Self-Transformation through the Lam-rim Graded Stages
Morelia, Mexico, October 2008
Session One: Dharma-Lite
This weekend we're going to talk about lam-rim. We usually hear the Tibetan term translated as the graded path...the graded path to enlightenment. But it's not really talking about a path, like something you walk on. But rather this word translated as "path" actually means a state of mind that acts as a pathway that leads us somewhere, in this case to enlightenment. So I call it a pathway mind which are things that we want to develop. And in order to reach enlightenment we need to develop them in a certain graded order. And it's dealing with, or organized I should say, in terms of three large levels. Each of these levels of course has many subdivisions. And it really is talking about a whole, I'd say, state of mind. It is a very large, encompassing mental framework. It is enumerated in terms of three types of persons. And these are persons that have a certain type of motivation in life. And we are trying to develop ourselves to become this type of person with this type of motivating mental framework. So I don't use the word "motivation" here in a simplistic way. But when we hear of motivation being discussed in Buddhism what it's referring to is, as I said, a motivating mental framework. It's a whole mental framework. And it is made up of two parts. One is an aim. An aim that we have in life. And the other is what we as Westerners normally think of as motivation which is the emotional background that leads us to this aim.
Now when we speak about these three levels, each one is built on the one before so that it's cumulative. And so it's not that we have the first one and then we stop having that first one and then have the second one. It's that we have the first one...and then we have the first and the second one...and then we have the first and the second and the third all together. And it is absolutely crucial to develop ourselves and to have these motivating frameworks in that order. You can't skip any. If you skip any you don't have that state of mind that's being specified here.
So if we look at the basic structure of these three graded or graduated motivating frameworks, first we are, as an initial scope person, we are aiming for improving our future rebirths. Because we really dread and do not want at all to have worse rebirths.
The intermediate level is that we're aiming for liberation from uncontrollably recurring rebirth – completely. Altogether. And the motivating emotion behind it is complete disgust with all the sufferings that are involved. And therefore we have, what's usually translated as, "renunciation", which is the determination to be free of it – which implies the willingness to give it up.
And on the advanced level, we're aiming for enlightenment and we are motivated by love and compassion, thinking of all others and how they have a similar type of suffering and problems and we want to be able to help them overcome that.
Okay. So, very nice. This is the structure. For most of us it doesn't mean too much. But there are so many books and material available on it nowadays that it's very easy to find out about it.
Now let me relate a little bit of my own personal history of how I learned about this topic and studied it. The reason for this is I was asked to teach on this weekend about The Abbreviated Points of the Graded Pathway Minds, it's a short lam-rim text by Tsongkhapa. But this is much too long a text to, even though it's in an abbreviated form, it's much too long a text to be able to go through verse by verse in a weekend. And so what we decided was that I would just speak about the abbreviated points of the lam-rim without actually referring to the text and how I have related to them over the years, which might perhaps be of some help to you.
So, I first came across the topic forty years ago when I was at graduate school at Harvard University studying Tibetan. And as part of a Tibetan course we read a few pages from Tsongkhapa's large lam-rim text, Lam-rim chen-mo. But I had no idea of the entire text or the entire span of lam-rim and what it covered, no idea whatsoever. This was before any of these texts were translated into English or any other language so, before even Gampopa's Jewel Ornament of Liberation had been translated. So it was quite an unknown topic.
I went to India in 1969 to do the research for my PhD dissertation and although I initially went to write about a very advanced tantra topic, I soon discovered that this was an absurd thing to try to do, despite the fact that my professor had recommended that I do this topic. And the Tibetan teachers that I contacted and worked with in India recommended instead that I study lam-rim. So, very good. Since that was the only item on the menu, I decided to eat it.
I studied the lam-rim and wrote my dissertation on the oral traditions since I didn't even know that there were many texts about it. So it was explained to me orally by my teacher and I called it the oral tradition on lam-rim. So this was a very exciting time in India. It was before the wave of hippies came. It was the time when Carlos Castaneda was writing his books. And so the few of us who were Westerners who were there in India with the Tibetans felt that we were on a similar adventure to Carlos Castaneda, discovering some secret, special, magical teachings. It was a grand adventure and very, very exciting.
The way that I studied lam-rim was a very traditional way. Which means that I was presented a topic or a point within lam-rim. I had no idea what was coming next. And so it meant that you had to focus on each point individually as it came and digest it before getting the whole picture. I was told that this was a topic that you studied over and over again, because each time that you study it, then you go back to the beginning and fit in what you learned later on in these stages. The more that you can fit it together, the whole picture, the clearer it becomes and easier it becomes to actually develop these states of mind that they're talking about.
It was based on this fact that I started developing the idea of explaining the teachings in terms of networks. Network in the sense that every point connects with every other point within the teaching so it all networks together in a very complex way. The more connections you know and can make, the deeper is your understanding. This networking of all the teaching points pertains not just to lam-rim but to everything in the Dharma teachings.
Another concept that I think helps in understanding this point I'm trying to make is the concept of integration. So all the teachings and all of the points of the teachings integrate together. You can integrate them. And it's not just that we integrate all the teachings with each other, but we have to integrate them with all the different aspects of ourselves, of our life. And so, again, the image of the network pertains here because all the different points of the lam-rim and the Dharma in general connect with all, or ultimately, optimally, need to connect with all the different aspects of ourselves and our lives. When we have succeeded in doing this, then we have actually – we say this at least in English – we have integrated the Dharma within ourselves.
This point of the necessity to integrate the Dharma teachings with us is especially relevant in terms of developing these three levels of motivation. So we look at the teachings of lam-rim and when we get the picture of it, we initially would understand it on the level that I've given the name "Dharma-lite." This is in contrast to the "real thing" Dharma along the model of Coca-Cola lite and the real Coca-Cola. So Dharma-lite is a version of the Dharma teachings that is understood only within the scope of improving this lifetime. We are basically trying to make the samsaric life of this life now a little bit better by using the Dharma a little bit like using a form of therapy. This is very good, it can be very helpful in this regard. There's nothing wrong with that so long as we don't confuse it with the "real thing" Dharma and think that this is all that the Dharma is talking about. If most of us are honest with ourselves we will admit, at least to ourselves – maybe not to the other people in the Dharma center – but at least to ourselves, that in fact we are dealing in ourselves with Dharma-lite.
Okay. So, what would be a Dharma-lite version of the lam-rim? I certainly, in my earlier days, drank Dharma-lite – that was my drink. Well, look at the teachings. First of all it says the root of the path, the root of all of this is relying on the spiritual teacher. Okay, so I had a spiritual teacher who was in India; I was very fortunate. Of course it took many, many years before I understood what the word "root" meant. Like most other people I mistook the word "root" to mean "the beginning," that that's where you start. Why? Because there it is in the beginning of the presentation of the lam-rim. But that's not the image of a "root" of a plant. A plant doesn't start, grow, from a root. A plant grows from a seed. A root is what a plant derives nourishment from. It gives the plant stability because it grounds the plant and it is that through which the plant can grow because it gains all its nourishment. So similarly, relying properly on a spiritual teacher grounds us so that we don't go off into weird fantasy trips about the Dharma and keeps us growing straight so that we don't stray away from the actual teachings and make mistakes. And like a root anchors a plant so it doesn't blow away. It's from the spiritual teacher that we gain the inspiration which gives us the energy to be able to grow on the path and of course the one through whom we get the teachings and the explanations. Though you can also get it from books, but books are written by teachers.
Now we go on to the initial scope teachings. It talks about first appreciating the precious human life that we have and to look at ourselves. I looked at myself: okay, I'm pretty fortunate to have so many opportunities to study. And then we think about death and impermanence, that these opportunities in this life aren't going to last forever. Okay, I could relate to that. I would like very much to use my abilities, I'm young, the strength, intelligence and so on, to grow. So I could relate to that easily.
Then the teachings go on to speak about the worse rebirth states that could follow in future lifetimes, hells and so on. So now we start to approach it like an anthropologist studying folklore, "Oh, very interesting...this is what they believe..." and okay, let's turn the page, go on. And then we have the teachings on refuge, which eventually I realized and learned is not just some passive thing of going, "Oh, save me, save me." But it meant putting a safe direction in our lives. All right, following the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha – I didn't really understand what that really meant, although I have a list of all the qualities. But what did it mean? It meant, well, following Buddhism. I knew it meant more that just wear a red string around my neck. But didn't really understand the deep ramifications of what that actually meant. But, okay, I took refuge in this direction.
And then came the teachings on karma, which was basically avoid destructive behavior. And although that's presented in terms of you want to avoid destructive behavior in order to avoid worse rebirths that will follow, well that wasn't really the selling point of it. But it just made sense: be a nice person, don't hurt anybody, don't act destructively, don't act out of anger and greed and naivety and so on. So, very good, I could accept all that. And I could see how that could make me happier in life. So that was a perfect Dharma-lite version of the initial scope. Mind you, at the time I didn't realize that that was Dharma-lite. I thought this was what it was talking about.
Now we go on to the intermediate scope. In the intermediate scope we look at the general sufferings of samsara, the sufferings of the better rebirth states. Well the part about the god realms again was another lesson in anthropology. But the descriptions of the general sufferings of samsara were far more relevant; always frustrated, never get what we want, etc. These were quite wonderful and profound to think about. Then the intermediate scope goes on to talk about the analysis of all the mental factors and all the disturbing emotions and how it's the disturbing emotions that cause our problems. And this was the most interesting part of the lam-rim discussion – was to understand from it how various emotional problems and difficulties arose, what were the factors, what were the causes, how we developed problems... This was great. This was far better than any course in psychology that I have had. I didn't really understand that it was talking about what drove uncontrollably recurring rebirths. That wasn't really the way that I understood it, but I understood it on the Dharma-lite level that this was how various emotional and psychological problems arose in myself. Very useful, very helpful.
Then came the twelve links of dependent arising. This was very complicated. Although it says straightforwardly that this describes how rebirth works, I must say that it didn't really sink in that that was really the point of it. I tried to understand it more in terms of this life. Because it's, well on this level, this Dharma-lite level, it's hard to take future lives and rebirth seriously. It's not part of our tradition; I certainly didn't grow up with that. But I was open-minded. I didn't reject future lives. I gave rebirth the benefit of the doubt. In other words, I said, "Okay, provisionally let's accept it and see what follows from that. And if what follows from it makes sense and is helpful, then maybe rebirth is possible, that it actually exists...but I don't know..."
Then came the topic of renunciation. I understood this to mean not just on a simplistic level of "I have to give up everything and go live in a cave." I understood that much...I didn't make that mistake. But rather I understood it to mean the determination to be free from samsara, from all this suffering. And sure I was willing to, or at least I wanted to, give up the suffering and the problems that I had at this age. I had certainly quite a few emotional problems like any other young person. And I was, I certainly wanted to be free of the causes of the problems. But I understood this probably on quite a superficial level. Okay, how wonderful it would be not to ever get angry again. It'd be great to get over anger and greed and these sort of things. Does that mean that when my favorite food is on the table, I'm willing to give up my greed with which I want to eat as much of it as I possibly can? Well, that's another question.
We go on from renunciation and the next thing is the three higher trainings as the way to get free of samsara. So training in higher ethical discipline, concentration and wisdom, which means discriminating awareness. To discriminate reality from fantasy. This made sense and I could relate to that and fine. That's the intermediate scope basically understood on a Dharma-lite level of wanting to get rid of all my emotional problems. Buddhism explained very nicely how these problems arose and it gave a very good direction about how to work on overcoming them.
Now we're ready to go on to the advanced scope. Now we read about how first of all we need to have equanimity for everyone. Okay, that fit in very nicely with civil rights movements, and this type of thing, you know, women's lib and so on and so, hey, equanimity. Fine. Everybody's equal. As for extending it to mosquitoes and cockroaches, well, let's – let's go on to the next point. Actually, I'll let you in on how I dealt with that. I'm a great fan of science fiction, especially Star Trek. And I lived in India, the land of insects. As I always used to joke for the travel advertisement for India they should have, "If you like insects, you'll love India." So I viewed these insects like aliens from other worlds and if I met an alien from another world and they had six legs and wings or whatever, how terrible it would be to just want to step on it or swat it. So I made a little bit of peace with the insects, as long as they were not in my bedroom. If they were in my bedroom, I called them unacceptable lifeforms and they had to leave. But by this time I had become a good Buddhist and had my red string and I would catch the insects. I became very good at that, with a cup if they landed on the wall and put a paper underneath it and took them out. In fact, I even learned from my Tibetan friends how to catch a fly in mid air. Although my Tibetan friends used to do this for fun. They would play with flies and they would catch it, shake it up in their hand and then let it out and then watch as the fly was very dizzy flying and roar with laughter. I wasn't that advanced. I took the fly outside.
So after equanimity then one thinks of everybody as having been our mother. This is pretty weird, but I had a pretty good relation with my mother so that wasn't too difficult. Anyway, it goes through the various stages and talks about love, compassion, wishing everybody to be happy and not to be unhappy. So, I mean love was the whole theme of the hippie era, so this was fine. And take responsibility to help others, okay this fine as well. This is part of the civil liberties type of movement. You take some responsibility and in order to really help everybody you have to become a Buddha. What that meant, well I don't know. There was a list of the qualities but it was "the best," so let's aim for the best. Yes, becoming a Buddha could help people probably more than going on a civil rights march. Though, not putting down a civil rights march as being useless, but here it gave a much larger vision of how you could help. But probably mixed with the image of a Buddha was the image of Superman.
Then came the teachings on the six perfections, what I call the “far-reaching attitudes,” as the way to become a Buddha. All of this made very good sense. Be generous, have ethical discipline, be patient, perseverance, who could fault that? It's perfect. And then the teachings on concentration, very detailed. Amazing how detailed it was. And then the teachings on voidness, which were difficult to understand of course but very, very fascinating and something that I certainly wanted to explore more deeply. And I saw that the more deeply I explored it, the more I could get rid of my fantasies about how I existed, about how everybody existed.
And I loved the bodhisattva vows because it pointed out all the things to avoid that cause difficulties in relating with others. This I thought was great because I had a lot of difficulties relating with others, so it was a guidebook of what to avoid – perfect. And bodhichitta I understood, well, aiming to become a Buddha to help everybody. Nothing more profound than that. Seemed simple enough. So on this basis, this type of understanding going through the lam-rim, a very advanced level. Here on advanced level I'm going to try to help everybody, I'd love everybody, we're all equal, and I'm going to try to become the best, try to become a Buddha.
Then I had a little bit of introduction to tantra and here it says you can do it in this lifetime, so that confirmed that I don't really have to think about future lives and all of that. It's all this lifetime, perfect Dharma-lite. So this is I think how many of us end up, after studying initially the lam-rim. And we think that if we're going to study it more deeply, what does that mean? That means that learning the list of the eight this and the ten that, and so on and if we learn all these lists then we have deepened our understanding of lam-rim. Well, very good to learn all these details. It certainly helps to deepen our understanding. But we are still on the level of Dharma-lite.
So then after a while after studying that and studying many other things in Dharma – and, by the way, I stayed in India. I went back just to hand in my dissertation but I basically lived in India as my home base for twenty-nine years – and as I studied more and I started trying to put more and more things together, as my teachers had advised, it was always emphasized that the way that Buddha taught was really the best way for communicating the Dharma. And how did Buddha teach? Buddha taught the four noble truths and taught in the structure of the four noble truths. So don't be so arrogant as to think that we could do better than the Buddha. And so I started to try to follow that advice and put the lam-rim together with the four noble truths.
Well, the four noble truths, perhaps you're all familiar with that. But just very briefly, talking about true facts, four true facts. These are facts that aryas, an arya being, it's usually translated as a “noble one” – those who have nonconceptual cognition of voidness or reality – they have seen that these four things are true. That's what it's talking about. These are facts. These are true. So, those who haven't seen reality, nonconceptually, wouldn't really consider this as true.
So the first are  sufferings. The Buddha pointed out different levels of suffering and these are true, these truly are suffering. Well, you might not think that they're suffering. Regular people, ordinary people who consider them suffering like our ordinary happiness. But if you look more deeply, these truly are forms of suffering. Well because we never have enough, it's never satisfying, it never lasts, etc., etc.. Then Buddha pointed out  the causes of the suffering and said these truly are the causes. You might not make that connection but these truly are the causes – it's true. And then he pointed out that it's possible to have a stopping, usually translated as  a cessation and it means a stopping, stop forever. You might not think that it's possible to stop this suffering forever, to get rid of it forever, but this is true. It really is possible, it's true, here is a true stopping of it. It's a true stopping. Not a temporary stopping, but truly stopped, finished forever. And here is a pathway mind – don't think of it as just path, remember it's a pathway mind – here is  a state of mind that, if you develop it, it truly will get rid of suffering and it's causes and truly will be able to bring about a true stopping of the suffering and it's causes.
So these are the four noble truths in simple form. And it is quite helpful to look at the three scopes of lam-rim in terms of the four noble truths. So using that structure we look at the initial scope teachings. The true suffering here is the suffering of the worst rebirth states. There's three types of true suffering. The suffering of suffering which is general unhappiness, unhappiness that can accompany any sense cognition, seeing, hearing, feeling pain, unhappiness, a feeling of unhappiness or it could accompany a mental state. If we understand it that way, then it's a very large, encompassing type of suffering and so exemplified by the suffering of the lower states and the cause of that is acting destructively. The true stopping of that would be to have a stopping of worse rebirths, so to have better rebirths. And the true pathway that would lead to that is, first of all, refuge, safe direction in my life and actually follow the Dharma teachings and the examples of the Buddha and the arya sangha of avoiding destructive behavior. So this is initial scope within the four noble truths. Even though it's studied and learned that the true cause of the disturbing emotions is the unawareness that underlies it and so on, here what we're talking about is even when the disturbing emotions arise, don't act them out. So I still may get angry with you, but I will shut my mouth and not yell or say something nasty because I understand that if I yell and say something nasty, it's just going to cause more unhappiness, more problems. So that is certainly a deeper understanding of the initial scope.
Then we go on to the intermediate scope. And here the true suffering is the second two types of suffering that Buddha pointed out, the suffering of change, which is speaking about our ordinary type of happiness which accompanies either sense perception or a mental state. And it's a problem because it doesn't last; it's never satisfying. It changes into unhappiness; we never know when it's going to change... And we eat our food that we enjoy so much. And if this were true, then the more we ate the happier we would become. But obviously once we reach a certain point, the more we eat it just makes us sick, it hurts.
Also, what is the true suffering here, more importantly on this intermediate scope is the third type of suffering. This is called "the all-encompassing affecting suffering". It's a bit of an awkward expression in English, I know. It's all-encompassing. So it's referring to every moment of our existence and it affects everything that we experience, it brings on the first two types of suffering. So it affects and brings that on. And it's referring to our uncontrollably recurring aggregate factors of our experience. So it's referring to the body and mind if we put it very simply and all the various mental factors and things that make up each moment of our experience. Which is going on moment to moment, not just in this lifetime but in all lifetimes. They are coming from disturbing emotions and the karma that is built up by that and they contain more disturbing emotions and karma and are going to perpetuate even more. They then form the basis for the context within which we experience the first two types of suffering: unhappiness and ordinary happiness – which is going up and down all the time – happiness and unhappiness; and it recurs and obviously we have no idea are we going to feel happy or unhappy in the next moment. So that's the true suffering here, on the intermediate level.
The cause of it is disturbing emotions and karma built up by that. And on a deeper level it's our unawareness of how we exist and others exist and everything exists. That is usually translated as "ignorance" but I object to that translation since it implies that we're stupid. It doesn't mean that we're stupid. There are two interpretations of what the word means – either we just simply don't know how we exist or we understand it in a reversed way. But it certainly doesn't mean that we're stupid. So it's the true cause of our uncontrollably recurring rebirth in samsara. That's what samsara's all about and the true stopping of that would be liberation and the true pathway leading to that would be the three higher trainings. So higher ethical discipline and concentration, higher discriminating awareness. So that's the intermediate scope as presented in the structure of the four noble truths.
Then if we look at the advanced scope, the true suffering is referring to here the uncontrollably recurring rebirth of everybody, not just to me. So the three types of true suffering for everybody and we would have to include in here my inability to be able to help them to overcome this. And the true causes of everybody else's suffering of course is the same as the true causes of my own on the intermediate level. But if I look at what is the true cause of my inability to be able to help them the most, well, on one level we can identify it as my selfishness, my concern just about myself, fine, that's there. Although if we think a little bit more deeply, we could have thrown that on the intermediate level in terms of a disturbing emotion and included it there.
I must say it's a little bit difficult to understand how we would only have concern for ourselves if we in fact had gotten rid of all of our disturbing emotions. It would be difficult to... it's difficult to understand if we got rid of attachment to myself and if I got rid of naivety about the situation of others, how I could still have only selfishness, self concern. Even if we say, "Well, I'm only concerned about myself because I don't think I could really help everybody; I don't think I can really become a Buddha," one could argue that that also is a form of naivety. Let me repeat: If we think that "I'm not capable of becoming a Buddha" then...and for that reason I am only concerned about liberating myself, that too I think one could argue is a form of naivety, naivety of Buddha-nature.
But in any case we could put self concern here as a true cause. But more importantly we need to put in here the fact that our mind makes things appear in impossible ways. Our mind makes things appear as though they were truly established, truly existing from their own side. Now without going into detail about that – I know that that could be a bit of jargon – but it makes things appear, put in simple language, as if they are just existing by themselves, encapsulated in plastic. Because of that, we can't see the interconnectedness of everything. Particularly in terms of cause and effect relationships. So, we're not able to see all the causes of why somebody is the way that they are now and why they have all the problems that they have now. And we can't foresee all of the effects that would come from teaching this person this or that. Because when we look at the person, what appears is just the person in front of us and we think that's it. They're just existing there, by themselves, independently of all their relationships, all the causes and stuff and we have no idea what would be the effect of anything we taught this person. So, because of that we don't know how best to help them. That's the cause of our inability to help everybody – the fact that our mind makes things appear to exist in this impossible way, as if they existed all by themselves.
True stopping of that would be the omniscient state of a Buddha in which a Buddha is able to see the interconnectedness of everything. He therefore knows what really is the problem with this person, what are all the factors that have gone into it and what would be the best way to help this person. What would be the true pathway that would lead to that? Well, it would be an understanding of voidness, but not simply with the force of renunciation behind it, but with the force of bodhichitta. So we need both renunciation and bodhichitta as the force of the mind that understands voidness. Of course to develop bodhichitta we need to develop equanimity, love, compassion, etc. – the six far-reaching attitudes and all these teachings that we find in the advanced scope. So, how to put together the four noble truths with the three scopes?
One could think, well, pretty clever. Okay, now, I've understood a little more deeply the three scopes – but have I really gone beyond Dharma-lite? Probably not. At least not on an emotional level. I've just understood how Dharma-lite could work in this lifetime much more deeply. More profoundly than just learning the lists. So in order to really be able to integrate these three levels of motivating mental frameworks, to really believe them, to really function in that manner, then we have to go back to our definition of motivation. It's two aspects, remember? There was an aim. What are we aiming for? And what is the emotion that drives us to reach that goal? And to aim for a goal it's absolutely imperative, if we're to be...if it's going to be sincere, to not only have a very clear idea of what that goal actually is and what it means, but also to be firmly convinced that it's possible to achieve it. If we are not convinced that it's possible to achieve it and in addition, it's not just to say "Well, Buddha could achieve it, but I can't" – so we need to be convinced that not only is it achieved, but that I can achieve it.
When we are convinced that it's possible to achieve this goal and I'm capable of achieving this goal. then we can sincerely aim for it. Otherwise it's just a game. It's just wishful thinking. This point comes from Nagarjuna's presentation in his bodhichitta commentary in which it says for those of sharp intelligence they would develop deepest bodhichitta first, which is referring to the understanding of voidness. Then after that, the relative bodhichitta, which is the aiming for enlightenment in order to benefit others. Because it's when you develop deepest bodhichitta, in other words the understanding of voidness, then you are convinced that liberation and enlightenment is possible. And then you can develop the relative bodhichitta, the wish to achieve that in order to benefit others. So that's for those of sharpest capacity. And for those with more ordinary capacity, first you develop the wish to achieve enlightenment to benefit others – relative bodhichitta – and then gradually you develop deepest bodhichitta, the understanding of voidness as the way or the understanding that will actually bring about liberation and enlightenment. So, Nagarjuna then says, “I will explain this commentary on bodhichitta from the point of view of those who are of the sharpest intelligence.” Therefore he explains deepest bodhichitta first.
And so, this is what we need to apply now back to the lam-rim in order to really develop the "real thing" Dharma. We have to become convinced that rebirth exists, which means to become convinced that mental continuum has no beginning and no end and therefore we would aim for better future rebirths. Because the mental continuum is going to go on, we're totally convinced of that. Then we have to, on the intermediate scope, first of all become totally convinced that liberation is possible, which means understanding that there could be a true stopping – third noble truth – of disturbing emotions, unawareness and karma. So that means we have to be convinced of the purity of the mental continuum. It is not stained as part of it's nature by unawareness, disturbing emotions and so on. And on the advanced scope we need to be convinced that enlightenment is possible. In other words, back to our four noble truths analysis, that it is possible to get rid of the deceptive appearance-making. That this is also a fleeting stain. It's not part of the nature of the mind to make appearances of impossible ways of existing. That the mind is, the mental continuum, is pure of that as well.
So this is what we need to work on in order to really internalize and integrate these three scopes – a conviction that these three goals are possible to attain and I can attain them. And if you think about it, what have we just been talking about? We've been talking about the teachings on Buddha-nature. And Gampopa in his Jewel Ornament of Liberation starts out with that. That this is what enables this whole process. So Gampopa hints at exactly what we've been talking about now with this last step. Of course, we'd have to fill in a tremendous amount more depth of teachings on Buddha-nature on what Gampopa presents in his text. But he indicates the importance of understanding this at the beginning in order to really develop all of the other pathways of mind that follow, on a sincere level. And how is it usually described? Well, we need to understand Buddha-nature to give us encouragement. That it's possible. So this is exactly what Nagarjuna was speaking about. The conduit of that inspiration is of course the guru, the spiritual teacher.
So, this is so many things to be integrated in our discussion of lam-rim. So, we'll stop here for the evening. And then tomorrow I'd like to start and in-depth discussion of how we become convinced that our mental continuum has no beginning and no end, that liberation is possible and that enlightenment is possible. These I think are the most essential points for really getting the “real thing” lam-rim, not just the Dharma-lite version of lam-rim.
I know it's a bit late and some people have to take public transport which I know is difficult if the session goes too late. So we won't have any question and answer this evening. But tomorrow, when we have more time, we'll open up the floor for questions.
So, let's end with a dedication. We think whatever understanding, whatever positive forces come from this, may it go deeper and deeper and act as a cause for reaching enlightenment for the benefit of all.
Join us in trying to benefit others.
Support our work!
This website relies completely on donations. Its maintenance, preparation of the remaining 70% of our planned material, and further translating is costly. Although we currently have 80 volunteers, 23 essential team members require payment. Help us raise the 100,000 euros (US $150,000) required each year
to continue providing our website free of charge.
Reaching Our Goal (30%)