Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment | Atisha

Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment
by Atiśa
(c. 982-1054 CE)

I prostrate to the Bodhisattva Youthful Mañjuśrī.

1. Promise to Compose

(1) Having prostrated most respectfully to all the Triumphant of the 3 times, to their Dharma and to the Saṅgha community, I shall light a lamp for the path to Enlightenment, having been urged by my excellent disciple, Changchub Ö.

(2) Since (practitioners) come to have small, intermediate, and supreme (scopes), they are known as the 3 types of spiritual persons.

I shall therefore write about these specific divisions, clarifying their defining features.

2. Initial Scope

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

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. The Ritual for Aspiring Bodhichitta, Together with Advice

(7) Before paintings, statues, and so on of fully Enlightened Buddhas, as well as Stūpas and hallowed (Dharma texts), offer flowers, incense, and whatever material things you may have.

(8) Also with the 7-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 3 Supreme Gems, with bent knee touching the ground and palms pressed together, firstly, take safe direction 3 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 3 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 Sūtra Spread Out Like a Tree Trunk.

(13) When you have read this Sūtra 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 Sūtra Requested by Vīradatta.
As it is summarized there in merely 3 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.

6. 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 7 classes for individual liberation have the proper share for the Bodhisattva vows; others do not.

(21) As for the 7 classes for individual liberation, the Thus Gone One has asserted in his explanations that those of glorious celibacy 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 Mañjuśrī generated Bodhichitta in previous times when he was King Ambaraja, just as is explained in The Sūtra of an Adornment for Mañjuśrī 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 celibate behaviour;
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 10 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

7. Training in Higher Ethical Discipline

(32) If you train yourself well in the 3 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 3 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.

8. 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 fulfil 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.

9. 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 obscuration.

(42) Therefore, in order to rid yourself of all obscuration, 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 (self-established) identities alone.

(47) Awareness of the voidness of self-establishing natures that has come to realize that the aggregates, cognitive sources, and cognitive stimulators lack (a self-established) arising has been fully explained as discriminating awareness.

(48) If (things had self-established) existence, it would be illogical for them to have to arise.

Further, if (they were self-established as) non-existent (at the time of their cause, 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 having both (self-established existence and non-existence) either.

(49) Phenomenal things do not arise (self-established) from themselves,
nor from something different, nor from both.
Neither do they (arise) from no causes at all.

Because of this, by their essential nature (everything) lacks a self-establishing nature.

(50) Furthermore, when you analyse all things if they are (self-established as) one or many, then since their essential nature is the lack of anything that can be aimed at, you can become certain of the total non-existence of self-establishing natures.

(51) Furthermore, the lines of reasoning in The 70 Stanzas on Voidness and from The Root Text on the Middle Way and so forth explain as well how the self-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 self-establishing nature of anything, without an exception, meditation on the lack of (self-established) identities is meditation on discriminating awareness.

(54) With discriminating awareness, a self-establishing nature of any phenomenon is never seen; and it is explained that the same is true regarding the reality of discriminating awareness itself.

In this (way) meditate (on voidness) non-conceptually.

(55) This compulsive existence which has come from conceptual thoughts (grasping for self-established existence) has an identity nature (merely fabricated) by conceptual thought.

Therefore, the state of being rid of all concepts, barring none,
is the supreme Nirvāṇa State Beyond Sorrow.

(56) Like this as well, the Vanquishing Master Surpassing All has said,

"Conceptual thought (grasping for self-established existence) is great unawareness, that which makes you fall into the ocean of uncontrollably recurring existence.

By abiding in absorbed concentration devoid of such concepts,
you will make clear, like space, a non-conceptual state."

(57) Also, from The Dhāraṇī Formula for Engaging in the Non-conceptual, he has said,

"If the Offspring of the Triumphant involved in this pure Dharma practice were to contemplate this state of no conceptual thoughts (grasping for self-established existence), they would transcend these concepts that are difficult to pass beyond and would gradually attain a non-conceptual state."

(58) When you have become certain, by these quotations and lines of reasoning, that all things are devoid of self-established existence and without a (self-established) arising, meditate in a state of no conceptual thoughts (of self-established existence).

10. Manifesting the Result

(59) When you have meditated on the facts of reality 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 kriyā, 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 celibate.

(65) If you were to take these empowerments so conferred while living according to the ascetic practice of celibacy, 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 behaviour 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 Śrī Dīpaṁkara, having seen (everything to be) as is explained from the Dharma teachings of the Sūtras and so on, and having been requested by Changchub Ö, 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 Dīpaṁkara Śrījñāna.

It was translated, edited, and finalized by the Indian Abbot himself (Dīpaṁkara Śrījñāna) and the Tibetan translator monk Gewey-Lodro.

This Dharma (text) was composed at the Tholing Monastery in Zhang Zhung.