A General Discussion of How We Practice this Path

The Purpose and the Connection

 

GZHAN ‘JUG PA’I YAN LAG DGOS ‘BREL LA BRJOD BYA NI, ZAB PA DANG RGYA CHE BA GNYIS YIN LA, THUN MONG MA YIN PA’I DGOS PA NI BSHAD ZIN TO,,

 

This brings us to the preliminaries of the composition which are meant to inspire others to engage in the work: what we sometimes call “the purpose and the connection.”  The first traditional part is called “a statement of the subject matter”—which in this case includes both the profound teachings and the widespread teachings.  The second part, what we call the “unique purpose,” has already been covered.

 

 

NYING DGOS LA GNAS SKABS PA NI BSTAN BCOS KYI DON SHES PA NYAMS SU [@18b] LEN PA NAS BZUNG STE LAM BZHI BGROD PA’O, ,MTHAR THUG PA NI ‘BRAS BU’I SA’O,,

 

The immediate point of the third part—what is named the “ultimate purpose”—extends from coming to an understanding of the subject matter of this classical commentary, up through putting it into practice as we pass through four of the paths.  The final point of this part is to reach the level of the final goal.

 

 

NYING DGOS DGOS PA LA RAG LAS PA DANG, DGOS PA BSTAN BCOS LA RAG LAS PA NI ‘BREL BA’O,,

 

The fourth part is known as “the connection”; here, it is reflected in the fact that fulfilling the essential purpose depends upon fulfilling the simple purpose—and fulfilling this purpose depends upon a study of the commentary.

 

 

A General Discussion of How We Practice this Path

 

GNYIS PA LA GNYIS, RGYU’I SA DANG, ‘BRAS BU’I SA’O,,

 

This brings us to the second major division of our discussion of the body of the text, which is the explanation of the actual body of the commentary which is composed after the offering of praise has been completed.  We proceed in two steps: a presentation of the levels which act as a cause; and then a presentation of those which consist of the result.

 

 

DANG PO LA GSUM, LUGS ‘DI’I LAM NYAMS SU LEN TSUL SPYIR BSTAN PA DANG, BYE BRAG TU SO SKYE’I SAR NYAMS SU LEN TSUL BSHAD PA DANG, BYANG SEMS ‘PHAGS PA’I SA’I RNAM GZHAG BSTAN PA’O,,

 

The first of these has three divisions of its own: a general discussion of how it is that we put the path of this system into practice; a more specific explanation of how we practice upon the levels for normal people; and finally a presentation on the structure of the levels for realized beings who are bodhisattvas.

 

 

DANG PO NI, GAL TE BSTAN BCOS ‘DIR BYANG SEMS KYI ZAB PA DANG RGYA CHE BA’I LAM KLU SGRUB KYI RJES SU ‘BRANGS TE GTAN LA ‘BEBS NA, RE ZHIG MGON PO KLU SGRUB KYI LUGS KYIS SANGS RGYAS KYI SAR BGROD PA’I LAM GYI RIM PA CI ‘DRA BA ZHIG BZHED CE NA,

 

For the first, one may begin with the following question:

 

So the goal of this classical commentary is to provide a presentation of the profound and widespread paths of the bodhisattva, following the teachings of Nagarjuna.  Here then at the beginning, can you give us an outline of the steps of the path for travelling to the state of a Buddha, according to the system accepted by our savior, Nagarjuna?

 

 

DE LA SANGS RGYAS GNYIS PA KLU SGRUB ZHABS LA SOGS PA’I LUGS THOS BSAM GYIS GTAN LA ‘BEBS PA NI, RANG GIS YANG DAG PA’I LAM NYAMS SU LEN TSUL LA NGES PA CHEN PO RNYED NAS, LAM LTAR SNANG RNAMS KYIS BKRI BAR MI NUS PA’I CHED DU YIN NO,,

 

Now the whole purpose of undertaking learning and contemplation in order to come to an understanding of the system of that second Buddha, the great Nagarjuna, is so that—by reaching a deep place of certainty in our own practice of the correct path—we can assure that it is impossible for us ever to be misdirected to some mistaken path.

 

 

DE’I PHYIR SHING RTA CHEN PO RNAMS KYI LUGS KYI GZHUNG LA CI TZAM SBYANGS KYANG, RANG GI LAM NYAMS SU LEN PA’I TSUL LA NGES PA CI YANG MI RNYED PA’I THOS BSAM PA NI, THOS BSAM BYED TSUL GNAD DU MA SONG BA’I PHYIR,

 

Thus we can say that—no matter how much a person trains themselves in the classics of the schools of the great innovators—the way in which they undertake study and contemplation misses the mark if this learning and thinking doesn’t at all result in their coming to some place of certainty in their own actual practice of the path.

 

 

THEG PA CHEN PO LA NGAL BAR BYAS KYANG SNYING PO LEGS PAR MI LON PAS NA, LAM BGROD PA’I RIM PA RNAMS SHES PA LA ‘BAD PAR BYA’O,,

 

They can then be expending themselves in efforts to follow the greater way, but still fail to really get the essence.  As such, we must exert ourselves in the task of learning the various formal stages for travelling the path

 

 

KLU’I ZHABS KYIS LAM GYI CHA [@19a] PHYOGS RE BSHAD PA MANG YANG ZAB PA DANG RGYA CHE BA GNYIS KA LAS BRTZAMS PA’I LAM GYI LUS STON PA’I GZHUNG GSUM LAS,

 

The magnificent Nagarjuna has composed a great number of explanations of specific individual components of the path; but there are three of his classic presentations which base their structure upon both the profound and the widespread sides of the teachings.

 

 

RIN CHEN ‘PHRENG BA LAS GSUNGS TSUL LA, DE YI RTZA BA BYANG CHUB SEMS, ,ZHES PA DANG, SNYING RJE SNGON BTANG SPYOD KUN DANG, ZHES SOGS NI SNGAR DRANGS ZIN LA,

 

Here is how the first of these, the String of Precious Jewels, makes its presentation.  We have already quoted several sections, such as the one which speaks of “its roots, a Wish for enlightenment,” and another which mentions “that entire way of life, ushered in by compassion.”

 

 

YANG DE NYID LAS,

 

The same work also includes the following lines—

 

 

,DE LA BYANG CHUB SEMS DPA’ YI,

,YON TAN MDOR BSTAN BYA BA NI,

,SBYIN DANG TSUL KHRIMS BZOD BRTZON ‘GRUS,

,BSAM GTAN SHES RAB SNYING RJE SOGS,

 

We may summarize, briefly,

The high qualities of the bodhisattva

As giving; an ethical way of life;

Patience; joyful effort;

Meditation; wisdom;

Compassion; and others as well.

 

 

,SBYIN PA RANG DON YONGS BTANG BA,

,TSUL KHRIMS GZHAN PHAN BYA BA’O,

,BZOD PA KHRO BA SPANGS PA STE,

,DKAR PO’I CHOS SPEL BRTZON ‘GRUS SO,

 

Giving is to give away

All that you ever wanted;

The ethical life means doing things

Of benefit to others.

Patience is to give up anger,

And effort is working to increase

The good parts of ourselves.

 

 

,BSAM GTAN RTZE GCIG NYON MONGS MED,

,SHES RAB BDEN DON GTAN LA ‘BEBS,

,SNYING BRTZE SEMS CAN THAMS CAD LA,

,SNYING RJE RO GCIG BLO GROS SO,

 

Meditation is a mind single-pointed,

And free of negativity;

Wisdom works out the meaning

Of true reality.

Compassion is a kind of intelligence

Which sings a single song

Of love for every single being.

 

 

,SBYIN PAS LONGS SPYOD KHRIMS KYIS BDE,

,BZOD PAS MDANGS LDAN BRTZON PAS BRJID,

,BSAM GTAN GYIS ZHI BLO YIS GROL,

,SNYING BRTZE BAS NI DON KUN SGRUB,

 

Giving brings us prosperity;

An ethical life brings happiness;

Patience brings a lovely face,

And effort brings respect.

Meditation leads to peace,

Understanding liberates us,

And compassion accomplishes all things.

 

 

,BDUN PO ‘DI DAG MA LUS PAR,

,CIG CAR PHA ROL PHYIN PA YIS,

,YE SHES BSAM GYIS MI KHYAB YUL,

,’JIG RTEN MGON PO NYID THOB ‘GYUR,

 

If we can reach the perfection

Of all these seven together,

Then we can reach that object

Of inconceivable wisdom,

And become ourselves that one and only

Savior of the world.[1]

 

 

ZHES PHYIN DRUG GI NGOS ‘DZIN DANG, ,PHAN YON DANG SNYING RJE’I GROGS DANG BCAS PA LA BSLAB PAR GSUNGS TE, SPYOD PA’I RTEN SEMS BSKYED PA SNGON DU BTANG BA DANG, SPYOD PA DES BYANG SEMS KYI SA BCU BGROD PAR GSUNGS SO,,

 

These verses serve to identify for us the six perfections, covering as well the benefits that they bring to us, and the way in which we train ourselves in them, by combining them with the attitude of compassion.  They speak of how first we utilize the Wish for enlightenment—which serves as a foundation for the activities of the bodhisattva—and then undertake those activities to complete our journey through the ten bodhisattva levels.

 

 

CHOS DBYINGS BSTOD PA LAS KYANG, SKYABS [@19b] SU SONG NAS SEMS BSKYED PA DANG, PHAR PHYIN BCUS KHAMS RGYAS PAR BYED PA DANG, BYANG SEMS KYI SA BCU GSUNGS SO,,

 

The Praise of the The Realm of Reality also speaks of developing the Wish for enlightenment once one has gone for refuge; of how we use the ten perfections to expand our potential; and of the ten levels of the bodhisattva.[2]

 

 

LAM GYI LUS KYI SDOM RAGS PA CIG MDZAD PA DE, MDO KUN LAS BTUS LAS RGYAS PAR BSHAD PA NA, DAL ‘BYOR DANG BSTAN PA LA DAD PA RNYED DKA’ BA DANG, DE DAG LAS KYANG BYANG CHUB TU SEMS BSKYED PA RNYED DKA’ BAR GSUNGS LA,

 

The Compendium of the Sutras further devotes an extensive section to a rough summary of the entire length of the path.  Here it describes how difficult it is to find the various forms of leisure and fortune, and faith in the teachings.  It goes on to say how even more difficult it is to reach the Wish for enlightenment.

 

 

SEMS CAN RNAMS LA SNYING RJE CHE BA YANG RNYED DKA’ BA DANG, SNGAR BSHAD PA RNAMS LAS KYANG, BYANG SEMS LA RMA ‘BYIN PA’I LAS SGRIB DANG, DE LA BRNYAS PA’I SEMS DANG, BDUD KYI LAS DANG, DAM CHOS SPONG BA SOGS SPONG BA RNYED DKA’ BA SOGS KYI BSHAD PA MANG DU GSUNGS SO,,

 

It also describes how difficult it is to develop great compassion for living beings—and it continues by saying that it is even more difficult than all of these to reach a point where we can remove a karmic obstacle created by speaking badly of a bodhisattva, or even just thinking badly of them; or else eliminate the influence of negative spirits; or stop ourselves from actions which consist of rejecting the Dharma, or anything of the like.  We see many such discussions there.[3]

 

 

‘DI SNGA MA GNYIS LA LTOS NA GSAL MOD KYANG, DA DUNG LAM GYI RIM PA RNAMS RTOGS DKA’ BA LA, SLOB DPON GYI LUGS ‘DZIN CHEN PO ZHI BA LHAS, SPYIR BSLAB SPYOD GNYIS KA DANG KHYAD PAR DU MDO BTUS KYI DON GYI ‘GREL PA BSLAB BTUS LAS SHIN TU GSAL ZHING RGYAS PAR GSUNGS TE,

 

It is admittedly true that this last work gives a more explicit presentation than the two mentioned before it; but certain steps of the path can still be difficult for a person to grasp.  And so Shantideva, that great upholder of the system of the Master, has described these steps even more explicitly, and in much greater detail, in a general way in his Compendium of the Trainings and his Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life—and in a much more specific way in his Compendium of the Trainings which is a commentary explaining the meaning of the Compendium of the Sutras.[4]

 

 

THOG MAR DAL ‘BYOR DON CHE ZHING SHIN TU RNYED DKA’ BA BSAMS NAS, TSE ‘DIR SNYING PO LEN PA’I PHAN PA SEMS PA DANG, DE NAS DAD PA SPYI DANG KHYAD PAR DU THEG PA CHEN PO’I YON TAN BSAM PA’I DAD PA BRTAN PO BSKYED DE,

 

That is, he is saying, we first contemplate upon the great importance of the leisure and fortune we have found in this life, and how extremely difficult it is to find.  Then we think on the benefit getting the very essence out of our lifetime here.  This leads, in general, to feelings of faith; and more specifically to a solid faith in which we consider the high qualities of the path of the greater way.

 

 

SMON PA BYANG CHUB KYI SEMS BSKYED PA DANG, DE NAS ‘JUG PA’I SDOM PA BZUNG BA DANG, DE NAS LUS DANG LONGS SPYOD DGE RTZA GSUM BTANG BA DANG, BSRUNG BA DANG, DAG PAR BYED [@20a] PA DANG, SPEL BA’I TSUL RNAMS GSAL BAR GSUNGS PA ‘DIS, MDO KUN LAS BTUS BSHAD PAR BYA’O,,

 

This in turn leads to developing the Wish for enlightenment in the form of an intention—which inspires us to commit ourselves to the vows for this Wish in the form of actual action.  And then we can give away the three of our body, our possessions, and our store of good deeds.  We can honor, we can purify, we can increase.  Our author explicitly describes the way of doing these things; and thus do “I explain the Compendium of the Sutras.”

 

 

BZHI BRGYA PAR YANG ZAB PA DANG RGYA CHE BA’I LAM GYI LUS GSUNGS LA, DBU MA SNYING PO DANG, DBU MA RGYAN DANG, DBU MA’I SGOM RIM GSUM LAS BSDUS TE GSUNGS PA’I LUS RNAMS KYANG ‘DRA BAS, ‘PHAGS PA’I LUGS ‘DZIN PA’I CHEN PO THAMS CAD LAM GYI KHOG LA ‘DRA’O,,

 

The paths of both the profound and the widespread sides of the teaching are also recounted in The 400 Verses.  The content of the briefer presentations of them found in three works—The Heart of the Middle Way, The Jewel of the Middle Way, and The Steps of Meditation on the Middle Way—is also similar; and so we can say that the general shape of the path painted by the great upholders of the system of the Realized Being is always the same.[5]

 

 

‘DI RNAMS LA NGES PA BDE BLAG TU STER BA’I THABS LAS DANG PO PAS ‘JUG PA BDE BA NI SHING RTA CHEN PO’I LUGS GNYIS LA MKHAS PA’I DPAL MAR ME MDZAD KYI GDAMS NGAG BYANG CHUB LAM GYI RIM PAR, SHIN TU GO SLA BA’I ‘KHRID TSUL BSTAN PA LAS SHES PAR BYA’O,,

 

One way to gain, without great effort, a good understanding of these classics is through a study of the Steps on the Path to Enlightenment, a book of advice which is easily covered even by beginners, and which was composed by the glorious Dipankara, a master of the systems of both the great innovators.  This text makes its presentation in a way which is understood with great ease.[6]



[1] High qualities of the bodhisattva: See ff. 123a-123b of the work, at %S16 (TD04158).

[2] Developing the Wish: See the discussion around f. 66a of Arya Nagarjuna’s work, at %S26, TD01118.

[3] Many such discussions: The points mentioned are covered in this additional work by Arya Nagarjuna at ff. 158a-158b (%S27, TD03934).

[4] Compendium of the Trainings: There are actually three works being referred to here; and it can be confusing if we don’t realize this.  The first Compendium of the Trainings mentioned is Master Shantideva’s very brief Verses on the Compendium of the Trainings (at %S28, TD03939); and the second is his much more detailed commentary entitled simply A Compendium of the Trainings (%S29, TD03940).  We must be careful of course not to further confuse both with Arya Nagarjuna’s Compendium of the Sutras; and even further not to confuse this last with the work by the same name composed by Lord Atisha!

[5] The shape of the path: Some of these texts have already been referred to.  The 400 Verses (%S13, TD03846) is a classical commentary by Master Aryadeva, c. @ad.  The Heart of the Middle Way (%S30, TD03855) was composed by Master Bhavaviveka, c. @ ad; and The Jewel of the Middle Way (%S22, TD03884) by Master Shantarakshita, c. @ad.  The Steps of Meditation on the Middle Way, in three parts (%S21, TD03915; %S32, TD03916; and %S33, TD03917), was written by Master Kamalashila, c. @ad.

[6] Steps on the Path to Enlightenment: The name Dipankara (Mar-me mdzad ye-shes in Tibetan) is of course a reference to Lord Atisha (982-1054), the Indian sage who helped bring Buddhism to Tibet.  The text mentioned is his famed outline of the entire Buddhist path—the Lamp on the Path to Enlightenment (%S31, TD03947).  For the concept of an “innovator” in Buddhism, see footnote %7.  When two innovators are mentioned, they are the realized beings Nagarjuna and Asanga.