Trying to wrap my head around Buddhism (what it is, exactly) is a very slow and ongoing process. What I find helpful is finding the similarities between all the different types of Buddhisms and not worrying too much about the differences.
I also find the simplest explanations the most helpful. In the Dhammapada, the Buddha sums up the teachings in three simple lines,
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to purify one’s mind – this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
They are definitely challenges for many of us to follow, myself included, but seeing it put so simply gives me hope that I can do it!
The first time I visited the Hanmaum website, I was struck by a similar lesson, bare and simple,
The goal of Buddhism is to see things as they truly are.
I’m not sure that it has the same effect on others that it had on me, but it literally made me stop for a moment. It struck me in several different ways at once… It made me realize that I don’t see things as they truly are, it also made me realize, “Here is someone who does see things as they are. It’s possible for all of us to see the same.”
The journey of opening my eyes has been mixed with pleasure, pain, and learning not to get hung up on either. It took a lot to look at the “joys” in my life and to realize the underlying suffering attached to them. The more I look, the more I see, the more I let go, the more I’m able to gradually see a third layer, one of pure, independent happiness, seeing things the way they truly are.