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Modern Buddhism - 2nd US Edition

– The Path of Compassion and Wisdom

By developing and maintaining compassion and wisdom in daily life, we can transform our lives, improve our relationships with others and look behind appearances to see the way things really are. In this way we can find lasting happiness and accomplish the real meaning of our human life. With compassion and wisdom, like the two wings of a bird, we can quickly reach the enlightened world of a Buddha. Modern Buddhism reveals how all aspects of Buddhism – from the most basic to the most profound – can be applied practically to solve our daily problems and to experience deeper inner peace and happiness. An inspiring handbook of daily practice that is perfectly suited for those seeking solutions within Buddhism, as well as for encouraging practitioners of all faiths to deepen their understanding and practice of the spiritual path.

Free eBook Edition

The eBook edition of Modern Buddhism – The Path of Compassion and Wisdom, in three volumes, is being distributed freely at the request of the author Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. The author says: "Through reading and practicing the instructions given in this book, people can solve their daily problems and maintain a happy mind all the time." So that these benefits can pervade the whole world, Geshe Kelsang wishes to give this eBook freely to everyone.

We would like to request you to please respect this precious Dharma book, which functions to free living beings from suffering permanently. If you continually read and practice the advice in this book, eventually your problems caused by anger, attachment and ignorance will cease.

Please enjoy this special gift from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, who dedicates: "May everyone who reads this book experience deep peace of mind, and accomplish the real meaning of human life."

Would you like to read this on your Kindle? Click here to download for free: [Volume 1] [Volume 2] [Volume 3] For all other formats see below:

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Modern Buddhism - Front Cover

Modern Buddhism - Front Cover



Illustrations viii
Preface ix
Preliminary Explanation
  What is Buddhism? 3
  Buddhist Faith 7
  Who are the Kadampas? 10
  The Preciousness of Kadam Lamrim 21
The Path of a Person of Initial Scope
  The Preciousness of our Human Life 25
  What Does our Death Mean? 30
  The Dangers of Lower Rebirth 32
  Going for Refuge 35
  What is Karma? 39
The Path of a Person of Intermediate Scope
  What we should know 43
  What we should abandon 59
  What we should practice 61
  What we should attain 64
The Path of a Person of Great Scope 67
  The Supreme Good Heart – Bodhichitta 69
  Training in Affectionate Love 70
  Training in Cherishing Love 74
  Training in Wishing Love 82
  Training in Universal Compassion 83
  Training in Actual Bodhichitta 84
Training in the Path of Bodhichitta
  Training in the Six Perfections 89
  Training in Taking in Conjunction with the Practice
   of the Six Perfections
  Training in Giving in Conjunction with the Practice
   of the Six Perfections
Training in Ultimate Bodhichitta 103
  What is Emptiness? 104
  The Emptiness of our Body 106
  The Emptiness of our Mind 116
  The Emptiness of our I 117
  The Emptiness of the Eight Extremes 123
  Conventional and Ultimate Truths 129
  The Union of the Two Truths 135
  The Practice of Emptiness in our Daily Activities 140
  A Simple Training in Ultimate Bodhichitta 143
Examination of our Lamrim practice 149
The Preciousness of Tantra 153
The Tantra of Generation Stage 161
The Tantra of Completion Stage167
  The Central Channel 167
  The Indestructible Drop 169
  The Indestructible Wind and Mind 170
  How to Meditate on the Central Channel 173
  How to Meditate on the Indestructible Drop 174
  How to Meditate on the Indestructible Wind and Mind 175
The Completion Stage of Mahamudra 187
  Great Bliss 190
The Practice of Heruka Body Mandala
  The Lineage of these Instructions 203
  What is the Heruka Body Mandala? 210
  The Preliminary Practices 214
  Training in the Generation Stage of Heruka Body Mandala 234
  Training in Completion Stage 245
The Instructions of Vajrayogini
  The Yogas of Sleeping, Rising and Experiencing Nectar " 247
  The Remaining Eight Yogas 254
Appendix I – Liberating Prayer 261
Appendix II – Prayers for Meditation 263
Appendix III – An Explanation of Channels 273
Appendix IV – An Explanation of Inner Winds 279
Appendix V – The Yoga of Buddha Heruka 287
Appendix VI – Blissful Journey 305
Appendix VII – Quick Path to Great Bliss 329
Appendix VIII – The nada 379
Glossary 381
Bibliography 399
Study Programmes of Kadampa Buddhism 405
Tharpa Offices Worldwide 411
Index 413
Buddha Shakyamuni 2
Je Tsongkhapa 68
Buddha of Compassion 88
Arya Tara 102
Wisdom Dharma Protector 152
Twelve-armed Heruka 160
Ghantapa 186
Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka 202
Buddha Vajradhara 228
Buddha Vajradharma 236
Venerable Vajrayogini 248
Mandala of Vajrayogini 256
Naropa 286
Tantric commitment objects: inner offering in kapala,
  vajra, bell, damaru, mala
Je Phabongkhapa 290
Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche 306
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Modern Buddhism

Also by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Meaningful to Behold

Clear Light of Bliss

Heart of Wisdom

Universal Compassion

Joyful Path of Good Fortune

Guide to Dakini Land

The Bodhisattva Vow

Heart Jewel

Great Treasury of Merit

Introduction to Buddhism

Understanding the Mind

Tantric Grounds and Paths

Ocean of Nectar

Essence of Vajrayana

Living Meaningfully, Dying Joyfully

Eight Steps to Happiness

Transform Your Life

The New Meditation Handbook

How to Solve Our Human Problems

Mahamudra Tantra

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Building for World Peace


geshe kelsang gyatso

Modern Buddhism

the path of compassion
and wisdom














Copyright © 2011 New Kadampa Tradition—International Kadampa Buddhist Union

First edition 2011


All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any
means except for the quotation of brief passages for the purpose of private study,
research, or review.

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Library of Congress Control Number: 2010932058
Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper



The instructions given in this book are scientific methods for improving our human nature and qualities through developing the capacity of our mind. In recent years our knowledge of modern technology has increased considerably, and as a result we have witnessed remarkable material progress, but there has not been a corresponding increase in human happiness. There is no less suffering in the world today, and there are no fewer problems. Indeed, it might be said that there are now more problems and greater dangers than ever before. This shows that the cause of happiness and the solution to our problems do not lie in knowledge of material things. Happiness and suffering are states of mind and so their main causes cannot be found outside the mind. If we want to be truly happy and free from suffering, we must learn how to control our mind.

When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations, we tend to regard


the situation itself as our problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the side of the mind. If we were to respond to difficult situations with a positive or peaceful mind they would not be problems for us; indeed, we may even come to regard them as challenges or opportunities for growth and development. Problems arise only if we respond to difficulties with a negative state of mind. Therefore, if we want to be free from problems, we must transform our mind.

Buddha taught that the mind has the power to create all pleasant and unpleasant objects. The world is the result of the karma, or actions, of the beings who inhabit it. A pure world is the result of pure actions and an impure world is the result of impure actions. Since all actions are created by mind, ultimately everything, including the world itself, is created by mind. There is no creator other than the mind.

Normally we say ‘I created such and such’, or ‘He or she created such and such’, but the actual creator of everything is the mind. We are like servants of our mind—whenever it wants to do something, we have to do it without any choice. Since beginningless time until now we have been under the control of our mind, without any freedom; but if we sincerely practice the instructions given in this book we can reverse this


situation and gain control over our mind. Only then shall we have real freedom.

Through studying many Buddhist texts we may become a renowned scholar; but if we do not put Buddha’s teachings into practice, our understanding of Buddhism will remain hollow, with no power to solve our own or others’ problems. Expecting intellectual understanding of Buddhist texts alone to solve our problems is like a sick person hoping to cure his or her illness through merely reading medical instructions without actually taking the medicine. As Buddhist Master Shantideva says:

We need to put Buddha’s teachings, the Dharma, into practice

Because nothing can be accomplished just by reading words.

A sick man will never be cured of his illness

Through merely reading medical instructions!

Each and every living being has the sincere wish to avoid all suffering and problems permanently. Normally we try to do this by using external methods, but no matter how successful we are from a worldly point of view — no matter how materially wealthy, powerful or highly respected we become — we shall never find permanent liberation from suffering and problems. In reality


all the problems we experience day-to-day come from our self-cherishing and self-grasping — misconceptions that exaggerate our own importance. However, because we do not understand this, we usually blame others for our problems, and this just makes them worse. From these two basic misconceptions arise all our other delusions arise, such as anger and attachment, causing us to experience endless problems.

I pray that everyone who reads this book may experience deep inner peace, or peace of mind, and accomplish the real meaning of human life. I particularly would like to encourage everyone to read specifically the chapter ‘Training in Ultimate Bodhichitta‘. Through carefully reading and contemplating this chapter again and again with a positive mind, you will gain very profound knowledge, or wisdom, which will bring great meaning to your life.  

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso



Preliminary Explanation


Buddhism is the practice of Buddha’s teachings, also called Dharma;, which means ‘protection’. By practising Buddha’s teachings, living beings are permanently protected from suffering. The founder of Buddhism is Buddha Shakyamuni, who showed the manner of accomplishing the ultimate goal of living beings, the attainment of enlightenment, at Bodh Gaya in India in BC 589. At the request of the gods Indra and Brahma, Buddha then began to expound his profound teachings, or turned the Wheel of Dharma. Buddha gave eighty-four thousand teachings, and from these precious teachings Buddhism developed in this world.

Today we can see many different forms of Buddhism, such as Zen and Theravada Buddhism. All these different aspects are practices


of Buddha’s teachings, and all are equally precious; they are just different presentations. In this book I shall explain about Buddhism according to the Kadampa tradition, which I have studied and practised, and the lineage of this teaching is below. This explanation is not given for the purpose of intellectual understanding, but for gaining profound realizations through which we can solve our daily problems of delusions and accomplish the real meaning of our human life.

There are two stages to the practice of Buddha’s teachings — the practices of Sutra and Tantra — both of which are explained in this book. Although the instructions presented here come from Buddha Shakyamuni, and Buddhist Masters such as Atisha, Je Tsongkhapa and our present Teachers, this book is called Modern Buddhism because its presentation of Dharma is designed especially for the people of the modern world. My intention in writing this book is to give the reader strong encouragement to develop and maintain compassion and wisdom. If everyone sincerely practises the path of compassion and wisdom all their problems will be solved and never arise again; I guarantee this. 

We need to practice Buddha’s teachings because there is no other real method to solve human problems. For example, because modern technology often causes more suffering and


dangers, it cannot be a real method to solve human problems. Although we want to be happy all the time we do not know how to do this, and we are always destroying our own happiness by developing anger, negative views and negative intentions. We are always trying to escape from problems, even in our dreams, but we do not know how to liberate ourself from suffering and problems. Because we do not understand the real nature of things, we are always creating our own suffering and problems by performing inappropriate or non-virtuous actions. 

The source of all our daily problems is our delusions such as attachment. Since beginningless time, because we have been so attached to the fulfillment of our own wishes, we have performed various kinds of non-virtuous actions – actions that harm others. As a result we continually experience various kinds of suffering and miserable conditions in life after life without end. When our wishes are not fulfilled we usually experience unpleasant feelings, such as unhappiness or depression; this is our own problem because we are so attached to the fulfillment of our wishes. When we lose a close friend we experience pain and unhappiness, but this is only because of our attachment to this friend. When we lose our possessions, position or reputation we experience unhappiness and


depression because we are so attached to these things. If we had no attachment there would be no basis to experience these problems. Many people are engaged in fighting, criminal actions and even warfare; all these actions arise from their strong attachment to the fulfilment of their own wishes. In this way we can see that there is not a single problem experienced by living beings that does not come from their attachment. This proves that unless we control our attachment our problems will never cease.

The method for controlling our attachment and other delusions is the practice of Buddha’s teachings. By practicing Buddha’s teachings on renunciation we can solve our daily problems that arise from attachment; by practicing Buddha’s teachings on universal compassion we can solve our daily problems that arise from anger; and by practicing Buddha’s teachings on the profound view of emptiness, ultimate truth, we can solve our daily problems that arise from ignorance. How to develop renunciation, universal compassion and the wisdom realizing emptiness will be explained in this book.

The root of attachment and of all our suffering is self-grasping ignorance, ignorance about the way things actually exist. Without relying upon Buddha’s teachings we cannot recognize this ignorance; and without practising Buddha’s


teachings on emptiness we cannot abandon it. Thus we shall have no opportunity to attain liberation from suffering and problems. Through this explanation we can understand that, since all living beings, whether human or non-human, Buddhist or non-Buddhist, wish to be free from suffering and problems, they all need to practice Dharma. There is no other method to accomplish this aim.

We should understand that our problems do not exist outside of ourself, but are part of our mind that experiences unpleasant feelings. When our car, for example, has a problem we usually say ‘I have a problem’, but in reality it is the car’s problem and not our problem. The car’s problem is an outer problem, and our problem, which is our own unpleasant feeling, is an inner problem. These two problems are completely different. We need to solve the car’s problem by repairing it, and we need to solve our own problem by controlling our attachment to the car. Even if we keep solving the car’s problems, if we are unable to control our attachment to the car we shall continually experience new problems related to the car. It is the same with our house, our money, our relationships and so forth. Because of mistakenly believing that outer problems are their own problems, most people seek ultimate refuge in the wrong objects. As a result, their suffering and


problems never end.

For as long as we are unable to control our delusions such as attachment, we shall have to experience suffering and problems continually, throughout this life and in life after life without end. Because we are bound tightly by the rope of attachment to samsara, the cycle of impure life, it is impossible for us to be free from suffering and problems unless we practice Dharma. Understanding this, we should develop and maintain the strong wish to abandon the root of suffering – attachment and self-grasping ignorance. This wish is called ‘renunciation’, and arises from our wisdom.

Buddha’s teachings are scientific methods to solve the problems of all living beings permanently. By putting his teachings into practice we shall be able to control our attachment, and because of this we shall be permanently free from all our suffering and problems. From this alone we can understand how precious and important his teachings, the Dharma, are for everyone. As mentioned above, because all our problems come from attachment, and there is no method to control attachment other than Dharma, it is clear that only Dharma is the actual method to solve our daily problems.



For Buddhists, faith in Buddha Shakyamuni is their spiritual life; it is the root of all Dharma realizations. If we have deep faith in Buddha we shall naturally develop the strong wish to practise his teachings. With this wish we shall definitely apply effort in our Dharma practice, and with strong effort we shall accomplish permanent liberation from the suffering of this life and countless future lives. 

The attainment of permanent liberation from suffering depends upon effort in our Dharma practice, which depends upon the strong wish to practise Dharma, which in turn depends upon deep faith in Buddha. Therefore we can understand that if we truly want to experience great benefit from our practice of Buddhism we need to develop and maintain deep faith in Buddha.

How do we develop and maintain this faith? First, we should know why we need to attain permanent liberation from suffering. It is not enough just to experience temporary liberation from a particular suffering; all living beings, including animals, experience temporary liberation from particular sufferings. Animals experience temporary liberation from human


suffering, and humans experience temporary liberation from animal suffering. At the moment we may be free from physical suffering and mental pain, but this is only temporary. Later in this life and in our countless future lives we shall have to experience unbearable physical suffering and mental pain, again and again without end. In the cycle of impure life, samsara, no one has permanent liberation; everyone has to experience continually the sufferings of sickness, ageing, death and uncontrolled rebirth, in life after life without end.

Within this cycle of impure life there are various realms or impure worlds into which we can be reborn: the three lower realms – the animal, hungry ghost and hell realms – and the three higher realms – the god, demi-god and human realms. Of all impure worlds, hell is the worst; it is the world that appears to the very worst kind of mind. The world of an animal is less impure, and the world that appears to human beings is less impure than the world that appears to animals. However, there is suffering within every realm. When we take rebirth as a human being we have to experience human suffering, when we take rebirth as an animal we have to experience animal suffering, and when we take rebirth as a hell being we have to experience the suffering of a hell being. Through contemplating this we shall realize that


just experiencing a temporary liberation from particular sufferings is not good enough; we definitely need to attain permanent liberation from the sufferings of this life and all our countless future lives.

How can we accomplish this? Only by putting Buddha’s teachings into practice. This is because only Buddha’s teachings are the actual methods to abandon our self-grasping ignorance, the source of all our suffering. In his teaching called King of Concentration Sutra Buddha says:

A magician creates various things

Such as horses, elephants and so forth.

His creations do not actually exist;

You should know all things in the same way.

This teaching alone has the power to liberate all living beings permanently from their suffering. Through practising and realizing this teaching, which is explained more fully in the chapter Training in Ultimate Bodhichitta, we can permanently eradicate the root of all our suffering, our self-grasping ignorance. When this happens we shall experience the supreme permanent peace of mind, known as ‘nirvana’, permanent liberation from suffering, which is our deepest wish and the real meaning of human life. This is the main purpose of Buddha’s teachings.


Through understanding this we shall deeply appreciate the great kindness of Buddha to all living beings in giving profound methods to achieve permanent freedom from the cycle of suffering of sickness, ageing, death and rebirth. Even our mother does not have the compassion that wishes to liberate us from these sufferings; only Buddha has this compassion for all living beings without exception. Buddha is actually liberating us by revealing the wisdom path that leads us to the ultimate goal of human life. We should contemplate this point again and again until we develop deep faith in Buddha. This faith is the object of our meditation; we should transform our mind into faith in Buddha and maintain it single-pointedly for as long as possible. By continually practicing this contemplation and meditation we shall maintain deep faith in Buddha day and night, throughout our life.

One of Buddha’s main functions is to bestow mental peace upon each and every living being by giving blessings. By themselves living beings are unable to cultivate a peaceful mind; it is only through receiving Buddha’s blessings upon their mental continuum that living beings, including even animals, can experience peace of mind. When their minds are peaceful and calm they are really happy; but if their minds are not peaceful they are


not happy, even if their external conditions are perfect. This proves that happiness depends upon mental peace, and since this depends upon receiving Buddha’s blessings, Buddha is therefore the source of all happiness. Understanding and contemplating this we should develop and maintain deep faith in Buddha, and generate the strong wish to practice his teachings in general and Kadam Lamrim in particular.


;Ka refers to Buddha’s teachings and dam refers to Atisha’s instructions on Lamrim (the ‘Stages of the Path to Enlightenment‘, also known as Kadam Lamrim). Kadam therefore refers to the union of Buddha’s teachings and Atisha’s instructions, and sincere practitioners of Kadam Lamrim are called Kadampas ;. There are two Kadampa traditions, the ancient and the new. Practitioners of the ancient Kadampa tradition appeared to emphasize the practice of Kadam Lamrim of Sutra more than the practice of Tantra. Later, Je Tsongkhapa and his disciples emphasized the practice of Kadam Lamrim of both Sutra and Tantra equally. This new tradition founded by Je Tsongkhapa is called the new Kadampa tradition. 

Kadampas sincerely rely upon Buddha Shakyamuni because Buddha is the source of


Kadam Lamrim; they sincerely rely upon Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion, and upon the Wisdom Dharma Protector, indicating that their main practice is compassion and wisdom; and they sincerely rely upon Arya Tara because she promised Atisha that she would take special care of Kadampa practitioners in the future. For this reason, these four enlightened holy beings are called the ‘Four Kadampa Guru Deities’.

The founder of the Kadampa tradition is the great Buddhist Master and scholar, Atisha. Atisha was born in AD 982 as a prince in East Bengal, India. His father’s name was Kalyanashri (Glorious Virtue) and his mother’s name was Prabhavarti Shrimati (Glorious Radiance). He was the second of three sons and when he was born he was given the name Chandragarbha (Moon Essence). The name Atisha, which means Peace, was given to him later by the Tibetan king Jangchub Ö because he was always calm and peaceful.

When he was still a child Chandragarbha’s parents took him to visit a temple. All along the way thousands of people gathered to see if they could catch a glimpse of the prince. When he saw them Chandragarbha asked ‘Who are these people?’ and his parents replied ‘They are all our subjects.’ Compassion arose spontaneously in the


prince’s heart and he prayed ‘May all these people enjoy good fortune as great as my own.’ Whenever he met anyone the wish arose naturally in his mind, ‘May this person find happiness and be free from suffering.’

Even as a small boy Chandragarbha received visions of Arya Tara, a female enlightened being. Sometimes, while he was on his mother’s lap, blue upali flowers would fall from the sky and he would begin to speak, as if to the flowers. Yogis later explained to his mother that the blue flowers she had seen were a sign that Tara was appearing to her son and speaking to him.

When the prince was older his parents wanted to arrange a marriage for him, but Tara advised him ‘If you become attached to your kingdom you will be like an elephant when he sinks into mud and cannot lift himself out again because he is so huge and heavy. Do not become attached to this life. Study and practice Dharma. You have been a Spiritual Guide in many of your previous lives and in this life also you will become a Spiritual Guide.’ Inspired by these words Chandragarbha developed a very strong interest in studying and practising Dharma and he became determined to attain all the realizations of Buddha’s teachings. He knew that to accomplish his aim he would need to find a fully qualified Spiritual Guide. At first he approached a famous Buddhist Teacher


called Jetari, who lived nearby, and requested Dharma instructions on how to find release from samsara. Jetari gave him instructions on refuge and bodhichitta, and then told him that if he wanted to practise purely he should go to Nalanda and learn from the Spiritual Guide Bodhibhadra.

When he met Bodhibhadra the prince said ‘I realize that samsara is meaningless and that only liberation and full enlightenment are really worthwhile. Please give Dharma instructions that will lead me quickly to the state beyond sorrow, nirvana.’ Bodhibhadra gave him brief instructions on generating bodhichitta and then advised ‘If you wish to practice Dharma purely you should seek the Spiritual Guide Vidyakokila.’ Bodhibhadra knew that Vidyakokila was a great meditator who had gained a perfect realization of emptiness and was very skillful in teaching the stages of the profound path.

Vidyakokila gave Chandragarbha complete instructions on both the profound path and the vast path and then sent him to study with the Spiritual Guide Avadhutipa. Avadhutipa did not give guidance immediately but told the prince to go to Rahulagupta to receive instructions on Hevajra and Heruka Tantras and then to return to him to receive more detailed instructions on Tantra, or Secret Mantra. Rahulagupta gave


Chandragarbha the secret name Janavajra (Indestructible Wisdom) and his first empowerment, which was into the practice of Hevajra. Then he told him to go home and obtain the consent of his parents.

Although the prince was not attached to worldly life it was still important for him to have his parents’ permission to practice in the way he wished. Thus he returned to his parents and said ‘If I practice Dharma purely, then, as Arya Tara has predicted, I will be able to repay your kindness and the kindness of all living beings. If I can do this my human life will not have been wasted. Otherwise, even though I may spend all my time in a glorious palace, my life will be meaningless. Please give me your consent to leave the kingdom and dedicate my whole life to the practice of Dharma.’ Chandragarbha’s father was unhappy to hear this and wanted to prevent his son from giving up his prospects as future king, but his mother was delighted to hear that her son wished to dedicate his life to Dharma. She remembered that at his birth there had been marvelous signs, such as rainbows, and she remembered miracles like the blue upali flowers falling from the sky. She knew that her son was no ordinary prince and she gave her permission without hesitation. In time, the king also granted his son’s wish.


Chandragarbha returned to Avadhutipa and for seven years he received instructions on Secret Mantra. He became so accomplished that on one occasion he developed pride, thinking ‘Probably I know more about Secret Mantra than anyone else in the whole world.’ That night in his dream Dakinis came and showed him rare scriptures that he had never seen before. They asked him ‘What do these texts mean?’, but he had no idea. When he awoke, his pride was gone.

Later, Chandragarbha began to think that he should imitate Avadhutipa’s way of practising and strive as a layman to attain enlightenment quickly by practicing Mahamudra depending upon an action mudra; but he received a vision of Heruka who told him that if he were to take ordination he would be able to help countless beings and spread Dharma far and wide. That night he dreamt that he was following a procession of monks in the presence of Buddha Shakyamuni, who was wondering why Chandragarbha had not yet taken ordination. When he awoke from his dream he resolved to become a monk. He received ordination from Shilarakshita, and was given the name Dhipamkara Shrijana.

From the Spiritual Guide Dharmarakshita, Dhipamkara Shrijana received extensive instructions on the Seven Sets of Abhidharma and


the Ocean of Great Explanation — texts written from the point of view of the Vaibhashika system. In this way he mastered the Hinayana teachings.

Still not satisfied, Dhipamkara Shrijana went to receive detailed instructions at Bodh Gaya. One day he overheard a conversation between two ladies who were in fact emanations of Arya Tara. The younger asked the elder ‘What is the principal method for attaining enlightenment quickly?’ and the elder replied ‘It is bodhichitta.’ Hearing this, Dhipamkara Shrijana became determined to attain the precious bodhichitta. Later, while he was circumambulating the great stupa at Bodh Gaya, a statue of Buddha Shakyamuni spoke to him, saying ‘If you wish to attain enlightenment quickly you must gain experience of compassion, love and the precious bodhichitta.’ His desire to realize bodhichitta then became intense. He heard that the Spiritual Guide Serlingpa, who was living far away in a place called Serling, in Sumatra, had attained a very special experience of bodhichitta and was able to give instructions on the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras.

It took Dhipamkara Shrijana thirteen months to sail to Sumatra. When he arrived there he offered Serlingpa a mandala and made his requests. Serlingpa told him that the instructions would take twelve years to transmit. Dhipamkara Shrijana stayed in Sumatra for twelve years and


finally gained the precious realization of bodhichitta. Then he returned to India.

By relying upon his Spiritual Guides, Atisha gained special knowledge of the three sets of Buddha’s teachings — the set of moral discipline, the set of discourses and the set of wisdom; and of the four classes of Tantra. He also mastered arts and sciences such as poetry, rhetoric and astrology, was an excellent physician, and was very skilled in crafts and technology.

Atisha also gained all the realizations of the three higher trainings: training in higher moral discipline, training in higher concentration and training in higher wisdom. Since all the stages of Sutra, such as the six perfections, the five paths, the ten grounds; and all the stages of Tantra, such as generation stage and completion stage, are included within the three higher trainings, Atisha therefore gained all the realizations of the stages of the path.

There are three types of higher moral discipline: the higher moral discipline of the Pratimoksha vows, or vows of individual liberation; the higher moral discipline of the Bodhisattva vow; and the higher moral discipline of the Tantric vows. The vows to abandon two hundred and fifty-three downfalls, undertaken by a fully ordained monk, are amongst the Pratimoksha vows. Atisha never broke any one of these. This shows that he


possessed very strong mindfulness and very great conscientiousness. He also kept purely the Bodhisattva vow to avoid eighteen root downfalls and forty-six secondary downfalls, and he kept purely all his Tantric vows.

The attainments of higher concentration and higher wisdom are divided into common and uncommon. A common attainment is one that is gained by practitioners of both Sutra and Tantra, and an uncommon attainment is one that is gained only by practitioners of Tantra. By training in higher concentration Atisha gained the common concentration of tranquil abiding and, based on that, clairvoyance, miracle powers and the common virtues. He also attained uncommon concentrations such as the concentrations of generation stage and completion stage of Secret Mantra. By training in higher wisdom Atisha gained the common realization of emptiness, and the uncommon realizations of example clear light and meaning clear light of Secret Mantra.

Atisha mastered the teachings of both Hinayana and Mahayana and was held in respect by Teachers of both traditions. He was like a king, the crown ornament of Indian Buddhists, and was regarded as a second Buddha.

Before Atisha’s time the thirty-seventh king of Tibet, Trisong Detsen (circa AD 754-97), had invited Padmasambhava, Shantarakshita and


other Buddhist Teachers from India to Tibet, and through their influence pure Dharma had flourished; but some years later a Tibetan king called Lang Darma (circa AD 836) destroyed the pure Dharma in Tibet and abolished the Sangha. Until that time most of the kings had been religious, but it was a dark age in Tibet during Lang Darma’s evil reign. About seventy years after his death Dharma began to flourish once again in the upper part of Tibet through the efforts of great Teachers such as the translator Rinchen Sangpo, and it also began to flourish in the lower part of Tibet through the efforts of a great Teacher called Gongpa Rabsel. Gradually, Dharma spread to central Tibet.

At that time there was no pure practice of the union of Sutra and Tantra. The two were thought to be contradictory, like fire and water. When people practiced Sutra they abandoned Tantra, and when they practiced Tantra they abandoned Sutra, including even the rules of the Vinaya. False teachers came from India wishing to procure some of Tibet’s plentiful gold. Pretending to be Spiritual Guides and Yogis they introduced perversions such as black magic, creating apparitions, sexual practices and ritual murder. These malpractices became quite widespread.

A king called Yeshe Ö and his nephew Jangchub Ö, who lived in Ngari in western Tibet, were


greatly concerned about what was happening to the Dharma in their country. The king wept when he thought of the purity of Dharma in former times compared with the impure Dharma now being practiced. He was grieved to see how hardened and uncontrolled the minds of the people had become. He thought ‘How wonderful it would be if pure Dharma could flourish once again in Tibet to tame the minds of our people.’ To fulfill this wish he sent Tibetans to India to learn Sanskrit and train in Dharma, but many of these people were unable to endure the hot climate. The few who survived learnt Sanskrit and trained very well in Dharma. Amongst them was the translator Rinchen Sangpo, who received many instructions and then returned to Tibet.

Since this plan had not met with much success Yeshe Ö decided to invite an authentic Teacher from India. He sent a group of Tibetans to India with a large quantity of gold, and gave them the task of seeking out the most qualified Spiritual Guide in India. He advised them all to study Dharma and gain perfect knowledge of Sanskrit. These Tibetans suffered all the hardships of climate and travel in order to accomplish his wishes. Some of them became famous translators. They translated many scriptures and sent them to the king, to his great delight.

When these Tibetans returned to Tibet they


informed Yeshe Ö, ‘In India there are many very learned Buddhist Teachers, but the most distinguished and sublime of all is Dhipamkara Shrijana. We would like to invite him to Tibet, but he has thousands of disciples in India.’ When Yeshe Ö heard the name ‘Dhipamkara Shrijana’ he was pleased, and became determined to invite this Master to Tibet. Since he had already used most of his gold and more was now needed to invite Dhipamkara Shrijana to Tibet, the king set off on an expedition to search for more gold. When he arrived at one of the borders a hostile non-Buddhist king captured him and threw him into prison. When the news reached Jangchub Ö he considered ‘I am powerful enough to wage war on this king, but if I do so many people will suffer and I shall have to commit many harmful, destructive actions.’ He decided to make an appeal for his uncle’s release, but the king responded by saying ‘I shall release your uncle only if you either become my subject or bring me a quantity of gold as heavy as your uncle’s body.’ With great difficulty Jangchub Ö managed to gather gold equal in weight to his uncle’s body, less the weight of his head. Since the king demanded the extra amount, Jangchub Ö prepared to go in search of more gold, but before he set out he visited his uncle. He found Yeshe Ö physically weak but in a good state of mind. Jangchub Ö spoke through the


bars of the prison ‘Soon I will be able to release you for I have managed to collect almost all the gold.’ Yeshe Ö replied ‘Please do not treat me as if I were important. You must not give the gold to this hostile king. Send it all to India and offer it to Dhipamkara Shrijana. This is my greatest wish. I will give my life joyfully for the sake of restoring pure Dharma in Tibet. Please deliver this message to Dhipamkara Shrijana. Let him know that I have given my life to invite him to Tibet. Since he has compassion for the Tibetan people, when he receives this message he will accept our invitation.’

Jangchub Ö sent the translator Nagtso together with some companions to India with the gold. When they met Dhipamkara Shrijana they told him what was happening in Tibet and how the people wanted to invite a Spiritual Guide from India. They told him how much gold the king had sent as an offering and how many Tibetans had died for the sake of restoring pure Dharma. They told him how Yeshe Ö had sacrificed his life to bring him to Tibet. When they had made their request Dhipamkara Shrijana considered what they had said and accepted their invitation. Although he had many disciples in India and was working very hard there for the sake of Dharma, he knew that there was no pure Dharma in Tibet. He had also received a prediction from Arya Tara that


if he went to Tibet he would benefit countless living beings. Compassion arose in his heart when he thought how many Tibetans had died in India, and he was especially moved by the sacrifice of Yeshe Ö.

Dhipamkara Shrijana had to make his way to Tibet in secret, for had his Indian disciples known that he was leaving India they would have prevented him. He said that he was making a pilgrimage to Nepal, but from Nepal he passed into Tibet. When his Indian disciples eventually realized that he was not going to return they protested that the Tibetans were thieves who had stolen their Spiritual Guide!

Since it was customary in those days, as it is today, to greet an honoured guest in style, Jangchub Ö sent an entourage of three hundred horsemen with many eminent Tibetans to the border to welcome Atisha and offer him a horse to ease the difficult journey to Ngari. Atisha rode at the centre of the three hundred horsemen, and by means of his miracle powers he sat one cubit above his horse’s back. When they saw him, those who previously had no respect for him developed very strong faith, and everyone said that the second Buddha had arrived in Tibet.

When Atisha reached Ngari, Jangchub Ö requested him: ‘O Compassionate Atisha, please give instructions to help the Tibetan people. Please


give advice that everyone can follow. Please give us special instructions so that we can practise all the paths of Sutra and Tantra together.’ To fulfil this wish Atisha composed and taught Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, the first text written on the stages of the path, Lamrim. He gave these instructions first in Ngari and then in central Tibet. Many disciples who heard these teachings developed great wisdom.


Atisha wrote the original Kadam Lamrim based on Ornament of Clear Realization by Buddha Maitreya, which is a commentary to the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras that Buddha Shakyamuni taught on Massed Vultures Mountain in Rajagriha, India. Later, Je Tsongkhapa wrote his extensive, middling and condensed Kadam Lamrim texts as commentaries to Atisha’s Kadam Lamrim instructions, and through this the precious Buddhadharma of Kadam Lamrim flourished in many countries in the East and now in the West. The Kadam Lamrim instructions, the union of Buddha’s teachings and Atisha’s special instructions, are presented in three stages: the instructions on the stages of the path of a person of initial scope; the instructions on the stages of the path of a person of middling scope; and the instructions on the stages of the


path of a person of great scope.

All Buddha’s teachings, both Sutra and Tantra, are included within these three instructions. Buddha’s teachings are the supreme medicine that permanently cures both physical sickness and the sickness of delusions. Just as doctors give different medicine for different sicknesses, so Buddha gave different Dharma medicine according to people’s different capacities. He gave simple teachings to those of initial scope, profound teachings to those of middling scope, and very profound teachings to those of great scope. In practice, all these teachings are part of Kadam Lamrim, which is the main body of Buddha’s teachings; there is not a single teaching of Buddha that is not included within Kadam Lamrim. For this reason, Je Tsongkhapa said that when we listen to the entire Lamrim we are listening to all Buddha’s teachings and when we practice the entire Lamrim we are practicing all Buddha’s teachings. Kadam Lamrim is the condensation of all Buddha’s teachings; it is very practical and suitable for everyone and its presentation is superior to other instructions. 

Through gaining experience of Lamrim we will understand that none of Buddha’s teachings are contradictory, we will put all Buddha’s teachings into practice, we will easily realize Buddha’s ultimate view and intention, and we shall become free from all mistaken views and intentions.


Everyone, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist, needs permanent liberation from suffering, and pure and everlasting happiness. This wish will be fulfilled through Lamrim practice; therefore it is the real wishfulfilling jewel. 

In general, all Buddha’s teachings, the Dharma, are very precious, but Kadam Dharma or Lamrim is a very special Buddhadharma that is suitable for everyone without exception. The great Master Dromtonpa said: ‘Kadam Dharma is like a mala made of gold.’ Just as everyone, even those who do not use a mala (or prayer beads), would be happy to accept a gift of a gold mala because it is made of gold, in a similar way, everyone, even non-Buddhists, can receive benefit from Kadam Dharma. This is because there is no difference between Kadam Dharma and people’s everyday experiences. Even without studying or listening to Dharma, some people often come to similar conclusions as those explained in Kadam Dharma teachings through looking at newspapers or television and understanding the world situation. This is because Kadam Dharma accords with people’s daily experience; it cannot be separated from daily life. Everyone needs it to make their lives happy and meaningful, to solve temporarily their human problems, and to enable them ultimately to find pure and everlasting happiness through controlling their anger, attachment,


jealousy, and especially ignorance.

In this spiritually degenerate time there are five impurities that are increasing throughout the world: (1) our environment is becoming increasingly impure because of pollution; (2) our water, air and food are becoming increasingly impure, also because of pollution; (3) our body is becoming increasingly impure because sickness and disease are now more prevalent; (4) our mind is becoming increasingly impure because our delusions are getting stronger and stronger; and (5) our actions are becoming increasingly impure because we have no control over our delusions.

Because of these five impurities, suffering, problems and dangers are increasing everywhere. However, through Lamrim practice we can transform our experience of all these impurities into the spiritual path that leads us to the pure and everlasting happiness of liberation and enlightenment. We can use all the difficulties that we see in the world as spiritual teachings that encourage us to develop renunciation, the wish to liberate ourself from the cycle of impure life; compassion, the wish that others may be liberated permanently from the cycle of impure life; and the wisdom that realizes that all these impurities are the results of our non-virtuous actions. In this way, through Lamrim practice we can transform all adverse conditions into opportunities for


developing realizations of the spiritual path that will bring us pure and everlasting happiness.

Whenever Lamrim practitioners experience difficulties and suffering they think: ‘Countless other living beings experience greater suffering and difficulties than I do’, and in this way they develop or increase their compassion for all living beings, which leads them quickly to the supreme happiness of enlightenment. Kadam Lamrim is the supreme medicine that can permanently cure all the sufferings of sickness, ageing, death and rebirth; it is the scientific method to improve our human nature and qualities, and to solve our daily problems. Kadam Lamrim is the great mirror of Dharma in which we can see the way things really are; and through which we can see what we should know, what we should abandon, what we should practise and what we should attain. And it is only by using this mirror that we can see the great kindness of all living beings.

Modern Buddhism - 2nd US edition -  Paperback
Details: 464 pages includes 19 line illustrations
Language: English (US)
ISBN: 9781616060343
Size: 5.5 x 8.25 x 1 in
Modern Buddhism - Volume 1 Sutra - eBook EPUB format
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Language: English (UK)
ISBN: 9781906665876+906+937
Modern Buddhism - Volume 1 Sutra - eBook EPUB format
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Review by Patrick on 4/30/12
Remarkable book
A truly insightful guide for beginning and advanced practioners alike. Well written and easy-to-understand. It includes an introduction and core understanding of Buddhist beliefs, clear examples of modern-day experiences, the application of Dharma to our modern lives, concise presentments of both Sutra and Tantra, benchmarks for levels (or Scopes) of spiritual achievement, a definative glossary of materials covered, inclusion of fundamental daily prayers, and much more. This literature is offered in free downloadable form, and also in printed release for purchase. I highly recommend both. This is a masterwork of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and sources from the very heart of his teachings.

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