The Three Stages of the Path
Teaching by Lama Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
September 1998, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Good evening. I would like to welcome you tonight. This night is very special time, special occasion. We are starting the seven-year study program of Sutra and Tantra. I would like to welcome you, and also I like to thank you to all of you showing great interest, wanting to know what we are going to study. I'm not sure all of you are going to study or not. But I know many of you are going to study, and many of you done lots of study before, and done also lots of practice: Dharma in general, and particularly Lam Rim, and Vajrayana path. And showing your interest, it is very wonderful, and I like to thank you, and I appreciate your coming here.

Tonight I would like to speak a little bit about the study program. I won't talk very much, because Cyndy already gave a very wonderful description, how we're going to study, why we're studying and so forth. As Cyndy said, this kind of study program is one of my wish, long-time wish. And I always felt it is important to people to study Dharma step-by-step, and have a long-term kind of vision. Because Dharma is very vast. Dharma is so profound. The Buddha's teaching is very profound and vast. So we cannot study, we cannot accomplish the result of studying, or we cannot achieve the result of Dharma practice in such short time.

And it is important to study for long time and practice long time, and have a vision and goal and dream, and also perhaps a kind of fantasy. And I had this vision that it is important to study Dharma for years, because I myself studied Dharma for many years, I can say. Even though I'm not a great scholar. I never been a good scholar. Since I was little I always prefer to meditate, somewhere in the mountains or in the caves. Many times when I was little, I request my teacher. I said to him, "I like to go into the mountains. Meditate." I was told my previous incarnations are Kargyupa lamas. And many Kargyupa lamas, most Kargyupa lamas are great meditators, practitioners. But also my teachers ask me to study. And also my teachers told me my previous incarnation made a will, and he said that he would like to study as well, in the Gelugpa monastery. So that's how I end up become a Gelugpa. And I also still have very deep, intimate feelings and devotion, connection, love and passion with the Kargyu lineage. Especially Karma Kargyu lineage. Because my monastery is Kargyu monastery in Tibet, and many of my family members are Kargyupas, and also Gelugpas.

Anyway, so because of my background, studying in the monastery, I saw how it is wonderful to study Dharma step-by-step. To study, and read, and discuss, and have a dialogue, and debate, and then meditate. Then discuss and debate and study. So then the Dharma gradually soaks deeply in your mindstream, within your mindstream. And also Dharma kind of soaks into your body. Not only mind, body -- in your heart, in your brain, in your liver, in your ?? And so you become a real Dharmic person, and your whole body language and mental attitude, everything becomes a Dharma person. It is possible one can become a good Dharma person and good practitioner, if he study for long time and meditate and practice.

So I felt it is important to study Dharma step-by-step and Lama Tsongkhapa said, this is very famous words, what he says in Tibetan, [Tibetan words here] means: first in the beginning, or in early age as a Dharma person one should study Dharma and listen to teachings. Take teachings from the masters, different masters, thoroughly, as much as possible. And that is very important. [More Tibetan words here] Then, in the middle, after that, in the intermediate state, at some point in your life, in your mid-life perhaps, then one can see. One can see the Dharma, one can have a good Dharma understanding. What is really Dharma, how the Dharma works. The teaching of the Buddha, the whole path, and the goal, and everything. You can see very clearly. Like looking at a good map. Good map -- looking at a good map, like that, you can see very clearly. And you have deep confidence in the Dharma, in mid-life, mid-Dharma-life, I should say. [More Tibetan words here]. Then at the end, one should practice, day and night, day and night. Now then he said, [more Tibetan words]. Then the Dharma, and the teaching of the Buddha, and the realization of the Dharma will bloom and increase within your mindstream, inside of you. Tibetan word is "??" "??" is the teaching of Buddha, and "??" means "to bloom." The realization will bloom within you.

So what Lama Tsongkhapa was saying is it is important to study Dharma. If you don't study Dharma, just sort of go right into meditation, so you only know maybe one formal meditation. Maybe you know some, one or two, three or some aspect of Dharma, maybe you're good. You maybe can do very well. But you don't have a good basis. And also, one cannot have the confidence to actually to give Dharma, and to share the gift of Dharma to others and for all sentient beings. That's why it is important to study Dharma, and then meditate. Study and meditate, study and meditate. Meditate and study.

And Lama Tsongkhapa is known as an incarnation of Manjushri. There were three great lamas who were incarnation of Manjushri: Sakya Pandita, Lama Tsongkhapa, and Long Chenpa -- he was great teacher according Nyingma tradition. And Sakya Pandita was great teacher and master according Sakya tradition, and Tsongkhapa was the founder of Gelug tradition. Now all the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism have Lam Rim teachings, and all the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhist tradition we have Lam Rim. According Gelugpa tradition we call "Lam Rim." According Sakyapa tradition call "Lam Dey." According Kargyu tradition there is a wonderful text called "The Jewel Ornament of Liberation" by Gampopa. And that text is Lam Rim. According Nyingmapa tradition there is a text called "??" which is also Lam Rim. 

Onward Onward to Three Stages, p.2 

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