A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment

Composed by the great Acarya, Atisha, glorious Dipankara Shrijnana

1     I bow in great reverence to all past, present and

        Future Victors, to their Doctrine and Communities.

        I shall light a Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment,

        At the request of my good disciple Byang-chub-'od. 


2     In that they are Inferior or Mediocre or Superior,

        Persons should be understood as three:

        The characteristics of each are very clear, and

        I shall note how they differ from one another. 


3     One who by every means he finds,

        Seeks by the pleasure of samsara,

        And cares but for himself alone, that one

        Is known as the Inferior Person. 


4     One who puts life's pleasures behind

        And turns himself from deeds of sin,

        Yet cares only about his own peace,

        That person should be called Mediocre. 


5     One who wholly seeks a complete end

        To the entire suffering of others because

        Their suffering belongs to his own [conscious] stream,

        That person is a Superior. 


6     For those pure beings whose desire

        Is the highest of Enlightenments,

        I shall explain the right means

        Which were taught me by my Gurus. 


7     Facing a painted image of the Perfect Buddha,

        Or in front of holy reliquaries and the like,

        Give worship with flowers and incense

        And whatever objects may be at hand. 


8     Then with the Sevenfold Worship expressed

        In the Deeds of Samantabhadra,

        And a mind that does not turn back until

        The Heart of Enlightenment is reached, 


9     With great faith in the Three Jewels,

        Bending knee to the ground,

        And folding the hands [275a]

        First take the Three Refuges thrice. 


10     Then, because the Thought of Love for

        All creatures is the prerequisite,

        One looks out on all the world,

        Suffering in death, transmigration,

        And rebirth in the three bad destinies:

11     At sight of that suffering, one suffers;

        And he who wants to free the world

        From the very cause of such suffering,

        Must beget this Thought of Enlightenment

        That is pledged never to turn back. 


12     Every quality that belongs to

        Begetting thoughts of such Resolution

        Has been well explained by Maitreya

        In his sutra, the Stalks in Array. 


13     Read that sutra or hear it from a Guru, and when

        The infinite benefits of Perfect Enlightenment Thought

        Are seen, then for that very reason you

        Will beget the Thought again and again. 


14     The merit of this is shown extremely well

        In the sutra called the Questions of Viradatta;

        And to give the essence of it,

        I quote three of its verses here: 

15     "If a form could be had for the full

        Merit of the Enlightenment Thought,

        It would surpass even one

        That filled the whole realm of space." 


16     "Or take a man who owns jewels, and with them

        Fills every one of the Buddha-fields --

        Reckoned as more than the grains of Ganga's sands --

        Then offers all this to the Lord of the World;" 


17     "Yet another who merely folds his hands,

        And inclines his thought to Enlightenment.

        The latter's worship is higher by far,

        Because in it there is found no limit." 


18     When you get the thoughts of aspiring to Enlightenment,

        Then with great effort strive to expand them fully;

        And to recall your resolve in your other births,

        Observe fully the Training I explained to you. 

19     A right resolve will not be furthered

        Without vows that have progress in mind; [275b]

        Therefore he who seeks growth in the resolve for

        Perfect Enlightenment, earnestly takes them. 


20     Only he who has lasting vows in

        One of Pratimoksa's seven ranks

        Is fit for the Vow of the Bodhisattva;

        There is no other way for it to be. 

21     The Tathagata has said that of

        The seven ranks of Pratimoksa,

        The glorious Pure Life is highest;

        By which he meant the vows of a Monk. 


22     According to the ritual given in the

        Conduct Chapter of the Bodhisattva Levels,

        One takes the Vow from any good Guru

        Who has the proper characteristics. 


23     One who is learned in the ritual of the Vow,

        And himself lives the Vow he has taken,

        And has the compassionate forbearance

        To impart it -- know him to be the good Guru. 


24     But if, after trying, one cannot

        Find just such a Guru as this,

        I will explain another ritual

        For taking the vow in a correct way. 


25     In this latter way, Manjusri in a former life

        As Ambaraja begat the Enlightenment Thought;

        And as told in the sutra called

        The Ornament of Manjustri's Buddha-field,

        I write it down clearly here now: 


26     "In the presence of the Lords, I beget

        The Thought of Perfect Enlightenment,

        And issuing invitation to all creatures,

        I will save them all from the cycle of rebirth." 


27     "Beginning from this moment and henceforth,

        Until I obtain the Highest Enlightenment,

        I shall not permit ill-will or anger,

        Avarice or envy, to occupy my mind." 


28     "I shall practice the Pure Life,

        And renounce sin and base desire;

        I shall imitate the Buddha

        By rejoicing in the vow of Conduct." 


29     "Myself, I am not keen to reach

        Enlightenment in some swift way;

        I shall remain until the final end

        For the sake of but a single creature." 


30     "I shall purify the innumerable [276a]

        Inconceivable fields of the universe,

        And from the taking of this [new] name, [henceforth]

        I shall live in the ten directions." 


31     "Purifying the actions of

        My body and speech entirely,

        I shall cleanse my mind's activity as well;

        No unvirtuous deed will ever be mine." 


32     In essence, one's purity of body, speech and mind

        Means keeping vows with a mind for progress;

        For by practicing well the Three Conduct Trainings,

        Appreciation of those same Three becomes greater. 

33     Hence, when one has striven in the vows which make up

        The pure and perfect Bodhisattva Vow,

        He will bring to complete perfection

        The very Equipment for Perfect Enlightenment. 


34     All the Buddhas have held that

        Perfecting this Equipment,

        The nature of which is Merit and Knowledge,

        Lies essentially in the superknowledges. 


35     Just as a bird with unfledged wings

        Cannot fly up into the sky,

        So without the superknowledges' power,

        One cannot work for the good of others. 

36     The merits which a man with the

        Superknowledges gains in a single day

        Could not be had in a hundred lives

        By one who lacked those knowledges. 

37     He who seeks to bring to perfection swiftly

        The Equipment for Perfect Enlightenment

        Strives hard for the superknowledges,

        For they are not accomplished by sloth. 


38     As long as Calmness is not attained,

        The superknowledges will not occur;

        Therefore, in order to achieve Calmness,

        One must keep striving over and over. 


39     One who neglects the Limbs of Calmness,

        Even though he strive to meditate

        For thousands of years, never

        Will achieve Concentration. 

40     Therefore, when well established in the Limbs

        That are stated in the Chapter on Concentration Equipment,

        One can then set the mind in virtue,

        Fixed on any Topic he chooses. 

41     When yogic Calmness is achieved,

        So too are the superknowledges; [276b]

        But obscuration is not destroyed

        Without the Perfection of Insight. 


42     Hence, to remove all obscuration

        Of his affliction and his knowledge,

        The yogin must continually cultivate the

        Perfection of Insight together with Means. 


43     Scripture says that bondage is from

        Insight being divorced from Means,

        And the Means from Insight as well.

        Therefore, neglect not this union. 


44     To remove any doubts about

        What Insight is, and what are Means,

        I make clear the difference

        Between the Means and Insight. 


45     The Victors have explained that the Means

        Are all the Equipments of virtue,

        Starting with the Perfection of Giving,

        Up to, but excluding, that of Insight. 


46     One who combines the mastery of the Means

        With a true cultivation of Insight

        Will swiftly attain Enlightenment, but

        Not by cultivating merely Non-self. 


47     "Insight" is fully explained as knowing

        The Emptiness of intrinsic nature,

        In comprehending that Aggregates and

        Sense bases and Elements do not arise. 


48    An existent's arising is impossible;

        A non-existent's is like flowers in the sky;

        For a thing to be both is absurd fallacy;

        So neither do they originate together. 


49    Since an entity does not arise from itself,

        And is not from another, or even from both,

        Nor is it yet without cause; therefore it has

        No intrinsic nature by way of own-existence. 


50     Furthermore, if one analyses all things

        As identities or multiplicities,

        Own-existence is not perceived; hence one is

        Certain that intrinsic natures do not exist.

51     The reasoning of the Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness,

        And of texts like the Basic Stanzas on the Middle Way,

        Explains the proof that all entities

        Are empty of intrinsic nature. 


52     Wherefore, lest my text become too long,

        I do not elaborate it here,

        But will explain only proven tenets

        In order to further contemplation. 


53     Thus, not to perceive intrinsic nature [277a]

        In any phenomenon whatever

        Is to contemplate its Non-Self; which

        Is the same as contemplating with Insight. 


54     And this Insight which does not see

        Intrinsic nature in any phenomena

        Is that same Insight explained as Wisdom.

        Cultivate it without conceptual thought. 

55     The world of change springs from conceptual

        Thought, which is its very nature;

        The complete removal of such

        Thought is the Highest Nirvana. 


56     Moreover, the Blessed One declared:

        "Conceptual thinking is the great ignorance,

        And casts one into samsara's ocean; but

        Clear as the sky is his contemplation who

        Remains in Concentration without concepts." 


57     And he also says in the Non-Conceptual Progress Formula:

        "When a son of the Victor meditates on

        This holy Doctrine without conceptual thought,

        He gradually attains the non-conceptual." 

58     When through scripture and reason one has

        Penetrated the non-intrinsic

        Nature of all non-arising phenomena,

        Then contemplate without conceptual thought. 

59     And when he has thus contemplated Thatness,

        And by stages has attained "Warmth" and the rest,

        Then he will gain the "Joyous" [Level] and on up:

        Buddha-Enlightenment is not far off. 

60     Through the rites of "Appeasement" and "Prosperity"

        And the rest, effected by the force of Mantra,

        And also by the strength of the Eight Great Powers,

        Starting with that "Good Flask", and others, 

61     It is maintained that the Equipment for

        Enlightenment is perfected with ease;

        And if one wants to practice Mantra as prescribed

        In the Tantras: Action, Practice, and on, 


62     Then, to gain the Preceptor-Initiation,

        One must first win a holy Guru

        By giving him attendance and precious things

        And by obedience to his word. 


63     And when the Preceptor-Initiation has been

        Conferred by the Guru who was won over,

        Then one is purified of all sin, and [277b]

        Becomes fit to exercise the Powers. 


64     The Secret and Insight Initiations

        Should not be taken by religious celibates,

        Because it is emphatically forbidden

        In the Great Tantra of Primal Buddha. 


65     If those Initiations were taken by one who stays

        In the austerity of a religious celibate,

        It would violate his vow of austerity

        Since he would be practicing what is forbidden. 


66     Transgressions would occur which defeat

        The man of religious observance;

        And by his certain fall to bad destinies,

        He would not even succeed [in Mantra practice]. 


67     Having acquired the Preceptor-Initiation,

        He may listen to all Tantras and explain them;

        Perform Fire-offering, Gift-worship, and the like:

        There is no wrong in wisdom about reality. 

68     I, the Elder, Dipamkarasri,

        Having seen this explanation in texts

        Such as the sutras; and Byang-chub-'od's request

        Have explained concisely the Path to Enlightenment. 



This completes the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment 

Composed by the great Acarya, Atisha, glorious Dipankara Shrijnana. 

Translated and edited by the great Upadhyaya of India himself, 

and by the revisor-translator Dge-ba'i blo-gros. 

This text was composed at the Tho-ling temple of Zhang-zhung.

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