confused. You begin to whirl and dance about and become too active. This is the beginning of suffering (samsara), and gives birth to ego and duality. There is still primeval intelligence, but it has been captured and solidified. It has become avidya ignorance. This blackout of intelligence is the source of ego." 

The way we make an identity out of this "disorganized and scattered process into one entity is a work of art." Avidya is precisely where we do the work of deconstructing the ego, but "we are not trying to get rid of the ego,  simply acknowledge it and see it as it is." Transcending ego avidya is pivotal for enlightenment. How do we escape this  "ape instinct of habitual struggle" and find peace? "The only effort is to give up the struggle" through the Buddhist practices (vehicles/yanas"). 
Trunpa provides a framework of Hinayana practices of Shila discipline, Samadhi meditation, and Prajna wisdom.  
Shila (Discipline): "That which cools off neurotic heat" translates as discipline or ethics. Here one stabilizes one's self. For example with sitting meditation we visualize ourselves as a mountain, solid and serene. "We follow the Buddha's example so that our state of mind becomes workable."
Samadhi (Meditation): With a foundation of shila discipline, we practice samadhi (meditation). There are two basic types of meditation: shamatha; peaceful, or calm abiding, and vipashyana; insight, or higher awareness. With practice we eventually relax our anxieties and drama to find peace and calm. This Trungpa calls "cool boredom" as we become "in tune with the power of the practice." Here we also develop empathy for ourselves, forgiveness for our transgressions, caring for our inner child, and enjoyment of ourselves as we are. 
Prajna (Wisdom): With a solid foundation of shamatha, prajna discriminating awareness (transcendent knowledge, or wisdom) arises. This is the power and presence needed to cut through ego and the suffering it causes.

(The practices of Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana are also defined through: view, meditation, and action):
Hinayana View: We examine our own nature and view of self through our habits, roles, experiences, actions, and greater world.  We begin with what is: our basic goodness as well as our addictions and dysfunction. 
Hinayana Meditation: We first practice Shamathha calming, stillness, tranquility meditation, then Vipassana insight or clear seeing meditation. 
Hinayana Action: Slowing and simplifying our lives, learning to "be" rather than always doing or having (acquiring).This has the quality of stabilizing or restraining our emotions, addictions, etc. this helps build emotional and meditative health as we become kinder, gentler, friendly and more accepting and authentic.

Mahayana: The bodhicitta enlightened heart and mind of awakening and compassion. "What are we waking from? The three poisons: passion, aggression, and ignorance or delusion." Persons who follow this path whole heartedly are known as bodhisattvas. It is the "natural state of being awake, tender, and genuine. That which combines spaciousness, sympathy, and intelligence; or interdependance, compassion, and knowledge. The basis of being awake and open. 

In order to be exposed to prajna (wisdom), we have to understand that it is not worth struggling, that we have to give up ego fixation. In order to be exposed to empathy or compassion, we have to give up territoriality, possessiveness, and aggression." As we tame our minds through the meditation practice and other disciplines in daily life "the possibility of further learning is taking place." Our true nature manifests as "some kind of gap, some discrepancy in our state of being that allows basic sanity to shine through." 
Bodhcitta: Has two aspects; Absolute and Relative. These two are illuminated in the lojong mind training slogans. Absolute Bodhicitta regards all life as  a dream, as we rest in the nature  of alaya (Home - "The Pure Land"), the present moment, and essence of infinite reality. Relative Bodhicitta is where real day to day life and all it's wonders and struggles come in. This is where kindness and compassion can become our guiding principles for ourselves, others, and our world.    
Basic Goodness: "Exploring the reality of our mind further, we discover that the basic state of our existence is fundamentally good, something that we can rely on. It is the natural state of virtue or goodness of the alaya-the level of consciousness that is the basis of all experience." Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche "There is room to relax, to open up. It is the basis of the possibility of absolute bodhicitta." 

View: Intimately connected to others we find our suffering is tied to others so that helping others helps us. We become as wakeful as possible for ourselves and others. Empathy and compassion arise. Calm stillness leads to vast openness in our relationships. This is shunyata emptiness, but only empty of individual reality, rather a view of multidimensional infinite interconnection (indra's net), or "Interbeing."

Meditation: Focus on heart and action, obstacles and aspirations. This is often done through the "Four Immeasurables" of loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. Also done through the "taking and giving" practice of Tonglin, as we take in others pain and  suffering, and give out our well being and love. We start with those close to us and gradually reach out to others less intimate, then those we usually have no feelings for ("neutrals"), then those we dislike or despise (enemies), then out to all life and creation. This challenges us deeply. We then take the meditation "off the mat" through use of the Lojong Slogans through-out our daily lives. The key being to continually balance compassion and wisdom  (avoiding "idiot" compassion). 

Action: As Hinayana was restraint from harm, Mahayana is a call to action and engagement with others. We become Bodhisattvas (persons with awakened heart and mind). We employ the paramitas and qualities of lightness and humor. Power and depth pervade our being and actions.
Vajrayana: The indestructible diamond path of sacred outlook.
"We learn how to respect our world. We realize that this particular world we live in is not an evil world, but filled with sacredness altogether. We learn to develop a sacred outlook that stems from the experience of mindfulness-awareness practice. Sacred outlook is not only about thinking that everything is good; it is the absence of imprisonment. 

You begin to experience freedom that is intrinsically good, unconditionally free, and fundamentally glorious and splendid." The Vajrayana journey incorporates the other vehicles as it focuses and gathers energy from Hinayana extending it out in Mahayana unto full manifestation without hesitation. Through a solid, sacred outlook it is the vehicle of skillful means to be truly helpful and of service. 
View: Expansive, fresh, sacred of boundless space. It is luminous, vast, and empty (of separation-interdependent) taking in all of phenomena. 
Meditation: Of deities (personifications of your particular nature) to invoke wisdom and power within (manjushri, aloeskiteshavara, etc). Vajrayana is naturally simple, free, relaxed, carefree, confident, and non striving. Like water, it simply flows with life, inhabiting the low places free of egoic ambitions. " In order to become decent Vajrayana people, we need to establish a strong foundation through Hinayana discipline and Mahayana benevolence as we constantly go back and forth."
Action: Based on wisdom and compassion, rooted in mindfulness it becomes uncompromising, radical, even severe. It's nature is determination, fearlessness, and no bullshit. All sights, sounds, gestures are portals to awakening. No limits or excuses. "If you are treading on this path, it is very important that you demolish the hidden corners of samsara, the devastating tricks that exist and that you have been able to maintain for such a long time." All three yanas vehicles are cyclical, as obstacles and breakthroughs can occur anywhere along the path.            

Beyond the three basic vehicles is maha ati, the ultimate vehicle, or "the yana of complete transcendence." This is also known as Dzogchen, the great completion. "'A' expresses awake, and 'ti' the ultimate or final thing. One is continuously awake, utterly awake, ultimately awake all the time. The highest level of cool boredom, which is very exciting. In the maha ati realm, the journey itself is the goal." 

A Note on Theism: Buddhism has no God. No entity that is all power, knowledge  and presence. Such a higher power could easily be seen as refuge, or savior to rescue us from our troubles we may come to be dependent upon. Without this, we are somewhat naked and forced to relate to ourselves as is, on our own personal experience. Buddhists do take refuge, but it is in the Buddhas (enlightened ones or teachers), the dharma (teachings) and the sangha (community), The closest things to a god is alaya, which translates to home, as in Himalaya; the home of snow, and the yidam deities of Vajrayana. These deities are "personifications of your particular nature."

Additional Important Buddhist Principles:

Dharma: The natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it. The Order That Makes Creation and Life Possible. The Right Way of Living  (Duties, Laws, Rights, Conduct, Virtues)  Cosmic Law and Order. Teachings of Moral Purification & Transformation. The Path of Righteousness. 

Three Dharma Seals or Truths: 1 Impermanence 2 Non-self   3 Nirvana
Impermanence: Every conditioned existence “Formation” without exception is inconstant in continuous  flux. Because of this attachment is futile and therefore leads to suffering, the only relief is unbinding-“Nirvana” Practice teaches us to cherish and  respect everything here and now while we can. Change makes life possible.
Non-Self: also known as Oneself, Interbeing, Dependant Origination, Oneness. Phenomena “Exist” only because of the “Existence” of other phenomena in an infinitely complex mutually interdependent web of cause and effect.  Discriminating awareness separates so we feel alone and afraid. We practice to see trees,  sky, flowers, buildings, animals, all in us, as us. We are what we touch and perceive. We look deeply to see essential elements of sky, water, sun, earth, consciousness, etc in everything to reunite us as one self.
Nirvana: “Unbinding” Is ground of all being, substance of all that is, the water of a wave. Pacifies, silences, extinguishes and liberates all concepts and notions and transforms them to the absolute truth and reality beyond birth, death, coming, going, one, many. For example: Water to Non-water to True Water-The Wondrous Nature of Reality
Four Holy or Noble Truths
1. Acknowledges (Ego) Suffering/Ignorance/Confusion/etc: (The problem) Task: to be comprehended.
2. Looking deeply into suffering to find its basis: (The cause) Task: to be abandoned using right view, thought, mindfulness, concentration to see layers of causes and conditions inherited from family, friends, media, culture, society through personal and collective consciousness.
3. Cessation of (Ego) Attachment, Aversion, Indifference: (The hope) Task: to be realized.
4. Eight Fold Path: (The cure) Task: to be developed to where it becomes our way of life at all times.
 1. Right View: Doubtless Dharmic understanding 2. Right Intention or Thought: Seeing the ultimate nature 3. Right Speech: Verbal reasoning, expression 4. Right Action: Virtuous life, activity, and behavior 5. Right Livelihood: Worthy helpful Dharmic life  6. Right Effort: Dharmic endeavors to benefit others 7. Right Mindfulness: Authentic presence, nowness 8. Right Concentration: Unobscured Samadhi (meditation)  
This summary arose mainly from writings by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Also from articles about his books by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and Judy Lief. Quotes are from Trungpa unless otherwise noted.