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Home > Fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism > Level 2: Lam-rim (Graded Stage) Material > Text of Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment

Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment

(Byang-chub lam-gyi sgron-ma, Skt. Bodhipathapradipam)
by Dipamkara Shrijnana Atisha
translated by Alexander Berzin, 1980
in accordance with an explanation by Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche
following the commentary by the First Panchen Lama
and revised January 2003

I prostrate to the Bodhisattva Youthful Manjushri.

Promise to Compose

(1) Having prostrated most respectfully to all the Triumphant
   of the three times,
To their Dharma and to the Sangha community,
I shall light a lamp for the path to enlightenment,
Having been urged by my excellent disciple, Jangchub-wo.

(2) Since (practitioners) come to have small,
   intermediate, and supreme (scopes),
They are known as the three types of spiritual persons.
I shall therefore write about these specific divisions,
Clarifying their defining features.

Initial Scope

(3) Anyone who takes keen interest in himself or herself
(Achieving), by some means, merely the happiness
Of uncontrollably recurring samsara
Is known as a person of minimum spiritual scope.

Intermediate Scope

(4) Anyone with the nature to turn his or her back
    on the pleasures of compulsive existence
And to turn back negative impulses of karma,
And who takes keen interest in merely his or her own state of peace,
Is known as a person of intermediate spiritual scope.

Bodhichitta as the Entranceway for the Advanced Scope

(5) Anyone who fully wishes to eliminate completely
All the sufferings of others
As (he or she would) the sufferings included
   in his or her own mental continuum
Is someone of supreme motivation.

(6) For these hallowed beings
Who have come to wish for supreme enlightenment,
I shall explain the perfect methods
That the gurus have shown.

The Ritual for Aspiring Bodhichitta, Together with Advice

(7) Before paintings, statues, and so on of fully enlightened Buddhas,
As well as stupas and hallowed (Dharma texts),
Offer flowers, incense,
And whatever material things you may have.

(8) Also with the seven-limb offering mentioned in
(The Prayer of) Excellent Conduct,
With the mind never to turn back until
The ultimate (realization) of your Buddha-essence,

(9) With supreme belief in the Three Supreme Gems,
With bent knee touching the ground
And palms pressed together,
Firstly, take safe direction three times.

(10) Next, with a mind of love toward all limited beings as a start,
Look to all wandering beings, barring none,
Suffering from birth and so forth in the three worse realms,
And from death, transference, and so on.

(11) Then, with the wish that all wandering beings
Be liberated from the suffering of pain,
From suffering, and from the causes of suffering,
Generate pledged bodhichitta with which you will never turn back.

(12) The benefits of generating aspiring minds like this
Have been thoroughly explained
By Maitreya in
The Sutra Spread Out Like a Tree Trunk.

(13) When you have read this sutra
   or heard from your guru concerning this,
And have become aware of the boundless benefits
   of full bodhichitta,
Then as a cause for making it stable
Generate this mind over and again.

(14) The positive force of this is shown extensively
In The Sutra Requested by Viradatta.
As it is summarized there in merely three stanzas,
Let me quote them here.

(15) "If the positive force
Of bodhichitta had form,
It would fill completely the sphere of space
And go beyond even that.

(16) Although someone may totally fill with gems
Buddha-fields equal in number
To the grains of sand on the Ganges
And offer them to the Guardians of the World,

(17) Yet should anyone press his or her palms together
And direct his or her mind toward bodhichitta,
His or her offering would be more specially noble;
It would have no end."

(18) Having generated the aspiring states of bodhichitta,
Ever enhance them with many efforts;
And, to be mindful of it in this and other lives too,
Thoroughly safeguard as well the trainings explained in the texts.

Taking the Vows for Engaged Bodhichitta

(19) Except through the vows that are the very nature
   of engaged bodhichitta,
Your pure aspiration will never come to increase.
Therefore, with the wish to progress toward aspired full enlightenment,
Take them definitely on, energetically for that sake.

(20) Those who maintain at all times other vows
From any of the seven classes for individual liberation
Have the proper share for the bodhisattva vows;
Others do not.

(21) As for the seven classes for individual liberation,
The Accordingly Progressed has asserted in his explanations
That those of glorious abstinence are supreme;
And those are the vows for fully ordained monks.

(22) Through the ritual well expounded in
The "Ethical Discipline Chapter" of The Bodhisattva Stages
Take the (bodhisattva) vows
From an excellent, fully qualified guru.

(23) Know that an excellent guru is someone who
Is skilled in the vow ceremony,
By nature lives by the vows,
Has the confidence to confer the vows,
    and possesses compassion.

(24) However, if you have made effort in this
And have been unable to find such a guru,
There is a ritual other than that for receiving the vows,
Which I shall explain in full.

(25) Concerning this, I shall write here very clearly
How Manjushri generated bodhichitta in previous times
    when he was King Ambaraja,
Just as is explained in The Sutra of
An Adornment for Manjushri's Buddha-Field.

(26) "Before the eyes of my Guardians,
I generate bodhichitta
And, inviting all wandering beings as my guests,
I shall liberate them from uncontrollable rebirth.

(27) From now until my attainment
Of a supreme purified state,
I shall never act with harmful intentions,
An angered mind, miserliness, or jealousy.

(28) I shall live according to abstinent behavior;
I shall rid myself of negativities and attachment/greed.
Taking joy in the vows of ethical discipline,
I shall continually train myself as the Buddhas have done.

(29) I shall take no delight in attaining enlightenment
By a speedy means for my own self,
But shall remain until the end of the future,
If it be a cause for (helping) one limited being.

(30) I shall cleanse everything into
Immeasurable, inconceivable realms
And remain everywhere in the ten directions
For those who have called my name.

(31) I shall purify all the actions
Of my body and speech,
And purify as well the actions of my mind:
I shall never commit any destructive acts."

Practicing Bodhisattva Conduct

Training in Higher Ethical Discipline

(32) If you train yourself well in the three trainings of ethical discipline
By living in accord with the vows
   that are the very nature of engaged bodhichitta
And which are a cause for purifying completely
   your body, speech, and mind,
Your respect for the three trainings in ethical discipline will increase.

(33) Through this (will come) the completely purified,
   full state of enlightenment;
For, by exerting yourself in the vows of the bodhisattva vows,
You will fully complete the networks needed
For total enlightenment.

Training in Higher Concentration

(34) As for the cause that will fully complete these networks
Having the nature of positive force and deep awareness,
All the Buddhas have asserted that it is
The development of advanced awareness.

(35) Just as a bird without fully developed wings
Cannot fly in the sky,
Likewise lacking the force of advanced awareness,
You will be unable to fulfill the aims of limited beings.

(36) Whatever positive force is had in a day and a night
By someone possessing advanced awareness
Is not had even in a hundred lifetimes
By someone lacking advanced awareness.

(37) Therefore, if you would wish to fully complete,
Quickly, the networks for total enlightenment,
Make effort and thereby come to attain
Advanced awareness. It is not to be had by the lazy.

(38) Someone who has not achieved a stilled settled mind
Will not attain advanced awareness.
Therefore, repeatedly exert effort
To actualize a stilled settled mind.

(39) However, should the factors for a stilled settled mind be weak,
Then even if you have meditated with great effort
And even if for thousands of years,
You will not attain single-minded concentration.

(40) Therefore, maintain well the factors mentioned
In the chapter on A Network for Single-Minded Concentration.
Then place your mind on something constructive:
Namely one of the appropriate objects of focus.

(41) When a yogi actualizes a stilled settled mind,
He or she attains as well advanced awareness.

Training in Higher Discriminating Awareness

However, if you have failed to apply yourself
to far-reaching discriminating awareness,
You will be unable to deplete the obscurations.

(42) Therefore, in order to rid yourself of all obscurations,
   without exception,
Regarding the disturbing emotions and knowable phenomena,
Always meditate on the yoga of far-reaching discriminating awareness
Together with methods.

(43) This is because discriminating awareness lacking methods
As well as methods lacking discriminating awareness
Have been said still to be bondage.
Therefore, never abandon having both.

(44) To get rid of doubts concerning
What is discriminating awareness and what are methods,
I shall clarify the actual division
Between methods and discriminating awareness.

(45) The Triumphant One has explained that
Leaving aside far-reaching discriminating awareness,
All networks of constructive factors,
Such as far-reaching generosity and so forth, are the methods.

(46) It is by the power of having meditated on the methods that,
Through meditating thoroughly
   on something with discriminating awareness,
Someone with a (bodhichitta) nature can quickly attain enlightenment.
It does not come about by having meditated on
   the lack of inherent identity alone.

(47) Awareness of the voidness of inherent existence
That has come to realize that the aggregates, cognitive sources,
And cognitive stimulators lack (inherently existent) arising
Has been fully explained as discriminating awareness.

(48) If things inherently existed (at the time of their causes),
   it would be illogical for them to have to arise.
Further, if they (inherently) did not exist at all
   (they could not be made to arise),
   like a flower out of space.
Moreover, because there would be the absurd conclusions
   of both these faults,
Things do not come about from being both
   (inherently existent and nonexistent
    at the time of their causes) either.

(49) Phenomenal things do not arise from themselves,
Nor from something (inherently) different, nor from both.
Neither do they (arise) from no causes at all.
Because of this, everything by nature lacks inherent existence.

(50) Furthermore, when you analyze all things
If they are (inherently) one or many,
Then since you cannot be aimed at anything that has existence
   from its own nature,
You can become certain of the nonexistence of inherent existence.

(51) Furthermore, the lines of reasoning in
   The Seventy Stanzas on Voidness
And from The Root Text on the Middle Way and so forth
Explain as well how the nature of phenomenal things
Is established as voidness.

(52) However, because this text would have become too long,
I have therefore not elaborated here.
What I have explained has been for the purpose of meditation
On merely a proven system of philosophical tenets.

(53) Thus, since you cannot be aimed at the inherent existence
Of any thing, without exception,
Meditation on the lack of inherent identity
Is meditation on discriminating awareness.

(54) With discriminating awareness, an inherent nature
Of any phenomenon is never seen;
And it is explained that the same is true regarding
   the actuality of discriminating awareness itself.
In this (way) meditate (on voidness) nonconceptually.

(55) This compulsive existence which comes from conceptual thoughts
   (of inherent existence)
Has a true nature (merely fabricated) by these conceptual thoughts.
Therefore, the state of being rid of all these conceptual thoughts,
   without an exception,
Is the supreme Nirvana State Beyond Sorrow.

(56) Like this as well, the Vanquishing Master Surpassing All has said,
"Conceptual thought (of inherent existence) is great unawareness,
That which makes you fall into the ocean
   of uncontrollably recurring existence.
By abiding in single-minded concentration devoid of conceptual thought
   (of inherent existence),
You will make clear (the mind) that is
   without these conceptions just as is space."

(57) Also, from The Dharani Formula
   for Engaging in the Nonconceptual
, he has said,
"If the Offspring of the Triumphant
   involved in this pure Dharma practice
Were to contemplate this state
   of no conceptual thoughts (of inherent existence),
They would transcend these conceptual thoughts
   which are difficult to pass through
And would gradually attain the state of no such conceptions."

(58) When you have become certain,
   by these quotations and lines of reasoning,
That all things are devoid of inherent existence
And without an (inherently existent) arising,
Meditate in a state of no conceptual thoughts (of inherent existence).

Manifesting the Result

(59) When you have meditated on actuality like this
And have gradually attained the heat (stage) and so forth,
You will then attain (the stage of) extremely joyous one and so on,
And the enlightenment of Buddhahood will not be far.

(60) If, however, through actions such as pacifying,
Stimulating, and so forth, attained from the force of mantras
And through the power as well
   of the eight great actual attainments and so on,
Such as actualization of an excellent vase and so forth,

(61) And through a blissful awareness, you wish to fully complete
The enlightenment-building networks,
And if you wish also to practice the actions of the secret mantras
Discussed in the kriya, charya, and so forth classes of tantra,

(62) Then, in order to be conferred the (vajra) master empowerment,
Please your hallowed guru by all such things
As respectful service, giving him precious substances, and so on,
And doing what he says.

(63) By being conferred the complete (vajra) master empowerment
From having pleased your guru,
You will purify yourself completely of all negative forces
And, in nature, become endowed with the proper share
   to achieve the actual attainments.

(64) Because it has been strictly prohibited
From The Great Tantra of the Primordial Buddha,
The secret and discriminating awareness empowerments
Are not to be (conferred or) received (in a literal fashion)
   by those who are abstinent.

(65) If you were to take these empowerments so conferred
While living according to the ascetic practice of abstinence,
You would be committing prohibited actions
And because of that, your vows of asceticism would degenerate.

(66) In other words, as a practitioner of tamed behavior
You would contract the downfalls of total defeats
And since you would definitely fall to one of the worse rebirth states,
You would never have any attainments.

(67) However, if you have received (in a nonliteral fashion)
The conferral of the (vajra) master empowerment
   and are aware of actuality,
There is no fault in your actions of listening
   to all the tantras, explaining them,
Performing fire pujas, making offering pujas, and so forth.

I, the Elder Shri Dipamkara, having seen (everything to be) as is explained from the Dharma teachings of the sutras and so on, and having been requested by Jangchub-wo, have composed this abbreviation of the explanation of the path to enlightenment.


This concludes A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment composed by the Great Master Dipamkara Shrijnana. It was translated, edited, and finalized by the Indian Abbot himself (Dipamkara Shrijnana) and the Tibetan translator monk Geway-lodro. This Dharma (text) was composed at the Toling Temple in Zhang-zhung.