In this Teaching, the word AWAKENING does not mean rising from a dream or from sleep. Rather, it means to become conscious (attain Bodhi) to come out of the darkness of ignorance (avijjha). Because of ignorance, we are not able to know things as they really are. The great sage Gotama, who was born in India in 624 B.C., awakened himself from the darkness of ignorance. Therefore, he came to be know as the Buddha, which means either Awakened One or Enlightened One.
What the Buddha taught regarding the awakening of others is called Dharma. And those who are the main protectors, practitioners, and messengers of those Teachings are collectively known as the Sangha, the community of monastic. This community is a symbol of peace and unity and is comprised of all of the Buddha's ordained disciples of the past, present, and future. These three -- Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha -- are together known as the Ti-Ratana (Three Gems).
Those who have regard for the Ti-Ratana and who concentrate on their noble qualities for the sake of making mental progress are the followers of the Dharma. They abstain from all bad actions -- that is, from all unwholesome deeds, whether physical or verbal, which hurt others. For example, they abstain from: killing, harming, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and intoxicants.
REGARD (saddha) means holding a positive mental outlook toward something which inspires an individual to honor and appreciate the good as good. Regard, in the sense of having confidence in the admirable aspects of the Ti-Ratana, is an essential quality for a person to be a follower of the Dharma.
Bearing this in mind, one who has had the privilege of being born in a traditional Buddhist environment (as a result of his/her own accumulated past positive energy), but who is not respectful to the qualities of Ti-Ratana, cannot be defined as a real follower of the Buddha. Similarly, those who are born in a non-Buddhist family, but who nevertheless have regard for the Ti-Ratana and who abstain from all sorts of bad actions, are the real followers of the Buddha.
Now a question may arise as to how one may differentiate good and bad. On the one hand, according to the Buddha’s Teaching, any action (karma) done either in secret or in the open is good (kusala) when it is motivated by: generosity or the desire to share (dana), friendliness or unconditional loving-kindness (metta), compassion or the feeling of sympathy for others (karuna), empathetic-happiness or the feeling of joy in the joy of others (mudita), and/or mental balance or equanimity (upekkha). On the other hand, any karma whether done either in secret or in the open is bad (akusala) when it is motivated by: jealousy (issa), ill-will (dosa), greed (lobha), or delusion (moha).
As previously mentioned, it is ignorance that does not allow us to realize things as they really are. That is why one who awakens from the darkness of ignorance is easily able to differentiate between good and bad. One is able to accomplish this by the light of her or his own wisdom. One therefore accepts the good by viewing it as beneficial, and one avoids the bad by considering it harmful through life’s journey (Samsara).
An Awakened One knows that good karma that develops positive power (shubha shakti) is always beneficial and brings happiness -- not only in the mind of the doers but also for others. Bad karma, which produces negative force (ashubha shakti), is constantly harmful to all.
According to the Buddhist point of view, ignorance is the most dangerous obstacle on the path to ENLIGHTENMENT (perfection). It is due to ignorance, which keeps a person mired in delusion, greed, and ill-will, that most people are not able to know reality as it truly is. They do not know life or what is happening inside. It is for that reason that they keep binding and limiting themselves with faith to various blind beliefs.
But an Awakened One does not accept anything blindly or by faith, even if it is in the scriptures, or accords with tradition, or is expressed by teachers, relatives, friends, or is held as a popular beliefs. One accepts a thing in the way a goldsmith accepts the quantity and quality of a metal -- after weighing and testing it.
An Awakened One accepts a thing when it is seen to be conducive to the welfare of the many as well as helping to inspire them to keep to the Middle Way (Majjhima-Patipada). This is accomplished by respectable and harmonious means, which lead to permanent peace and happiness( Nibbana ).
But if a thing is not thought to be beneficial for oneself or others or both, then an Awakened One avoids it. The Teaching of Awakening provides a person with limitless opportunities for liberation, for unclouded thinking, and the natural expression of a clear mind. The great sage Gotama dispelled the darkness of ignorance within himself and brought back enlightenment into the world by the perfection of wisdom and a boundless compassion towards all beings everywhere and without distinction.
Therefore, through the TEACHING OF AWAKENING, one is able to easily overcome all sorts of bindings that limit one, such as race, color, language, caste, and so on. One is then capable of chanting with a great heart the message of great compassion: