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Other titles in the Path to Enlightenment Series series:
The Way to Freedom: Core Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism (Path to Enlightenment Series)by Dalai Lama
Synopses & Reviews
Chapter OneThe TeachingThe Buddha arose from meditation 2,500 years ago after attaining enlightenment. The subject of his first teaching was the Four Noble Truths. The First Noble Truth was the truth of suffering, the fact that our happiness is constantly passing away. Everything we have is subject to impermanence. Nothing within what we commonly think of as real is permanent. Ignorance, attachment, and anger are the causes of our relentless suffering. Thus the Second Noble Truth is to understand this cause of suffering. When you eliminate the root of suffering (the delusions), you achieve a state of the cessation of suffering — the Third Noble Truth, or nirvana. The Fourth Noble Truth is that there exists a path leading to the cessation of suffering. In order to achieve that state within your own mind, you must follow a path.It is not until we understand the law of karma, or cause and effect, that we are inspired to embark on the path to end suffering. Negative thoughts and actions produce negative results and conditions, just as positive thoughts and actions produce positive results and conditions. When we develop deep conviction in the law of cause and effect, we will be able to perceive the causes and conditions of our own sufferings. Our present happiness or unhappiness is nothing more or less than the result of previous actions. The sufferings themselves are so obvious that our experience testifies to their existence. We will therefore develop the realization that if we do not desire suffering, then we should work to uproot its causes now. Through understanding suffering and its origins we can perceive the possibility of eliminating ignorance, which is the root cause ofsuffering, and we can conceive of a state of cessation, a total cessation of this ignorance and the delusions induced by it. When our understanding of cessation is perfect, we will develop a strong and spontaneous desire to reach such a state. Our understanding should be so profound that it shakes our whole being and induces in us a spontaneous wish to gain it. Once we develop this spontaneous wish to achieve cessation, an immense appreciation for the beings who have realized this cessation within their own minds develops. The recognition of the Buddha's accomplishments becomes powerful. The benefits and beauty of his teachings become clear.This teaching of the stages of the path to enlightenment came to Tibet from India. Buddhism did not come to Tibet until the eighth century, but in the ninth century its practice was outlawed by King Lang-dar-ma. He closed the monasteries, which had been the primary center for teachings, as the Chinese have done today. Lang-dar-ma's destruction of Buddhism was extensive, but it was still possible to practice in remote regions, and the tradition was preserved. In the eleventh century, confusion arose over the existence of two approaches to the practice of the teachings. There was "sutra, or the path of study and practice by which it takes many lifetimes to achieve enlightenment, and "tantra, the secret practices by which enlightenment can be achieved even in one lifetime. In the eleventh century, an Indian monk named Atisha became famous for his ability to explain the Buddha's teachings and to defend them in debates with non-Buddhist philosophers. He was able to bring together all the diverse Buddhist philosophical positions that had developed over thecenturies as well as the lay and monastic systems of practice. He was regarded as a nonpartisan and authoritative master by all the philosophical schools.At that time the king of western Tibet, inspired by the great Buddhist faith of his ancestors, read many texts and found what he thought were contradictions among the different systems, especially regarding sutra and tantra. Many Tibetans at that time, due to a misunderstanding of the role of ethics in the two systems, thought that the practices of sutra and tantra could not be undertaken by one person. Yet the king was aware that when Buddhism had arrived in Tibet in the eighth century, the two systems had coexisted peacefully. The Indian master Shantarakshita had spread both the practice of monastic discipline and the vast and compassionate practices of sutra. At the same time the great yogi, Padmasambhava, was spreading the practices of tantra and taming the malevolent forces that plagued Tibet. These two masters undertook the practices of the Dharma together, without any hostility between them. Realizing that India was the source of the practice of sutra and tantra, the king sent twenty intelligent students from Tibet to study in India with the idea that they would return and clarify the teachings for Tibetans. Many of them died on the way, but two returned and reported to the king that in India the practice of sutra and tantra was undertaken without any difficulties between them. They found the great master, Atisha, at the monastery of Vikramashila in Bengal. Atisha, these students felt, was the one who could help Tibet.The king himself went in search of enough gold to meet the expenses of inviting this master from India, but hewas captured by a king who was hostile to Buddhism. He was given the choice between his life and his search for the Dharma. When he refused to give up his search, he was imprisoned. His nephew tried to rescue him, but the king said, "You should not bother about me. Do not waste a single gold coin on my ransom. Use all the gold to invite Atisha from India." The nephew did not obey his uncle and eventually offered the king's weight in gold as ransom. But the kidnapper refused it, saying the nephew had brought gold equal only to the weight of his uncle's body, but not enough for his head. He refused to release the prisoner until he had brought more gold. The nephew then told his uncle what had happened. "If I wage a war to rescue you, ..".
His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teaching legacy to the world — a beautiful and accessible presentation of the time-honored path to enlightenment — is one of the world's great spiritual treasures.
The Way to Freedom, the inaugural volume of the landmark Library of Tibet series, is the essential primer on Tibetan Buddhism for both neophytes and advanced students. Based on a fifteenth-century text never before translated for a general audience, it is the revered heart of Tibetan practice, presented here in easy-to-understand steps by the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual and political leader.
About the Author
His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He is the author of two memoirs and numerous books on Buddhism, including The Way to Freedom and Awakening the Mind, Lightening the Heart--the first two volumes of the landmark Library of Tibet series.
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