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Home > Fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism > Level 2: Lam-rim (Graded Stage) Material > Text of The Abbreviated Points of the Graded Path

The Abbreviated Points
of the Graded Path

(Lam-rim bsdus-don)
by Tsongkhapa (Tsong-kha-pa Blo-bzang grags-pa)
translated by Alexander Berzin
January 2006

More fully:
An Abbreviated Presentation of the Practice
of the Graded Path to Enlightenment,
Made into the Style of Songs of Experience of the Ennobling,
Omniscient Tsongkhapa

(Byang-chub lam-gyi rim-pa’i nyams-len-gyi rnam-bzhag mdor-bsdus rje thams-cad mkhyen-pa tsong-kha-pa’i nyams-mgur-gyi tshul-du mdzad-pa)

Homage to Guru Manjughosha!

(1) (Bowing my) head, I prostrate to you,
   Foremost One from the Shakya (Clan):
Your body is born with a host of splendid,
   constructive and excellent (signs);
Your speech grants the wishes of limitless wandering beings;
Your mind sees all knowables just as they are.

(2) I prostrate to you, Maitreya and Manjushri,
Supreme spiritual sons of that peerless Teacher:
Accepting the mantle (to enact) the full set
   of Triumphant Ones’ deeds,
You display emanations in countless worlds.

(3) At your feet, I prostrate, Nagarjuna and Asanga,
Celebrated throughout the Three Realms
   as (gems) adorning the Southern Continent:
You have commented on the most difficult to fathom
(Prajnaparamita), Mother of the Triumphant,
In accord with its intended meaning.

(4) I bow to you, Dipamkara (Atisha),
Holder of a fortune of instructions,
Which encapsulate in full and without a mistake,
The essential points of the paths of profound view
   and extensive behavior,
In excellent lineage from these two outstanding pioneers.

(5) Respectfully, I prostrate to you, my spiritual mentors,
Eyes for beholding all the infinite scriptures,
Superlative ford for the fortunate to cross to liberation.
You clarify (everything), through using skillful means,
   driven by loving-concern.

(6) The stages of the path to enlightenment have passed down intact
Through successive generations from both Nagarjuna and Asanga,
The crown jewels of all erudite masters of the Southern Continent,
And the banner of whose fame flies above the wandering masses.
As (following the stages) can fulfill, without an exception,
The desired spiritual aims of the nine types of rebirth,
They constitute a power-granting king of precious instruction.
Because they gather within them the streams
   of myriad excellent classics,
They comprise, as well, an ocean of all-around perfect,
   correct explanation.

(7) You understand all Buddha’s teachings with no contradictions.
The scriptural pronouncements, without an exception,
   dawn (on your mind) as guideline instructions.
You easily discover the Triumphant One’s intended meanings.
They protect you from the abyss of the great misdeed
   (of forsaking the Dharma).
Because of these (benefits),
   what scrutinizing persons among the erudite masters
   of India and Tibet
Will not have their minds enraptured by the stages of the path
   of three spiritual scopes,
The supreme instructions to which many fortunate ones
   have entrusted themselves.

(8) Although (positive force accrues) from reciting
   or hearing even once
(Atisha’s) manner (of text) that fully encompasses
The essential points of all scriptural pronouncements,
Nevertheless, since even greater waves of massive benefit,
For certain, build up from actually teaching or studying
   the sacred Dharma (contained within),
Let me consider the points (for doing this properly).

(9) Then, seeing that the root most appropriate
   for the dependent arising
Of the hugest networks (of positive force and deep awareness),
   for this and future lives,
Is relying properly, with effort, and with thought and action,
On a hallowed spiritual mentor who indicates the path,
Let me please (him) by offering my practice
   in accord with his enlightening words,
Which I wouldn’t forsake even at the cost of my life.

The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(10) This working basis (of a precious human life)
   with (eight) respites
Is more exceptional than a wish-granting gem.
(A rebirth) like this is gained (perhaps) only this one time.
Hard to acquire and easily lost, (it passes in a flash)
   like lightning in the sky.
Considering (my precious human life) in these ways
And realizing that (engaging in) any worldly activities
Is like (trying to) winnow (something meaningful from) chaff,
I must take the essence (of life) at all (times), day and night.

The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(11) After death, there is no assurance of avoiding being born
   in the worse rebirth states;
Yet, it is certain that the Three Rare Supreme Gems
   provide safe direction away from dread (of this fate).
Because of that, let me be extremely steadfast in taking
   their safe direction in life
And not let their points for training decline.
That indeed will depend on having well considered
The noble and dark (pathways of) karmic cause and effect
And then practicing properly what’s to be adopted
   and what’s to be abandoned.

The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(12) Since the fullest strides
   in actualizing the supreme pathway minds
   will not come about until I’ve attained,
As a working basis, (a precious human life) with a full set
   of (eight) definitional factors,
Let me train in their causal (constructive acts)
So that I won’t have an incomplete set of them.
As it’s utterly essential to cleanse away from my three gateways
These tarnishes (I have) from stains of negative karmic forces
   and downfalls (from vows),
And especially obstacles from karma,
Let me cherish continual devotion to (applying)
   the full set of four opponent forces.

The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(13) Since, without having striven to ponder true problems
   and their drawbacks,
I won’t properly gain keen interest in liberation (from them),
And without having considered the stages
   whereby (true) origins of suffering
   draw me into recurring samsara,
I won’t know the means for cutting the root of this (vicious) circle,
Let me devote myself to becoming determined to be free
   from compulsive existence
   and to developing disgust,
And relish knowing which factors have bound me to this wheel.

The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(14) Developing a bodhichitta aim is the main tent pole
   for the Supreme Vehicle’s pathway minds;
It’s the basis and foundation for great waves
   of (bodhisattva) behavior.
Like an elixir for transmuting into gold,
   (it transfigures into enlightening features)
   the entire two networks (of positive force and deep awareness).
It (builds up) a treasure of positive force,
   amassed from an endless array of constructive acts.
Realizing it’s like that,
   the brave spiritual offspring of the Triumphant (Buddhas)
Take this supreme precious mind as their innermost bond.

The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(15) Being generous is the wish-granting gem for fulfilling the hopes
   of wandering beings;
It’s the best weapon to sever the knot of stinginess.
It’s the bodhisattva behavior that enhances not feeling inadequate,
   but feeling courageous (instead);
It’s the basis for your fame of renown
   to be proclaimed in the ten directions.
Realizing this, the wise devote themselves to the excellent path
Of fully giving away their bodies, possessions, and positive force.

The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(16) Ethical discipline is the water
   to wash away the stains of misdeeds.
It’s the ray of moonlight to cool the scorching heat
   of disturbing emotions.
(With it,) you shine out amidst the nine kinds of beings,
   like a Mount Meru.
By its power, you bend all beings (to your positive influence)
   without (need for) mesmerizing stares.
Realizing this, the hallowed beings safeguard,
   as they would their eyes,
The vowed discipline that they have take on purely.

The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(17) Patience is the best adornment for those with strong force
And the foremost of all ascetic practices
   for those tormented by disturbing emotions.
It’s the high-soaring garuda as the enemy
   of the slithering snake of anger,
And the thickest armor against the sharp weapons of abusive words.
Realizing this, (the wise) accustom themselves,
   in various ways and forms,
To (wearing) the padding of supreme patience.
The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(18) Once you suit up with the armor of unswayable,
   resolute joyful perseverance,
Your proficiency in the scriptures and in their realization grow full
   like the waxing moon.
All your pathways of behavior take on a meaningful purpose,
And you bring whatever you start to their task’s end,
   just as you’ve wished.
Realizing this, the Triumphant One’s offspring set into motion
Great waves of joyful perseverance, washing away all laziness.

The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(19) Mental stability is the king wielding power over the mind.
Fix it and it remains immovable
   like the Powerful Lord of Mountains.
Project it and it engages in all constructive aims.
It induces an exhilarating sense of feeling physically and mentally fit.
Realizing this, the yogis with powerful command
Continuously devote themselves to absorbed concentration,
Overcoming the enemy, mental distraction.

The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(20) Discriminating awareness is the eye
   for (seeing) the profound view
   of the nature of reality.
It’s the pathway of mind for extracting the root
   of compulsive existence.
It’s the treasure of good qualities praised
   in all the scriptural pronouncements,
And is renowned as the best of lamps
   for dispelling the darkness of naivety.
Realizing this, those who are wise and who wish liberation
Enhance, with all effort, that pathway-mind.

The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(21) Single-pointed stability of mind, on its own, lacks the perception
That’s able to sever the root of recurring samsara;
While discriminating awareness,
   parted from a stilled and settled pathway (of shamatha),
Cannot reverse disturbing emotions and attitudes,
   no matter how much it analytically discerns.
But, when the discriminating awareness
   that’s totally decisive about the way things are
Mounts the horse of an unwaveringly stilled and settled
   shamatha mind,
Then, destroying all focal supports of grasping for extreme views
With the lance of Madhyamaka logic, devoid of extremes,
This wide-ranging discriminating awareness
   that analytically discerns, in a correct manner,
Expands the intelligence to realize the nature of reality.

The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(22) An individual inspection that analytically discerns
   in a correct manner –
What need to mention it actualizes
   absorbed concentration through familiarity
   with single-pointedness of mind –
It enhances, in fact, an absorbed concentration
   that’s firmly and unwaveringly
   settled on the way things are.
Those who, having seen (it’s like this),
   make effort to actualize a joined pair
Of a stilled and settled shamatha state
   and an exceptionally perceptive vipashyana state
   are truly remarkable.

The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(23) Having meditated both on space-like voidness
   during total absorption
And on illusion-like voidness as the subsequent realization,
Combining them into a joined pair as awareness and method
Is acclaimed as “going to the far shore of bodhisattva behavior.”
From realizing it’s like that,
   being discontent with (achieving) a one-sided pathway of mind
Is the tradition of those with good fortune (to attain enlightenment).

The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(24) The more I enhance the common pathways of mind like those,
Which the causal and resultant great Mahayana vehicles require
   for (reaching) the supreme pathway of mind, (enlightenment),
The more I shall make my attainment of (a rebirth with)
   respites and enriching factors meaningful,
Through relying on the guidance of a (tantric) master as navigator,
Then embarking on the vast ocean of (the four classes of) tantra,
And then entrusting myself to their full guideline instructions.

The ennobling, impeccable Lama has practiced like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Cultivate myself in the same way.

(25) In order to accustom my mind
And also to benefit others of good fortune,
I have explained (here) in words that are easy to understand
The complete path that is pleasing to the Triumphant Ones.
I pray that, by this constructive act, may all wandering beings
Never be parted from (these) pure and excellent pathways of mind.
The ennobling, impeccable Lama has offered prayers like that.
Let me, too, who strives for liberation,
Offer prayers in the same way.

This Abbreviated Presentation of the Practice of the Graded Path to Enlightenment, has been compiled, so that it may not be forgotten, at Ganden Namgyel Monastery on the Great Drog Mountain (Tibet), by the renunciate monk (Tsongkhapa), Lozang-dragpa, who has heard many (teachings).