Lam (path) Rim (stages) or The Path is a Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist teaching that condenses the Buddha’s 84,000 teachings into a graduated approach or path to help you realise who you are. With clarity comes understanding and therefore direction. You will know what to do to end the suffering we ourselves create and perpetuate. The gradual path shows us just how we can reverse that and to regain control over our lives.
LamRim ChenMo is the full name of the text better known as The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, published in 1402 by Je Rinpoche, Tsong Khapa Losang Drakpa (1357 – 1419). He is said to have been written it after a five-year long retreat where he finally achieved full enlightenment. So we know there is great validity in The Great Treatise as well as the root text on which it was based, A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, an earlier but shorter text by Atisha Dipamkara Shrijnana (982 – 1054). Tsong Khapa expanded on the original LamRim by Atisha into three volumes so as to make the Path accessible to learners of varying capacities and aspirations.
Both texts are highly revered as a proven methodology with stages clearly marked out for cultivation towards the ultimate enlightenment. And because it is a distillation of the Buddha’s 84,000 teachings, it also contains all you really need to know about Buddhadharma. To say it is a brilliant piece of work is an understatement. More like a most precious jewel one can ever hope to possess. A real road map that teaches us what is reality, how to perceive and pierce the veil that occludes us from our innate potential for Buddhahood. Ending suffering is just one part of the equation. It’s about the ultimate liberation.
So the end point or ultimate goal is enlightenment and if you believed in it, then these two texts are an excellent choice to start you off with especially when they were written for the individual practitioner on his or her own cushion. So for those of us who have no access either to a dharma center or qualified teacher, take heart. The texts will give you a clear methodology to do what you need to do and you’ll know you are making progress when you see positive changes happening in your life and your interactions with the world.
Is the Path just for the Buddhist? No, because like the Dalai Lama would remind us again and again in his public teachings and talks, one does not need to be a Buddhist to benefit from any of the Buddha’s teachings. He is all for non-sectarianism. And it’s our opinion as well. We see the Path as a most excellent roadmap, a guide book to life and how to live it in a wholesome way so that we create harmony instead of strife. We grow a big heart and reduce our self-grasping nature. It’s the only way out. The key to having a pervading sense of joy in our lives is really through cultivating an attitude that is other-centred.
Why not find out for yourself? Here’s a link to a free pdf download of a commentary by His Holiness the Dalai Lama compiled from a teaching he gave on Atisha’s “The Lamp” as well as Tsong Khapa’s text. It’s a great read because His Holiness has this knack for making confounded things simple and clear.
Many paths up the same mountain – Patanjali yogasutras
You know as well as we do there are as many paths up the same mountain of self-realisation as there are roads to Rome. Just as we said before, Vedanta and yoga sutras predate the Buddha’s teachings and the Buddha as a king in the making, must have been schooled in these ancient texts and rituals of the Vedas and sutras. Which is no surprise if you sat in a Vedanta class and go, hey, isn’t that what the Buddha taught? Yes, and it is believed that the Buddha retained the best in the Vedas while eschewing the concept of an external God that must be appeased. During his time, rituals had overrun spirituality and the Buddha wanted to redress that as well.
So, do yogis of the Vedanta bent have anything similar to The Great Treatise where they have kind of collected everything essential into one book? Yes, there is actually one that really stands out because it offers a similar freedom and liberation from suffering offered by the Buddha. Samadhi. Also known as enlightenment. This text is none other than Patanjali’s Yoga sutras as well as something like 20 other sutras on the practice of yoga that were written to complement the philosophy of the Upanishads.
As starters, we recommend one of the best commentaries ever written on Patanjali: Four Chapters of Freedom by none other than the root guru of our spiritual teachers in India, Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Freedom from what? Freedom from your mind, the-one-who-seeks-to-be-the-master-puppeteer. In our humble opinion, Swami-ji’s book should always have an honoured place beside our yoga mats and meditation cushions as a constant reminder that our spiritual practice is a journey towards self-realisation both off and on the mat and cushion.
There is no enlightenment without meditation
The thing about all these great texts that are essentially a science of the mind is that the reading must be fully supported by a dedicated practice to meditation. There is really no other way to know the mind. One can choose from many meditation traditions and they all work on the same premise: There is no enlightenment without meditation. It is the same with The Great Treatise which needs to be balanced with the meditation practices of shamatha and vipashyana. Cognitive learning is one thing but meditation is where it allows for an experiential knowing to happen. Meditation cultivates the necessary wisdom and insight to truly internalise the teachings.
We will leave you to make up your mind about the LamRim. Just remember, Buddhism is never a religion but a science of the mind and a philosophy so no one needs to feel like they have to become a Buddhist in order to benefit from the teachings. Geshe-la says the very same thing in the video below. We should allow ourselves to collect any gems we find along the way on our spiritual search. To be nonsectarian, as the Dalai Lama would say, makes for world peace. And we can’t agree more.
~ ॐ ~