Practicing the Path - Foreword
Iam very happy to see the publication of this book on Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim Chenmo. The lamrim is the essence of all the Buddhist teachings, and shows how to put into practice all of the various scriptures: Hinayana, Mahayana, and Tantrayana. Although there are many different sutras and tantras by the Buddha, and many commentaries on these, the lamrim arranges the entire path in stages, in a practical manner, so that individuals can go from the beginning all the way up to enlightenment.
As is well known, lam means “path” in Tibetan and rim means “stages.” The great teacher Atisha summarized all the Buddhist scriptures in his Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, the root text for the lamrim tradition. His text divides beings’ spiritual perspectives into three levels: beginning, intermediate, and finally, highest. Based on that division, the Lamp for the Path shows how to begin, explaining the main activities and emphasis of that initial stage. When that is fully developed and a practitioner reaches the intermediate level, the Lamp for the Path describes the meditations and emphasis at that stage. Finally, it describes the practice of the highest beings, the Mahayanists. Of these three levels, the first two mainly emphasize how an individual can be liberated from misery or from an impure life, while the third emphasizes liberating others, starting with one’s own dear mother. Seeing all beings as equal to one’s dear mother, one develops the wish to liberate them all. The third level presents the ideal way to liberate them.
There is no sentient being who does not want to be free from misery. Each one of us wants peace and happiness, and particularly everlasting peace and happiness. Yet we do not know how to bring that about, due to ignorance and the other delusions, which obstruct knowledge. As Shantideva says:
Although they wish to escape suffering
They run straight to the causes of suffering.
Although they wish happiness, out of ignorance
They destroy their own happiness, as if it were their enemy.
All the teachings of the Buddha, either directly or indirectly, were taught for the sake of wisdom, to free sentient beings from misery so that they may attain the highest goal of lasting happiness. Although 84,000 different teachings were taught for these purposes, the lamrim arranges those practices to make it easier to grasp and actualize their essential meaning. By condensing and arranging them in an orderly way, the lamrim teachings include the sequence, the variety, and the essence of all the teachings of the Buddha.
As Je Tsongkhapa says in his short lamrim text, the Condensed Meaning:
These stages on the path to enlightenment
Fulfill all the aims of the nine types of beings without exception.
Their instructions, a wish-fulfilling gem,
Gather together the rivers of thousands of excellent texts.
Thus they are indeed an ocean of glorious good explanation.
Since Je Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim Chenmo, the great exposition on the lamrim, is an extremely deep teaching, it is possible to give numerous different explanations of it. Thus, even though many others have commented on the text before, I feel it will be of great benefit for people to have this detailed explanation by Yangsi Rinpoche.
Geshe Lhundub Sopa