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Namo Dharmaya

Hail to the Teachings


By Lama Atisha

The original text of the 'Stages of the Path of the Great Vehicle':
Sanskrit: Bodhipathapradipam
Tibetan: Byang-chub-lam-gyi-sgron-ma ("Lam-dron")
by the great Indian Pandit Dipamkara Shrijnana Atisha, "Jowo-je"

Notes by webmaster in [brackets].

Obeisance of the translator from Sanskrit into Tibetan:
Homage to the Awakening Warrior, youthful, refined and glorious Manjushri.


To all Conquerors [Buddhas] of the three times, to the Truth of Dharma and to the Spiritual Aspirants, with great respect, I pay homage.
Being urged by the good disciple Changchub O, I shall elucidate the Lamp for the Path to Full Awakening.


Know that the three spiritual scopes as being small, mediocre and supreme.
So that their characteristics will be quite clear, I shall write down what distinguishes each.
Anyone who, by whatever means, seeks to procure for himself happiness merely in cyclic existence is known as an individual of the lowest scope.
He who turns his back on the happiness of transitory existence and turns himself away from the actions of evil, he who seeks for just his own peace is an individual known to be of mediocre scope.
Anyone who, realizing the suffering pertaining to his own being, wishes for the total elimination of the suffering of others is a person having supreme scope.
For these highest beings who aspire for the supreme awakened state, I shall explain the perfect method as taught by the spiritual masters.


Before paintings, statues and so forth of the Totally Awakened Being [Buddha], (as well as) reliquaries and the sacred Dharma offer flowers, glowing incense and any objects one has recieved just as related in the 'Conduct of the Entirely Good Samantabhadra' as well as in the 'Seven-fold Offering'.
With a mind never turning from the limit of the essence, complete awakening, out of great faith in the Three Rare and Supreme Jewels, while kneeling on bended knee, with palms placed together first go for refuge three times.
Then at the outset, out of a mind of pure love for every sentient being, look at each and every one of [sentient] beings, who all suffer from death, transmigration [bardo], birth in the three bad destinies [animal, preta and hell] and the like.
Out of the suffering - suffering, suffering [of change] and [all-pervasive] suffering - and the wish to free living creatures from its cause, activate the awakening mind [Bodhicitta] that vows never to turn back.
The excellent qualities produced by such an aspiring mind are explained well by Maitreya, the Loving One in the 'Adorned Tree Discourse'. Read that discourse or hear from a master the limitless excellences of the complete awakening mind. Be aware of its aspects and then, with this as your reason, generate this mind again and again.
In the 'Discourses Requested by Suradata' the meritoriousness of it is elaborated very well.
At which juncture, I shall quote here just three stanzas:

"If whatever merit of the awakening mind were to be form,
it would fill every realm throughout space and would come to exceed even that.

Realms of Buddha-fields, as many as the number of sand-grains in the Ganges,
a person may fill them all with jewels and offer them to the Protectors of the transitory world;

Yet should anyone join his palms to direct his mind to full awakening,
this offering is particularly noble: it is without any limit."

Having activated the mind that aspires to fully awaken, constantly make an effort to enhance it.
In order to recall it in subsequent lives as well, thoroughly safeguard your practices as it is taught.
Unless one binds oneself to the venturing mind [aspirational bodhicitta], one's perfect aspiration will never increase.
Therefore, one who wishes to enhance the bond with complete awakening, should try and make sure to accept it.
One who is already endowed with a vow of the seven categories of Individual Liberation [pratimoksha] can receive the bond of an Awakening Warrior; others not.
From the seven categories of Individual Liberation vows that were expounded by the Ones Thus Gone [Buddha], those of pure conduct are supreme: (the highest is) correctly asserted as the bond of a fully ordained monk.
In accordance with the ceremony expounded in the 'ethical discipline chapter' of the 'Awakening Warrior's Levels', accept the bond from a good spiritual master who has perfect characteristics. Anyone skilled in the ceremony of the bond, abiding in the bond himself, competent in bestowing the bond and compassionate is known as a qualified master. However, if you have tried and failed to find a master such as this, I shall explain a correct procedure for taking the bond other than that.
As in previous times when Manjushri was King Ambaraja, the way he activated his heart to awakening is explained in the 'Discourse Ornamenting the Buddha-field of Manjushri'.

Here I shall write most clearly in accordance with that: be in the presence of the Protectors for activating the complete awakening mind:

Keep as your guests all living beings to release them from cyclic existence;
A malicious mind, a mind of anger, avarice and envy, these should never occur from now until the attainment of complete awakening.
Act in pure conduct.
Work at abandoning evil and desire.
Be joyful in your bond with ethical discipline.
Emulate the practices of Buddha, the Awakened One.
Be not inclined to attain full awakening by a quick means just for yourself, but (be prepared to) remain until the extreme end (of time) for the cause of even a single sentient being.
Prepare for (the attainment of) pure realms, boundless and beyond imagination.
Work to be known by your name and to abide purely throughout the ten directions.
Always be pure in deeds of body and speech and also pure in the activity of the mind.
Never commit unwholesome actions.
Maintaining oneself in the bond through the aspiring mind is the cause of purifying one's body, speech and mind.

If these three ethical trainings are practised well, one's respect for the three ethical trainings will increase.
Thus, abiding by the bond of an Awakening Warrior with perfect completeness, through effort will fulfill the accumulations for complete awakening.


The cause of fulfilling the accumulations which are in the nature of physical merit and pristine awareness is said by all Awakened Beings to be the generation of heightened awareness. Just as a bird whose wings have not developed is unable to soar in the sky, one who lacks the power of heightened awareness is unable to benefit sentient beings. Whatever merit accumulated in a day and a night for one who is endowed with heightened awareness cannot be gained in even a hundred lifetimes for someone lacking heightened awareness. Those wishing to quickly complete the accumulations for full awakening will gain the heightened awarenesses by exerting an effort to do so: not by being lazy. (However,) without accomplishing tranquil absorption heightened awareness will never arise. Therefore exert an effort again and again to accomplish tranquil absorption.
Yet even if one meditates with great effort for thousands of years while the contributing factors for tranquil absorption are weakened, meditative concentration will never be attained. Therefore maintain these factors well as expounded in the chapter of the 'Accumulations for Concentration'. Place the mind virtuously on any single object. When the yoga of tranquil absorption is attained, heightened awareness will also be attained.


To be lacking in the practice of transcendent intelligence [gnosis] will not eradicate mental obscuration. So in order to discard every emotional disturbance and mental obscuration to omniscience, meditate constantly on the yoga of transcendent intelligence conjoined with the method. The method separate from wisdom, and wisdom separate from the method also, are [both] taught to [result in] bondage [to cyclic existence], so do not forsake either.
What constitutes "wisdom"; what constitutes "method"?
To eliminate any doubt, I shall clarify the proper distinctions between method and wisdom. Aside from transcendent intelligence, every kind of virtuous practice such as that of transcendent generosity is explained by the Conquerors as being the method. By the power of acquaintance with the method and by (the awakening mind) itself, anyone who meditates on discriminating intelligence will quickly attain full awakening, (but) not through meditating on non-self-existence alone.


Being aware of the emptiness of natural existence, which involves the realization that the aggregates, sensory spheres and bases are not created, is the full explanation of what constitutes "wisdom". It is impossible for existent entities to be created and also non-existence is like a flower in the sky. Since fallacies consequently will be present for either, both together can never arise.
Things are not created from themselves, nor from others, nor from both, nor from no cause. Therefore, essentially they have no nature in themselves.
Furthermore, when one analyses all phenomena as unitary or multiple, being essentially unapprehensible (as such), one will ascertain that they lack any nature of their own. The reasons in such texts as (Nagarjuna's) 'Seventy Emptinesses' and his 'Fundamental Treatise on the Middle Way' show that the nature of all things is established as being empty. Because this text would become too extensive, I will not elaborate any further here. I just mention it to establish my tenets and to explain it properly for meditation.
Thus the nature of every single phenomenon is unapprehensible. Whatever constitutes the meditation on non-self existence is the meditation of discriminating intelligence. Just as discriminating intelligence does not see any nature in all phenomena, mentally analyse that intelligence itself (and) meditate on that without any conceptualising. As worldly existence arises from conceptualization, it is itself a conceptual thought. Therefore, the discarding of every conceptualization is the supreme state beyond sorrow.
Furthermore, Buddha the Endowed Destroyer has similarly stated:

"Conceptualization, the great ignorance, throws one into the ocean of cyclic existence.
Dwell in non-conceptualising meditative concentration, clear, without concepts, like space."

Also he has said in the 'Mystic Recitation of Engaging in Non-conceptualization':

"O Son of the Conqueror, in this high practice of Dharma, if one contemplates non-conceptually on appearance,
one will transcend the difficult to pass conceptions and gradually will come to non-conceptuality."

Once you have attained through such scriptural sources and reasoning that phenomena - by lacking a nature of their own - in their entirety are uncreated, meditate without conceptualising.


In this way, when one has meditated on Thusness, gradually, from attaining (the stages of the spiritual paths) such as "Warmth," (the spiritual levels of) the "Greatly Joyous" and so forth will be attained and the full awakening of a Buddha will not be far away.


By the activities of peacefulness, increase and so on that are accomplished only by the power of mantra and also by force of the eight great accomplishments, such as the siddhi of the auspicious vase, one can complete the accumulations for full awakening. If one wishes to blissfully practise the secret mantra as expounded in the tantras of Action, Performance and so on, then, for the bestowal of a qualified master's empowerment, one should offer gains, service, valuables and so on and carry out his words and the like so that by all means one makes the venerable master delighted. When the tantric master is well pleased, the full bestowal of an accomplished master's empowerment will give one the fortune to achieve actualization which, in its nature, is pure of all evil.
As it is clearly reflected in the 'Great Tantra of the Primary Buddha', the bestowal of the secret wisdom empowerment should not be (actually) taken by a celibate practitioner. Since one would be following a rejected practice, were one to hold that empowerment, while maintaining the pure conduct of an earnest practitioner, the vows of celibacy will be transgressed; the earnest practitioner will receive the downfall of defeat. In doing so, he [or she] will surely fall into a bad destiny without any accomplishment whatsoever. (However,) listening to and teaching all tantra, making fire offerings, giving pujas and so on is without fault for one has received the master's empowerment and is aware of Thusness.


The venerable elder Shri Dipamkara, having seen explanations from the Dharma in the 'Discourses' and so forth, in being requested by Chang Chub O, has made this brief explanation of the path to full awakening.

The Lamp for the Path to Full Awakening, composed by the great master Dipamkara Shri Jnana, the "Glorious Illuminator of Primordial Awareness," is complete.


Translated and settled into Tibetan from Sanskrit by the Indian abbot Dipamkara Shri Jnana and the Tibetan translator, the monk Gewai Lodro (Dge-ba'i blo-gros).
Translated into English from Tibetan by Gonsar Tulku and Brian C. Beresford in accordance with the instructions of the Tibetan Lama Geshe Rabten (May 1975, Jan 1976, May 1978). Slightly edited by Rudy Harderwijk.


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