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Exoteric and Esoteric Buddhism by Tsong-kha-pa

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Tsong-kha-pa

Tsong-kha-pa

from:

Lam rim chen mo by Je Tsong-kha-pa

(Vol. III, Chapter 27):

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

[Intro by editor Dth:

This text at the end of the third and last volume of The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment – Lam Rim Chen Mo gives a very good and basic idea of what is meant by The Path, exoterically and esoterically. The second section of this chapter deals with esoteric Buddhism and Vajrayana – the Diamond Vehicle – the extended stages of the Mahayana or the Great Vehicle. Because the text is often difficult to understand for those who are not well acquainted with these teachings, I have tried to put it in a more easily accessible form. The original and no doubt better translation is copied below.]

Tsong-kha-pa writes:

“Now I will give a brief outline of the general meaning of the path. From the very beginning the path is based on how much you rely on a teacher, so think seriously about this.

Then, once you have developed an unconstrained desire to take advantage of your available time [dal ba], this desire will spur you to practice continually. Therefore, in or­der to develop this desire, you must meditate on the topics connected with time and opportunity. If you continue to give in to the various sentiments that hunt for the aims of this worldly life only, you will not seek the aims of future lives with true attention. So first meditate or reflect deeply on how your body is impermanent and the fact that it will not last for very long, and also reflect on how after death you will wander in the so-called miserable realms – these are the situations of consciousness during both life on earth and during death which each one will have as long as one has not liberated oneself from delusion and illusion. These are the things that keep one’s mind and desires occupied with subjects and objects that are of passing interest – but they are not real.

At that time, by becoming truly aware of the frightful things that we experience all the time on earth, after death and in future births, one will naturally wish to feel certainty, from the depths of one’s heart, that there is a way out of this forever.

For this, in Buddhism, ‘three’ refuges’ have been formulated. First we can take refuge to the Buddha, a fully awakened human being who had cut through all illusions and was no longer hampered by ignorance concerning anything whatsoever in this universe. Out of his wisdom and driven by compassion he gave teachings and exposed the path that leads forever to liberation, the path leading to buddhahood for each of us. To take refuge means to fully trust him. His teachings (both public and secret) are together called the dharma or the Buddhist doctrine. To dare and do rely completely on these teachings and guidelines is the second refuge. The third refuge is confidence in and solidarity with the community of those who have already entered the path. Taking refuge is a vow to train oneself accordingly and to follow the precepts, which is conditional for the path.

After you have done that, develop faith – in the sense of conviction – in karma and its effects from various perspectives. This faith in karma is the great foundation of all positive quali­ties. Make this faith firm.

Strive to cultivate the ten virtues[1] and to turn away from the ten non-virtues[2], and always stay within the path of the four powers.[3]”

When you have thus trained well in the teachings associated with a person of small capacity[4] and have made this practice firm, you should think often about the disadvantages of the cyclic of existence of continuous birth and death in which we are, and in general not pay attention to it as far as you can. Then, if you have understood the nature of karma and afflictions – the causes of cyclic existence – create a true desire to eliminate these causes. Become convinced of the path that liberates you from cyclic existence, i.e., the three trainings[5], and particularly strive to live according to whichever vows of individual liberation you have taken.

When you have thus trained well in the teachings associated with a person of medium capacity and have made this practice firm, consider the fact that just as you yourself have fallen into the ocean of cyclic existence, so have all beings, and that all of these has at least once been your mother[6]. Train in the spirit of enlightenment which is rooted in love and compassion, and strive to develop this as much as you can. Without it, the practices of the six perfections[7] and the two stages[8]are like stories built on a house with no foundation. When you develop a little experience of this spirit of enlightenment, make a habit of it. By training, make the aspiration as strong as you can. Then study the great effects of the bodhisattva deeds, learning the boundaries of what to discard and what to adopt, and develop a strong wish to train in those bodhisattva deeds. After you have developed these attitudes, take the vow to be engaged in this spirit of enlightenment. Train in the six perfections that mature your own mind, and the four ways of gathering disciples[9] which help other people to maturity of mind. In particular, even at the risk of your life try with all force to avoid the root infractions[10]. Strive not to be tainted by any of the smaller faults, and if so, work to repair it. Then, because you must train specifically in the final two perfections, which are concentration and wisdom[11] get knowledge as to how sustain meditative stabilization[12] and then achieve concentration. As much as you can, develop the view that both persons and things have no existence on their own behalf, i.e. become aware that nothing is independent of all other existing things. A thing nor a person ever has an isolated own self. Nothing is forever unchanging, nor is anything in the universe ever annihilated. After you have found that view and your the mind has really accepted it, understand the proper way to sustain this view during meditation, and practice your insight. Such mental stabilization and wisdom are called serenity and insight, but they are not something separate from the last two perfections – concentration and wisdom. Therefore, after you have taken the bodhisattva vows[13], they come about in the context of the training in its precepts.

You have reached a critical point when, while you are meditating on the lower levels, you increasingly wish to attain the higher levels, and when studying the higher levels, your wish becomes stronger and stronger to practice the lower levels. Some say that you should expend your energy only to stabilize your mind and to understand the view and to ignore all earlier subjects, but this makes it very difficult to reach the essential points. Therefore, you must make yourself fully confident about the whole course of the path. When you meditate on these subjects, train your understanding first and then go back to balance your mind. So if it seems that your faith in the teacher who instructs you on the path becomes less, work on the methods for relying on the teacher since losing confidence in the teacher will cut the root of everything good that has come together so far.

Similarly, if your joy in your practice loses strength, meditate on the subjects connected with the time and opportunity you have and make these your first attention; if your attachment to worldly life tends to grow bigger, think about the fact that all of this world is impermanent and will disappear after some time, and also think about the unpleasantness of the miserable realms of life and between lives on earth and the faults of the miserable realms. If you seem to be lazy about the proscriptions you have ac­cepted, think then that your know still but little about karmic cause and effect and make meditation on karma and its effects your pri­mary focus. If your sense of disenchantment with worldly things (i.e. all aspects of cyclic existence) decreases, your desire to seek liberation will reduce to mere lip service. To avoid that, think about the unpleasantness of cyclic existence.

If your intention to benefit living beings in whatever you do is not strong, then you cut the very root of the Great Path (Mahāyāna). Therefore, try to continuously bring the desire to reach enlightenment into practice and think about the causes which bring you on this path. Once you have taken the vows of a child of the conqueror [follower of the jina or conqueror, i.e. Buddha] and are training in the practices given, and if you then still remain connected with objects that are still interpreted by the mind as existing on their own behalf and independent on each other and independent of causes and effects, then use your reason and intelligence to destroy such ideas and train your mind to understand the emptiness of these seeming facts – which are in reality like empty space and an illusion.

If your mind is always distracted and cannot remain focused on a virtuous object, you should in the first place learn to remain steadily concentrated on one point of attention – as former teachers have said. From these illustrations, you should understand the cases I have not explained. In brief, with­out being partial, you have to learn to use the whole spectrum of virtues.

Among the stages of the path of a person of great capacity, I have explained how one who trains in the bodhisattva path practices insight – which is wisdom.

b How to train specifically in the Vajrayana

After you have trained in this way in the paths common to both sūtra [the texts] and mantra, you must undoubtedly enter the mantra path because it is very much more precious than any other practice and it quickly brings the two collections to completion. If you are to enter it, then, as Atisha‘s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment says, you must first please the guru – even to a greater extent than explained earlier – with deeds such as respect and service and with practice that is in accordance with the guru’s words. And you must do this for a guru who meets at least the minimum qualifications of a teacher explained there.

Then, at the outset, your mind should be matured through ripening after you have received an initiation from a qualified guru as explained in a source tantra [the text on which one relies]. You should then listen to the pledges and vows to be taken, understand them, and keep them. If you are commit fundamental violations, you may make these commitments again. However, this greatly delays the devel­opment of the good qualities of the path in your mind. Make a fierce effort not to commit any fundamental violations, but in the event that you have, use the methods that exist for restoring your vows. Since these are the basis of the practice of the path, and without them you will become like a dilapidated house of which the foundation has collapsed. The Root Tantra of Mañjuśrī[14] (Mañjuśrī-mūla-tantra- The Root Tantra of Gentle Voice) says, “The Master of the Sages does not say that faulty ethical discipline achieves the tantric path,” meaning that those with faulty ethical discipline have none of the great, intermediate, or low attainments. And it says in the Highest Yoga Tantra[15] texts that those who do not maintain their vows, those who have inferior initiation, and those who do not understand re­ality do not achieve anything despite their practice. Therefore some­one who talks about practicing the path without maintaining the pledges and vows has completely strayed from the tantric path.

In order to cultivate the mantra path someone who keeps the pledges and vows should at the outset meditate on the stage of generation[16][17] – which will lead to the stage of completion or perfection [rdzogs rim] of what is aimed at[18], the complete divine cycle[19] as explained from a source (tantric) text. The unique object to be eliminated on the tantric path is the conception of being ‘just common, ordinary, vulgar, low class, etc.[20] which regards the aggregates[21] the various divisions of the realms of existence or abodes and the dharmas[22] as ‘ordinary’. It is the stage of generation itself that eliminates this and transforms the abodes, bodies, and resources so that they appear as special. The conquerors [buddhas, bodhisattvas] and their children [followers, pupils] continually thank the person who clears away the conception of ordinariness for them in this way; such a person easily brings limitless collections of merit to completion, and thus becomes suitable for the stage of completion.

This person should then meditate on what appears in the source tantras on the stage of completion. Neither the tantras nor the scholars who explain their intended meanings hold that you should discard the first stage and merely classify it within the latter stage, training only in individual portions of the path. Therefore, you must bear in mind the vital points of the two stages of the complete cor­pus of the path of highest yoga tantra.

Considering only the terms, I have described a mere fraction of what is involved in entering into the mantra path. Therefore, un­derstand this in detail by using works on the stages of the mantra path. If you train in this way, you will train in the entirely complete corpus of the path, which includes all the vital points of sūtra and mantra. As a result, your attainment of leisure in this lifetime will have been worthwhile, and you will be able to extend the Conqueror’s precious teaching within both your own and others’ minds.”

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Lam rim chen mo coverHere follows the original translation of the same by Cutler[23]

Lam rin chen mo by Je Tsong-kha-pa

27

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

b’ How to train specifically in the Vajrayana

Now I will give a brief summation of the general meaning of the path. At the outset, the root of the path derives from your reliance upon a teacher, so consider this seriously.

Then, once you have developed an uncontrived desire to take advantage of your relaxation [dal ba], this desire will spur you to practice continually. Therefore, in or­der to develop this, meditate on the topics connected with relaxation and opportunity. Unless you then stop the various sentiments which seek the aims of this life, you will not diligently seek the aims of future lives. So work at meditating on how the body you have is impermanent in the sense that it will not last for long, and on how after death you will wander in the miserable realms. At that time, by creating a genuine awareness which is mindful of the frights of the miserable realms, build certainty from the depths of your heart about the qualities of the three refuges. Be constant in the common vow of going for refuge and train in its precepts. Then, from a range of perspectives develop faith, in the sense of conviction, in karma and its effects-this being the great foundation of all positive quali­ties. Make this faith firm. Strive to cultivate the ten virtues and to turn away from the ten nonvirtues, and always stay within the path of the four powers.” [note 733]

When you have thus trained well in the teachings associated with a person of small capacity and have made this practice firm, you should contemplate often the general and specific faults of cyclic existence, and in general turn your mind away from cyclic exist­ence as much as you can. Then, having identified the nature of karma and the afflictions – the causes from which cyclic existence arises – create an authentic desire to eliminate them. Develop broad certainty about the path that liberates you from cyclic existence, i.e., the three trainings, and particularly make effort at whichever of the vows of individual liberation you have taken. [806]

When you have thus trained well in the teachings associated with a person of medium capacity and have made this practice firm.?” consider the fact that just as you yourself have fallen into the ocean of cyclic existence, so have all beings, your mothers. Train in the spirit of enlightenment which is rooted in love and compassion, and strive to develop this as much as you can. Without it, the practices of the six perfections and the two stages'” are like stories built on a house with no foundation. When you develop a little experience of this spirit of enlightenment, confirm it with the rite. By making effort in this training, make the aspiration as solid as you can. Then study the great waves of the bodhisattva deeds, learning the bound­aries of what to discard and what to adopt, and make a strong wish to train in those bodhisattva deeds. After you have developed these attitudes, take the vow of the engaged spirit of enlightenment through its rite. Train in the six perfections that mature your own mind and the four ways of gathering disciples which mature the minds of others. In particular, risk your life in making a great ef­fort to avoid the root infractions. Strive not to be tainted by the small and intermediate contaminants and faults, and even if you are tainted, work to repair it.736 Then, because you must train specifi­cally in the final two perfections, become knowledgeable in the way to sustain meditative stabilization and then achieve concentration As much as you can, develop the view of the two selflessnesses, a purity free from permanence and annihilation. After you have found the view and stabilized your the mind upon it, understand the proper way to sustain the view in meditation, and then do Such stabilization and wisdom are called serenity and insight, b ­they are not something separate from the last two perfections. [note 737] Therefore, after you have taken the bodhisattva vows, they co about in the context of the training in its precepts.

You have reached a critical point when, while meditating on the lower levels, you increasingly wish to attain the higher levels, and when studying the higher levels, your wish to practice the lower levels becomes stronger and stronger. [807] Some say to expend your energy only to stabilize your mind and to understand the view, ignoring all earlier topics, but this makes it very difficult to get the vital points. Therefore, you must develop certainty about the whole course of the path. When you meditate on these topics, train your understanding and then go back to balance your mind. So if it seems that your faith in the teacher who instructs you on the path is decreasing, since this will cut the root of everything good that has come together, work on the methods for relying on the teacher. Similarly, if your joy in your practice loses strength, make meditation on the topics connected with leisure and opportunity your primary focus; if your attachment to this life increases, make meditation on impermanence and the faults of the miserable realms your primary focus. If you seem to be lazy about the proscriptions you have ac­cepted, consider that your certainty about karmic cause and effect is meager and make meditation on karma and its effects your pri­mary focus. If your sense of disenchantment with all of cyclic existence decreases, your desire to seek liberation will become just words. Therefore, contemplate the faults of cyclic existence. If your intention to benefit living beings in whatever you do is not strong, then you will sever the root of the Mahayana. Therefore, frequently cultivate the aspirational spirit of enlightenment together with its causes. Once you have taken the vows of a conqueror’s child and are training in the practices, if the bondage of the reifying concep­tion of signs seems strong, use reasoning consciousnesses to destroy all objects which are apprehended by the mind which conceives of signs, and train your mind in the space-like and illusion-like emp­tiness. If your mind is enslaved to distraction and does not remain on a virtuous object, you should primarily sustain one-pointed sta­bility, as former teachers have said. From these illustrations, you should understand the cases I have not explained. In brief, with­out being partial, you have to be able to use the whole spectrum of virtues.

Among the stages of the path of a person of great capacity, I have explained how one who trains in the bodhisattva path practices – insight, which is wisdom. [808]

b How to train specifically in the Vajrayana [note 738]

After you have trained in this way in the paths common to both sutra and mantra, you must undoubtedly enter the mantra path because it is very much more precious than any other practice and it quickly brings the two collections to completion. If you are to enter it, then as Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment says, you must first please the guru – even to a greater extent than explained ear­lier-with deeds such as respect and service and with practice that is in accordance with the guru’s words. [note 739] And you must do this for a guru who meets at least the minimum qualifications of a teacher explained there. [note 740]

Then, at the outset, your mind should be matured through the ripening initiation as explained in a source tantra. You should then listen to the pledges and vows to be taken, understand them, and maintain them. If you are stricken by root infractions, you may make these commitments again. However, this greatly delays the devel­opment of the good qualities of the path in your mind. Make a fierce effort not to be tainted by those root infractions. Strive not to be tainted by the gross infractions, but in the event that you are tainted, use the methods for restoring your vows. Since these are the basis of the practice of the path, without them you will become like a dilapidated house whose foundation has collapsed. The Root Tantra of Mañjuśrī (Mañjuśrī-mūla-tantra) says, [note 741] “The Master of the Sages does not say that faulty ethical discipline achieves the tantric path,” meaning that those with faulty ethical discipline have none of the great, intermediate, or low attainments. And it says in the highest yoga tantra texts that those who do not maintain their vows, those who have inferior initiation, and those who do not understand re­ality do not achieve anything despite their practice. Therefore some­one who talks about practicing the path without maintaining the pledges and vows has completely strayed from the tantric path. [809]

In order to cultivate the mantra path someone who keeps the pledges and vows should at the outset meditate on the stage of generation, the complete divine wheel as explained from a source tantra. The unique object to be eliminated on the tantric path is the conception of ordinariness which regards the aggregates, constitu­ents, and sensory sources as common. It is the stage of generation itself that eliminates this and transforms the abodes, bodies, and resources so that they appear as special. The conquerors and their children continually bless the person who clears away the concep­tion of ordinariness in this way; such a person easily brings to completion the limitless collections of merit, thereby becoming a suitable vessel for the stage of completion.

This person should then meditate on what appears in the source tantras on the stage of completion. Neither the tantras nor the scholars who explain their intended meanings hold that you should discard the first stage and merely classify it within the latter stage, training only in individual portions of the path. Therefore, you must bear in mind the vital points of the two stages of the complete cor­pus of the path of highest yoga tantra.

Considering only the terms, I have described a mere fraction of what is involved in entering into the mantra path. Therefore, un­derstand this in detail by using works on the stages of the mantra path. If you train in this way, you will train in the entirely complete corpus of the path, which includes all the vital points of sutra and mantra. As a result, your attainment of leisure in this lifetime will have been worthwhile, and you will be able to extend the Conqueror’s precious teaching within both your own and others’ minds. [810]

  1. 1. Not to take a life; 2. Not to take what is not given; 3. Avoid sexual misconduct; 4. Not to deceive; 5. Avoid slander of others; 6. Avoid harsh words; 7. Avoid empty speech; 8. Avoid greedy thoughts; 9. Not to be malicious; 10. Avoid wrong views. [<<]
  2. The ten non-virtues are the opposite of the ten virtues. [<<]
  3. The four powers of purification: 1. regret of past negativities; 2. refuge as discussed above, and renunciation of worldly life; 3 remedial action (such as studying the scriptures); the resolution and 4 promise not to repeat a negative action. [<<]
  4. Those who finally understand the Buddha’s message by hearing about their relationship with Śakyamuni, about beginning, the major world system, cycles of existence in the past, etc. There are also persons of intermediate capacity and of superior capacity [<<]
  5. Threefold training (in the noble eightfold path): higher virtue; higher mind; higher wisdom.; also: precepts: right meditation, wisdom [<<]
  6. It is imagined that within the endless cycle of births and deaths all beings that exist may at least once have been your mother, who then gave you all her love, suffered pain, gave you attention and sacrificed herself to bring you on earth and accompany your young years – and that one should thus have respect and compassion for all living beings as if they are your mother now. [<<]
  7. The six perfections or pāramitās are: giving (Dāna), vitue (Śīla), patience (Kṣānti), effort (Vīrya), one-pointed meditation (Dhyāna) andwisdom (insight) Prajñāpāramitā. See also The voice of the Silence, fragment III on this site [<<]
  8. Two stages: the two paths of the profound view and the vast conduct. [<<]
  9. The four ways of gathering disciples practiced by Bodhisattvas are: (1) pleasing others by giving them material things or whatever they need; (2) teaching Dharma to lead others to liberation; (3) helping others in their Dharma practice by giving them encouragement; and (4) showing others a good example by always practicing what we teach. [<<]
  10. Self-praise and slander; not helping where and when one perceives suffering in another; not receiving a repentant or those who are desirous of follow the right path; doctrinal deceit [<<]
  11. Dhyāna and prajñā, meditation, i.e concentration and wisdom [<<]
  12. Stabilizing meditation trains the mind to become calm and steadfast. Meditative stabilization involves training in calm abiding in order to perfect meditative stabilization. Calm abiding is a stabilizing meditation which trains the mind to be calm and steadfast and to stay single-pointedly directed on one subject. The Lam rim chen mo itself says: It is a samādhi accompanied by a joy of mental and physical pliancy in which the mind abides naturally without effort for as long as one wishes, without fluctuation, on whichever virtuous object it has been placed. [<<]
  13. The bodhisattva vow is the vow taken by Mahayana Buddhists to attain complete enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. The Bodhisattva vow extends into future lives. There are 18 root bodhisattva vows and dozens of secondary bodhisattva vows. See The Berzin Archives and its Home page: Root Bodhisattva Vows and Secondary Bodhisattva Vows [<<]
  14. See also Daily Theosophy Glossary-M [<<]
  15. Anuttarayogatantra [<<]
  16. The stage of generation [bskyed rim] includes development of ideas, i.e. development of ideas as well as the creation of powers of an occult nature [higher, spiritual powers – not ‘common’ or psychic ones like mediumship, common clairvoyance, clairaudience etc. – Ed.]. Vajrayana makes use of visualizations of deities to transform or purify one’s conceptions. [<<]
  17. Theosophists may recall the very rapid psychic development of Damodar K. Mevalankar and C.W. Leadbeater in the beginning, once they set foot on their respective paths of chelaship. Chelaship means to be a pupil, which includes many (subtle) tests of character, which demands absolute purity of character and intention, and in which the candidate can fail or succeed. [<<]
  18. There are many subsequent stages of completion on different levels, not just one. [<<]
  19. [lha’i ‘khor lo – cycle of the deity] [<<]
  20. tha mal ba/pa, ordinariness [<<]
  21. phung po – skandhas. The five skandhas within the twelve-fold sequence of cause and effect – the twelve nidānas, are: form or matter, sensation or feeling, perception or cognition, mental formations or compositional factors (saṁskāras) and consciousness or discernment (i.e. ‘higher manas’ in Theosophy). [<<]
  22. khams [<<]
  23. The Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee – Editor-in-Chief: Joshua W.C. Cutler; Editor: Guy Newland in The Grat Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment – Lam Rim Chen Mo by Tsong-kha-pa, Vol III (Snow Lion, ISBN : 1-55939-166-9. Pages 361-365 [<<]