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The Berzin Archives

The Buddhist Archives of Dr. Alexander Berzin

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Course: Meditation Practice on the Graded Stages of the Path (Lam-rim)

Alexander Berzin
Berlin, Germany, June 23, 2009 – ongoing

Course Information

The graded stages of the path (lam-rim) are one of the several presentation schemes developed in Tibet for the study and practice of the major points of the Buddhist sutra teachings. This scheme organizes these points according to three levels of motivation, indicating the graded order in which students need to develop the understanding of each point as a pathway of mind leading to enlightenment. The three levels are striving for one of the better rebirths, liberation, and enlightenment. Further, the Tibetans present these sutra stages as the preparatory steps for the subsequent practice of tantra.

The graded path presentation was first formulated by the India master Atisha on his visit to Tibet in the early eleventh century, with his text, A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment (Byang-chub lam-gyi sgron-me, Skt. Bodhipathapradipa). This structure was soon adapted by the Kagyu master Gampopa (sGam-po-pa Zla-‘od gzhon-nu) and combined in several of his texts with his presentation of what came to be known as “the four themes of Gampopa (dvags-po chos-bzhi).” Several of the Kagyu traditions that followed have adopted this combined scheme, namely Drugpa Kagyu and Shangpa Kagyu. This combined scheme of the graded stages of the path and the four themes of Gampopa also found its way into the Kadam tradition and was later used in the Bon tradition as well.

The graded stages presentation, however, was developed the fullest by Tsongkhapa (Tsong-kha-pa Blo-bzang grags-pa) and the subsequent masters of the Gelug tradition. Their texts present the sutra material purely in terms of the three levels of motivation, without combining these three stages with other organizational schemes.

Here, we present the unedited recordings of the weekly classes on how to perform the meditations associated with each of the points of these graded paths, as taught by Dr. Alexander Berzin in Berlin, Germany. Skipped weeks indicate classes were canceled.

We ask the listener’s patience with the varying quality of the recordings.