Pith Instructions from the Lam-rim Chen-mo on the Spirit of Awakening:

Excerpts from the Bodhicitta Section of gTsong-kha-pa’s Lam-rim Chen-mo as summarized by sTag-bu Yongs-‘dzin Ye-shes rGya-mtsho in his ‘A Torch for Illumination: The Condensed Vital Points of Pith Instruction on the Stages of the Path for the Three Personal Scopes Via the Outline of the Great Exposition on the Stages of the Path to Awakening ’ (byang chub lam rim chen mo’i sa bcad kyi thog nas skyes bu gsum gyi lam gyi rim pa’i man ngag gi gnad bsdus gsal ba’i sgron me)

By Erick Tsiknopoulos (2014)

 

INTRODUCTION

What follows is a translation of the opening part from the section on bodhicitta,  ‘the Spirit of Awakening’ (Tibetan: byang chub kyi sems) found in Byang chub Lam-rim Chen-mo’i Sa-bCad kyi Thog-nas sKyes-bu gSum gyi Lam gyi Rim-pa’i Man-ngag gi gNad-bsDus gSal-ba’i sGron-me, which in English can be rendered as ‘A Torch for Illumination: The Condensed Vital Points of Pith Instruction on the Stages of the Path for the Three Personal Scopes Via the Outline of the Great Exposition on the Stages of the Path to Awakening [Lam rim Chen mo]’. It was composed by sTag-bu Yong-‘dzin Ye-shes rGya-mtsho (Takbu Yongdzin Yéshey Gyatso), whose first ‘local name’ is also spelled sTag-phu.

While information on the author seems scarce, according to some sources he lived from 1789-1856 (the preface to the book written by the publishers says that he “arrived during the end of the 18th century”). He was also likely a tutor to an important reincarnate lama, as indicated by the title ‘Yongdzin’, a moniker given to tutors of high lamas and especially the Dalai Lama.

A Torch for Illumination is, as the title implies, a condensation of the Lam-rim Chen-mo or ‘Great Exposition on the Stages of the Path to Awakening’. The Lam-rim Chen-mo is one of the most important works by rJe gTsongkha-pa (Jé Tsongkhapa), one of the most revered teachers in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the founder of the dGe-lugs (Géluk) order. It is also one of the most popular and influential texts in all of Tibetan/’Northern’ Buddhism, not only in the Géluk school but in others as well. As its name indicates, it teaches the stages (Rim [pa]) of the path (Lam) of Tibetan Buddhism, from mindfulness of impermanence to the meditations on Voidness (S: śūnyatā, T: stong pa nyid), while touching on Tantra only briefly at the end. It is arranged according to the ‘scopes’ of three (gSum) different types of individuals (sKyes bu): the lesser, the middling, and the great. It is with the Great personal scope that our present selection is concerned, that of one who aims for the complete enlightenment of Buddhahood and thus takes the Bodhisattva or Mahāyāna path.

The text at hand is primarily concerned with the actual practice of bodhicitta rather than detailed explanations of it, without all the similes, quotations, and other instructional methods employed in various other extensive texts on bodhicitta and even in the Lam-rim Chen-mo itself. A Torch for Illumination aims to ‘extract the vital essence’ of the practice by summarizing the primary points of bodhicitta from the Lam-rim Chen-mo in a convenient fashion that is ‘user-friendly’ and easy to reference. This is representative of the framework of the entire book, and applies to all its other sections as well. A Torch for Illumination is primarily about how to practice the Lam-rim Chen-mo in the form of a series of relatively short, pithy instructions (Man ngag) that are suitable for personal practice, which consist of condensations (bsDus) of the main (or vital) points (gNad) of gTsongkha-pa’s lengthy and sometimes intricate treatise. It is in fact quite a comprehensive summary, especially in that it follows the structural outline (sa bcad) of the Lam rim chen mo, as is indicated in the title.

Despite it being a condensation, and a relatively very concise one at that, the work is still a full 204 (small) pages in its printed ‘modern book’ form, while the printed book form of the Lam-rim Chen-mo itself comes to 813 (large) pages in total; A Torch for Illumination is thus several (probably around five) times smaller than its ‘root text’ (T: rtsa ba’i gzhung), the Lam-rim Chen-mo. This may give a sense of the scope of the Lam-rim Chen-mo itself, and of the usefulness of a summarizing text like A Torch for Illlumination.

In the modern idiom, we might be able to call this useful and valuable text, A Torch for Illumination, something like a ‘Lam-rim Chen-mo for Dummies’, or ‘A Layman’s Guide to the Lam-rim Chen-mo’.

 

STRUCTURE OF THE PRESENT TEXT

Preceding the main text itself, an outline is given in the table of contents (T: dkar chag), using Tibetan letters for the headings. Below I have recreated the outline format for the section on Bodhicitta and the Bodhisattva practices. The part of the outline I have included here is from the first mention of Bodhicitta, after the heading for the Great Scope, up to the section addressing the last of the two Pāramitās or ‘far-reaching perfections’, Mental Stabilization (S: dhyāna, T: bsam rtan)  and Discerning Wisdom (S: prajñā, T: shes rab); this a section of the text which is generally considered to be distinct component of the Lamrim Chenmo, dubbed the Zhi-Lhak Chenmo or the ‘Great Exposition on Calm Abiding and Special Insight’, wherein gTsong-kha-pa addresses these last two Pāramitās in the context of Calm Abiding (S: śamatha, T: zhi gnas) and Special Insight (T: vipaśyanā, T: lhag mthong), the latter part of which deals extensively with Voidness and the subtleties of gTsong-kha-pa’s own unique Prasagika (‘Consequentialist’) interpretation of Madhyamaka philosophy.

The outline is as follows:

Ca 3) the mind training in the stages of the path of the Great personal scope

Cha 1) the teaching on how only the generation of the Bodhicitta is the entryway to the Mahāyāna

Cha 2) the way in which to generate that Bodhicitta (for this there are four [parts])

Ja 1) how it is born in dependence on certain causes

Ja 2) the stages of training in the Bodhicitta (for this there are two [parts])

Nya 1) the Seven-Fold Cause-and-Effect Pith Instruction from the lineage of the Great Elder [Atiśa]

Nya 2) the training by way of Exchanging Self and Others based upon the texts of Bodhisattva Śāntideva

Ja 3) gauging the generation of Bodhicitta

Ja 4) the way to secure the collections [of merit and wisdom] (for this there are three parts)

Nya 1) attaining what is unattained

Nya 2) protecting what has been attained from degeneration

Nya 3) methods forrestoration when degenerated

Cha 3) the way to train in conduct after Bodhicitta is generated (for this there are [three] parts)

Ja 1) the reason for needing to train after Bodhicitta is generated

Ja 2) the teaching on how Buddhahood is not accomplished by training in method and wisdom separately

Ja 3) an explanation of the actual stages of developing the training (for this there are two)

Nya 1) the way of training in the general Mahāyāna

Ta 1) developing the wish to practice the training of Bodhicitta 

Ta 2) undertaking the vows of the Conqueror’s Heirs after developing [the wish to practice the training of Bodhicitta]

Ta 3) how to train after undertaking [the Bodhisattva vows]

Tha 1) the basis upon which training is done 

Tha 2) the way to condense the trainings therein

Tha 3) the stages of training therein (for this there are two)

Da 1) the way of training in the general conduct (for this there are two)

Na 1) the far-reaching perfections (pāramitās) which serve to ripen the Dharmas of your own Buddhahood (for this there are six)

Pa 1) the way of training in generous charity

Pa 2) the way of training in ethical discipline

Pa 3) the way of training in tolerant patience

Pa 4) the way of training in vigorous diligence 

Pa 5) the way of training in mental stabilization

Pa 6) the way of training in discerning wisdom

Na 2) the training in the fourmeans of attracting, which serve to ripen others’ continua

Da 2) the special way of training in the final two far-reaching perfections [of mental stabilization and discerning wisdom]

 

THE TEXT

…Accordingly, for the Mind-Training in the stages of the path of the Great Personal Scope, there are three:

[1] The teaching on how the entrance-door to the Great Vehicle is only compassion,

[2] How the Spirit [of Awakening] is generated,

[3] And the way to train in conduct after generating the Spirit [of Awakening].

First (the teaching on how the entrance-door to the Great Vehicle is only compassion), the Victorious One [the Buddha] indeed taught two Great Vehicles, that of the Perfections [pāramitā-mahāyāna] and the Secret Mantra Great Vehicle [guhyamantra-mahāyāna], yet whichever of these two you enter, the door for entering is only the Spirit of Awakening [bodhicitta]. What’s more, when it is generated in your [mental] continuum, even if nothing else has been generated, you are established within the Great Vehicle.

Meanwhile, the unparalleled Spirit of Awakening is like the [main] seed from among [all] the [other] sprout-like causes of Buddhahood, and is the extraordinary cause of the Three Awakenings [of Śrāvakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Bodhisattvas]; while the insight realizing Voidness, being similar to sprinkling water and so on, is the ordinary cause.

For if this Spirit of Awakening is made into your essential practice, then in each moment, you will be able to purify obscurations [of disturbing emotions and ignorance] and gather the Accumulations [of positive karmic potential (merit) and insight-wisdom] conveniently; and even deeds of lesser or moderate constructive force will be made vaster and inexhaustible.

Second, as for how that Spirit [of Awakening] is generated, there are four:

1)      On the basis of which causes it is generated,

2)      The stages of training in the Spirit of Awakening,

3)      Gauging the generation,

4)      And the way to secure the Accumulations [of merit and wisdom].

First [on the basis of which causes it is generated], there are three sections:

{Note: Outline added here.

1) The mode of generation from four conditions

2) The [mode of] generation from four causes

3) The [mode of] generation from four powers}

(First), as for the mode of generating [Bodhicitta] through four conditions, it is as follows:

[1] On the basis of the inconceivable power of the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas that you have seen or heard [about] from those with faith, think:

In whomever this Awakening abides or flows, that is one who has great power…

And doing so, the Spirit of Awakening will be generated.

[2] And even if there has been no such seeing or hearing [of the inconceivable power of the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas], if you listen to [or study] the scriptural collections [of the Piṭakas] which were composed by [or structurally flow from] unsurpassable Awakening [itself], then you will appreciate the wisdom of the Buddha. And doing so, the Spirit of Awakening will be generated.

[3] And even if the Dharma has not been heard, seeing that the sacred Dharma of the Spirit of Awakening is close to fading, think:

In whomever such a Dharma abides, such a one dispels the suffering of unfathomably many sentient beings, and so, in order to make the Dharma of the Spirit of Awakening abide for a long time, I definitely must give rise to the Spirit [of Awakening]…

And doing so, the Spirit of Awakening will be generated.

[4] And if the fading of the Dharma is also not perceived, think:

In this miserable age, a time of strong confusion, lack of shame and conscience, envy,  greed and so on, if the Spirit Set Upon the Awakening of the Śrāvakas and the Pratyekabuddhas is difficult to find, then what need is there to speak of the Spirit Set Upon the Unsurpassed Awakening [of the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas]? If, for a short while, I am able to generate the Spirit of Awakening, then others too will change in accord with this.

And doing so, the Spirit [of Awakening] will be generated, by seeing the generation of the Spirit [of Awakening] to be difficult.

The generation through four causes is generation of the Spirit [of Awakening] due to the four [causes] of:

1] Being [born] in an auspicious position,

2] Being accepted by a virtuous spiritual friend,

3] Having compassionate love for sentient beings,

4] And being undisturbed by the hardships of Sasāra.

Generation [of the Spirit of Awakening] through four powers is generation [of the Spirit of Awakening] due to the four powers of:

1] The internal power of wanting complete Awakening through the influence of yourself,

[2] The external power of wanting complete Awakening through the influence of others,

3] The causal power of generation [of the Spirit of Awakening] through merely listening to the praises of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as a consequence of having been previously habituated to the Great Vehicle,

4] And the applied power of long-term habituation to virtues such as seeking guidance from a sublime being, listening to the Dharma, and then reflecting on it.

Therefore, you must, through your own power, from the depths of your mind, plant the root of generating the Spirit [of Awakening], because all the conduct of the Bodhisattva depends on it.

Second, as for the stages of training in the Spirit of Awakening, there is the training:

1] In the Seven-Fold Cause-and-Effect Pith Instruction in the lineage from the Great Elder [Atiśa],

2] And by way of Exchanging Self and Other based on the texts of the Victor’s Heir, Śāntideva.

The ‘Seven’ of the Seven[-Fold] Cause-and-Effect [Pith Instruction] are as follows: The complete Buddhas arise from the [7] Spirit of Awakening, while that Spirit arises from the [6] Altruistic Intention, that Intention from [5] Compassion, Compassion from [4] Love, Love from [3] Wishing to Repay Kindness, Wishing to Repay Kindness from [2] Remembering Kindness, and Remembering Kindness from [1] Beholding as Mothers.*

*[Note: As can be seen, here the order of the seven steps is given in reverse order, from the ‘effect’ of Bodhicitta (which as mentioned above is in turn the ‘cause’ of Buddhas) through its six sequential ‘causes’ ending in ‘Perceiving All Sentient Beings to be Your Mothers’.]

First, for the explanation of the Seven-Fold Cause-and-Effect Pith Instruction in the lineage from the Great Elder [Atiśa], there are two:

[1] Generating certainty about the stages,

[2] And the actual gradual [or graded] training.

First, for generating certainty about the stages, there are two:

[1] The teaching on how the root of the Great Vehicle path is compassion,

[2] And how to transform [the] other causes and effects into the causes and effects of that [compassion].

First, for the teaching on how the root of the Great Vehicle path is compassion, there are three:

{[1] Its [compassion’s] importance in the beginning

[2] Its important in the middle

[3] Its important in the end.}

[1] Its importance in the beginning is because when your mind is moved by compassion, you will definitely vow to remove all sentient beings from Sasāra, and moreover carrying the responsibility for liberating all transient beings without exception depends upon it. Thus compassion is important in the beginning.

[2] Its importance in the middle is because when great compassion is increasingly and actively habituated and not simply generated one time, you will not consider your own happiness and suffering and be undiscouraged about the welfare of others, and in so doing, all the Accumulations [of merit and wisdom] are conveniently completed. In this way, as you participate in that which is exceedingly difficult to do, before too long the Accumulations [of merit and wisdom] will be fully completed, and thus, without doubt, the level of All-Inclusive Sagacity [Buddhahood] will be attained. Therefore, the root of all the Dharmas of the Buddha is only compassion.

[3] Its importance in the end is because through having fully embraced compassion, although the Buddha Bhagavāns have found all splendid benefit for themselves, they act to stay in the realms of sentient beings until the very end.

Second, as for how to transform [the] other causes and effects into the causes and effects of that [compassion], the way to create the causes [for Bodhicitta], from Recognizing as Mothers [1] up to Love [4], is as follows:

Generally, while it is the case that you will give rise to a mere wish to free a sentient being from suffering when thinking repeatedly about its suffering, in order to generate that mental state [of compassion] more easily, forcefully, and stably, from the outset it is necessary for the sentient being to appear [to you] as having an aspect which is rid of attractiveness and importance…

***

Due to constraints of space and time, the above is all that I am able to include from the text at present. I may translate the entire book in the future.

 

References:

byang chub lam rim chen mo’i sa bcad kyi thog nas skyes bu gsum gyi lam gyi rim pa’i man ngag gi gnad bsdus gsal ba’i sgron me, by sTag-bu Yongs-‘dzin Ye-shes rGya-mtsho (18th century), Ladakh Atisha Dharma Center for Buddhist View and Practice (la dwags a tis ha nang pa’i lta spyod slte gnas chos tshogs), Varanasi, India, 2002, republished byCorporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, Taipei, Taiwan, 2007

The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center: http://www.tbrc.org

The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (Lam rim Chen mo), translated by the Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee, Snow Lion Publications, Boston, USA, 2000

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