Buddha Shakyamuni taught eighty four thousand different teachings according to the interests and abilities of his disciples. There are three types of disciples, those of greater, middling and lesser abilities, and Buddha taught them accordingly. There are some teachings for the very intelligent that liberate in this lifetime. For the middling there are teachings that will liberate in the next life or in some future life. And for those with lesser ability there are teachings that will prevent rebirth in the lower realms. There are immense benefits for practicing and hearing the dharma. You don't have to feel discouraged because of lack of improvement in your practice, because there are many layers of obscuration. Just like deep snow takes a long time to melt, those with thick obscurations will see improvement slowly. So don't feel discouraged.
The teaching of the Buddha is that the nature of mind contains the seed of enlightenment. All sentient beings, even the smallest insect are equal in that regard. But insects must endure more suffering as a result of their negative karma. There are special means for saving beings like insects, through mantra and blessing pills that will liberate them from their suffering.
Even though the nature of mind carries the seed of enlightenment, we have many sufferings. Enlightened beings like Shakyamuni Buddha are liberated from suffering. The qualities of buddhas are vast, like space or the ocean. We are obscured, like a cloud, and enlightened beings are unobscured, like space. There are few enlightened beings and many who are ordinary. Enlightened beings have realized the equality of samsara and nirvana. They have realized the inseparability of appearance and emptiness. But ordinary beings have not realized this. Once they understand impermanence and that the mind cannot be found, they will have no attachment to phenomena. When they have no attachment, they will be freed from samsara.
In reality, the basic mind of ordinary beings and buddhas are equal. It is like water colored with different colors. Despite the colors, it is all water. Similarly, the minds of ordinary beings and buddhas are the same. But because we search all the time for happiness in this life and to avoid suffering we are bound by afflictive emotions. That is how ordinary beings and buddhas are different.
The deluded minds of ordinary beings see the unreal as real. It is like a jaundiced person who sees a white conch shell as yellow. The deluded mind sees phenomena as existent, concrete, and permanent. Even though there is no self in form, the deluded mind grasps at form as a self.
There are different levels of people. Some have practiced the dharma in previous lives. When they hear the teachings, they immediately have confidence in them, because their obscurations are few. Others do not have such confidence, because their obscurations are thick. Some scientists are brilliant, but they cannot see the nature of mind. Only an enlightened being like Shakyamuni Buddha can really understood the nature of mind.
There many jewels in this world, but only the dharma is the wish fulfilling jewel. It can remove the root of suffering. That is why the dharma is regarded as the incomparable jewel. The three refuges are Buddha, dharma, and sangha. Buddhas were once like us, but through their practice, they have become a refuge to all beings and show the way to attain enlightenment. The essence of all the methods for attaining enlightenment is relative and ultimate bodhicitta. The refuge of the Buddha are the enlightened beings of the past, present, and future. Their teachings are the dharma. And those who hear and practice this teaching are the sangha. In order for the sangha to be enlightened, they have to understand the nature of mind. The teacher represents all three refuges, because the teacher's mind is Buddha, his teaching is dharma, and his form is sangha.
Teachers have two kinds of teaching, the absolute and relative teachings. The absolute teaching is very simple. It is just understanding the nature of mind. When mind is understood, so are all phenomena, because all phenomena come from the mind. Then all phenomena are seen as impermanent and all suffering and happiness are seen as coming from mind. When you look at mind you will discover absolute truth for yourself. Those students who are ready to practice the absolute teachings will definitely trust what the Buddha has taught. They will trust the teaching that happiness and suffering comes from the mind and all phenomena arise from mind. When they look at thought in meditation and it will disappear. By being mindful of thoughts in this way, no further karma will arise for them. When no karma arises, there will be no suffering.
When you understand the genuine teaching of the Buddha it will remove your suffering because from the teachings you understand the truths of impermanence and suffering. With this understanding, a mother will see her own child is impermanent and must eventually die. If the child suddenly dies, the mother will be aware that this is just how things are. But if the mother thinks of the child as permanently existing and the child dies, the mother will suffer greatly. The reason we do not understand our own mind is because of so many layers of obscuration. When a child is born, attachment and obscurations are born at the same time in the mind of the mother.
You have to look at the nature of obscurations and eliminate them, whether they are greed, anger, or ignorance. It is very important to know how obscurations develop. If you don't know this, you can't dispel them. I spoke of the analogy of the child and its mother. First the mother likes the child, which is one layer, then the mother sees the child as beautiful, which is a second layer, then as intelligent which is a third layer. It is like being bound by a rope. If the child dies because of impermanence the mother will suffer greatly. If you know how obscuration develops, you can immediately look at the nature of the obscuration when it appears. Our minds are like ice that is frozen by the cold of the afflictive emotions. In order to melt it, we need sunlight, which is the cultivation of bodhicitta. Ordinarily, if your enemy harms you, you will feel anger. This is like cold freezing water into ice. In a situation like this it is important to be mindful and to cultivate bodhicitta.
If you can make the distinction between thoughts and mind, within that moment you can be enlightened. If you see the nature of mind and remain in that awareness you are enlightened. But when thoughts appear and you fail to recognize their nature, you become ordinary. So ordinary beings and enlightened beings are only separated by one moment. So first you must know the nature of your own mind.