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

So all these texts, teachings, are more or less commentary of Atisha's Lam Rim. The great Atisha, the modern Mahayanist Buddhist teacher, who was born in India, in Bengal, and he was invited by the king of Tibet. He came to Tibet. And great Atisha wrote Lam Rim text, called Bodhi-patha Pradipam, "Lamp for the Path of Enlightenment." So this text, Bodhi-patha Pradipam, is the very first Lam Rim text. The concept of Lam Rim, the Lam Rim tradition, was actually born when Atisha wrote the Bodhi-patha Pradipam text in Tibet. He wrote the text in Tibet, in Sanskrit, and also translated into Tibetan. Then the Sanskrit translation was sent back to India, to Nalanda, to Bodhgaya and so forth. And the Indian people, Buddhists at that time, were so impressed, felt so appreciative because Atisha wrote this text. It was so important text. Because Lam Rim means "Gradual Path to Enlightenment." And the teaching explains how to become Buddha, how to become enlightened, gradually. One can become enlightened, one can become Buddha, gradually. Of course complete enlightenment, or Buddhahood, is final enlightenment, final stage of the spiritual path. But there is also gradual enlightenment. As you practice the path, gradually, then the gradual enlightenment will happen to you. The enlightenment realization will be born within you. And the gradual awakening is happening for all of us when we practice, practicing path. And gradually awakening, the realization is gradually happening, by practicing the gradual path.

And Atisha explained how to practice the path, Dharma, gradually, step-by-step. Atisha wrote this text, first time in the history of Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, and something short, short text. Very short text, something that we can read and even memorize, and follow very easily, and very convenient, Atisha wrote. And this kind of text are very important. The many Indian masters and meditators and yogis were yearning and looking for this kind of teaching and text, because the Buddha's teaching is so extensive, so vast. And we have 100 volumes. We have the Kangyur -- 100 volumes of the teaching of Buddha. All the sutras and tantra all together, written down there are, all together, 100 volumes. Then there are 200 volumes, the commentaries of Kangyur -- the Tengyur. Tengyur is the 200 volumes.

So there is so much to study, so much to learn, so much to think about, so much to read. But so little time. I mean, life is so short. You know life is so short. We are here only for short time. And by the time we feel, "I would like to involve myself deeply in the spiritual path, and path of enlightenment," then very little time actually left. For most of us, because when we are young, child and teenage, we are just studying all kinds of things -- science and mathematics, philosophy, or just learning about life, trying to grow, trying to become a human being. So by the time when you feel about spiritual path and by the time when you have some realization or deep question about life and death and purpose of life and spirituality, and renunciation, and bodhicitta and emptiness, impermanence and so on and so on. And then we realize there is very little time. We are here only short time. We are a temporary resident. We are like a visitor or perhaps like a tourist in this universe, on this planet. So maybe so little time to study and meditate.

But these teachings are so vast. Sometimes people kind of feel a little discouraged. Therefore, we need teaching that is written down and taught and explained, how to practice step-by-step, and gradually. So that's why Atisha's teaching, the text was so precious. And for that reason various masters, according Tibetan tradition, wrote commentaries, these different types of Lam Rim texts. And Lama Tsongkhapa wrote the Lam Rim "Chenmo," the great Lam Rim in the year 1402. This Lam Rim "Chenmo," the great Lam Rim, huge volume, it has 500 page, he wrote in this holy place called Rading, Rading monastery. This is the monastery where Dontompa, the great yogi who was the disciple of Atisha. Dontompa was also known as an incarnation of Avalokitesvara.

So Lama Tsongkhapa wrote Lam Rim "Chenmo." After that he wrote medium Lam Rim. And then he wrote this very concise, short Lam Rim. Also he wrote a text called "Foundation of All Perfections." Then he also wrote another very short Lam Rim called "The Three Principle Path." Then later on various teachers wrote Lam Rim. For example, the Third the great His Holiness Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Sonam Gyaltso wrote Lam Rim text called "The Essence of Refined Gold." The Fifth Dalai Lama wrote Lam Rim called "The Oral Speech of Manjushri." And the great Panchen Lamas also wrote Lam Rim texts. And so we have now lots of Lam Rim texts. So there are lots of Lam Rim teachings. We are very fortunate. And also, recent times, we have many translations now available. Different Lam Rim texts published by Snow Lion Publications, Wisdom Publications, Tharpa Publications, and so forth. We are very fortunate, now, I think.

When I went to Australia first time in 1975, end of '75, there was no Lam Rim text, except one Lam Rim book by Lama Zopa, and Gampopa's "Jewel Ornament" was translated by Professor Gunther. And very few Lam Rim books available. And now, when I read these Lam Rim books I wish when I was translating Lam Rim in Australia, I wish I had these Lam Rim books. And I feel like that. So anyway, we are very fortunate, very fortunate to have these different Lam Rim texts.


Onward Onward to Three Stages, p.3 

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