The primary intent of the Buddha was to help every person achieve the same enlightened state he had achieved – in this lifetime. A quote from the Lotus Sutra reads:
At all times I think to myself:
How can I cause living beings,
to gain entry into the unsurpassed way
and quickly acquire the body of a Buddha?
In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha preached several parables to illustrate the universality of his teachings – some specifically to demonstrate how women and evil people were not excluded from the realm of enlightenment or Buddhahood. In the present day, we extend the egalitarian spirit of Buddhism to include all people, all “living beings.”
Because every person possess the Buddha nature, every person is equally deserving of respect. To disrespect another human being is to disrespect ourselves. Buddhism does not teach “every person is equal, every person is the same. Obviously, every person is different. We are all born into different circumstances, with different abilities, different skills, different talents, and different challenges facing us in life. If we were all the same, we would be living in a world of robots!
However, Buddhism teaches that every person deserves to be treated with the same dignity, the same respect. When we disrespect others or disrespect ourselves, we lose sight of the path to happiness in this lifetime.