The Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s Stages of the Path, Volume One

Preface by His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

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Preface by His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama


THE FIRST VOLUME OF this work is a fairly detailed explanation of general points related to Buddhist concepts. It includes an introduction for today’s Buddhists on the important and fundamental points of the philosophical tenets of Śākyamuni Buddha, explanations on the reality of base existence presented by Buddhism and modern science, and ways to integrate the essence of Buddhism into daily life.

The second volume, composed by way of analysis of modern-day realities, consists of supplementary annotations to the wonderful work Oral Transmission of Mañjuśrī—an exegesis on the Lamrim, or stages of the path treatise, by the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, which is included in the classification known as the eight great works on the stages of the path.

I would like to talk a little about the reasons for this approach. In this twenty-first century the ongoing economic betterment of conditions for the peoples of this world has meant the overcoming of various immediate difficulties. By means of our human intellectual capabilities, alliances have been forged, great strides have been made in education, and, with the huge efforts expended by scientific research, great advances have been made in measurable understandings of the workings of the quantifiable external world. However, up to now, similar quantifiable understandings of the workings of the inner world of mind and experience have not been possible. Nevertheless, the xongoing search for ways to do so, fueled by an increasing interest in these areas, is an excellent sign.

However, at the same time there is the unprecedented phenomenon of climate change, epidemics, environmental problems, health issues, and so on. Moreover, new troubles, such as terrorism, are continuing to beset the world. The reality is that these problems are manmade. Many governments, communities, and individuals, driven by the energy of anger, desire, and wrong concepts, focus on their immediate needs without any thought for the long-term damage that might arise. Additionally, beset by intense sectarianism, they focus shortsightedly on the benefits to the individual or their own groups, not thinking of the effect their actions will have on the global community. There is no other way of resolving and improving these situations than to transform human thinking and conduct.

For such a transformation to take place, we can engage in the trainings of the views and conducts existing in religious traditions. In particular, we should work to benefit others by wholesome secular acts not necessarily linked with religious traditions, such as love, mindfulness, consideration, contentment, and patience, which are the basic attitudes for a conduct of accepting and discarding. These wholesome ways of behavior are found within all religious traditions, but they do not depend upon a particular religion for their existence, nor do they arise from those religions. In general, they arise by virtue of their being the very foundations of society. [viii] For example, abandoning the ten unvirtuous acts was adopted into Buddhist practice because these ten actions—such as killing and lying—did not bring about peace, harmony, and happiness within society. They were not newly decreed by the Buddha as being harmful. Therefore, abandoning these can be categorized as wholesome acts not specifically linked with any religious tradition. There are many such activities, and it is helpful to recognize them as such.

Whether we follow a religious tradition or not, I see it as incumbent xiupon us all to recognize the common goal of short and long-term happiness and to see that this is our common responsibility as individuals and communities. Many people have no liking for religious traditions and tend to shun a particular training as if it were a contagious disease simply because it comes from a religious tradition. These people, when working for their own happiness, should try to recognize these fundamental trainings as practical methods for bringing about peace and happiness and apply them to their minds. If these trainings are allowed to disappear, ultimately it will be a loss to humanity. It is worth experimenting to see if this is true or not.

Human beings of all kinds, without differentiation, whether they have faith in religion or not, are young or old, traditional or progressive, whether they believe in change or not, are all united in wanting to live happy lives in a well-ordered and decent society. And, keeping in mind that working for the benefit of all beings is essential for this endeavor, we should consider it our responsibility to help as best we can all those who show an interest. Therefore, because we hold that the teachings of the Buddha are reality-based and verifiable by experience, a general introduction to Buddhism in eight chapters has been included in this two-volume work.


For many years, wherever I am in the world, I have worked hard to promote three beneficial commitments to be of benefit. The first of these commitments is to attempt to develop the intrinsic and fundamental qualities of goodness that exist in human beings. The second commitment is to increase harmony among world religions. The third is the commitment to the welfare of Tibet. These three are the focus of the first volume, and are the context of the presentation of the general and specific points of Buddhism together with various historical narratives. In this general explanation are chapters on Buddhist xiiphilosophy on the reality of base existence, the relation between Buddhism and modern science, and how certain Buddhist trainings can be put into practice in tune with the necessities of daily life.

I will explain briefly the fundamental issues on which the contents of these eight chapters are based. [ix] The conditions that give rise to our manmade troubles are due to the failure to value the wholesome qualities such as love and kindness, which are innate in human beings, and to not recognize them as being fundamental for the welfare of humanity. Not valuing these qualities, we make no effort to develop their potential.

These qualities are like seeds. If seeds of flowers are provided with the right external conditions of soil, fertilizer, warmth, water, and so on, and are nurtured and cared for, the full glory of the flowers’ beauty, with their wonderful aromas, can blossom. If not, those seeds remain as potential only, unable to produce their results. Similarly, in order to manifest the potential of the love and kindness innate in each of us, we must nurture the right inner conditions of our attitudes, such as being compassionate, content, disciplined, and conscientious. Our happiness depends solely on others being happy, and therefore, if we alleviate the suffering of others, our own happiness will naturally and inevitably arise. When we understand this, these attitudes of love and kindness will develop unhindered and the innate potential within human beings can emerge.

We must recognize that among the numerous troubles that have occurred in the world over the past thousand years or so, some have involved groups that follow religious traditions. These followers have shown little interest in taming their minds through reliance upon their religion, and they hold their religious views to be supreme and misuse their religion so that it becomes a cause for increasing anger and desire. This is such a tragic situation and it continues today.

The result of such abuse of religious teachings has been a widespread opinion that no religion can be effective in real-world situations. xiiiFollowers of the major religious traditions that teach practices for taming the unruly mind have a responsibility to counter this unfortunate situation and to bring about the short- and long-term welfare of individuals and communities. A single religious tradition lacks the methods for fulfilling all the hopes and wishes of all living beings, because such hopes are as numerous as the varied dispositions of living beings. I believe that followers of diverse religious traditions should willingly act to shed any resentment, apprehension, expectation, and competitiveness between them, fueled by attachment or dislike. Setting aside their history of hostility and distrust, they should work to foster harmonious relations by cultivating respect and a genuine appreciation of other religions.

Furthermore, it is important that we Tibetans who have faith in Buddhism understand that all the philosophical positions of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and their subsects are ultimately of one intent. If we had some familiarity with the historical accounts of where and how these traditions developed, it would without doubt act as nourishment for the respect and pure perception of each of them. [x] Therefore, it is worth having some interest in studying their histories.

The philosophical view of Buddhism is dependent origination, and its conduct is one of nonharming. Relying upon Buddhism can exert a beneficial influence on the way we spend our lives. In Buddhism we recognize that all actions operate solely within the process of cause and effect. On that basis, we devote ourselves to the antidotes to karma and mental affliction, which are phenomena to be abandoned, and we strive for the resultant phenomena, which are factors to be adopted and which bring happiness now and in the long term. To begin we need an introduction to the essence of Buddhism by way of a presentation on the four truths.

In this book it is possible that there is some repetition over the two volumes, but this is because of the particular emphasis of the way of explaining the subject matter.


It is not necessary to become a Buddhist in order to put the fundamental philosophy of Buddhism and its stages of training into practice. All can comprehend these worthy qualities and use them to enjoy a good life blessed with short- and long-term happiness for oneself and others; this is something we all have to do. This does not mean that you should have faith in Buddhism or that you must definitely practice it. We should respect the individual’s right to have or not have faith in a religion. It goes without saying that it is acceptable to practice religion and also acceptable not to. However, given that we desire happiness and have no desire for suffering, if a religious tradition’s practices for taming the mind and abandoning hurting others are sincerely brought into daily life, they will definitely be beneficial in bringing happiness to oneself and others. I consider it important to try to show that.

Concerning an actual practice of Buddhism, at the very heart of the Dharma of the Buddha is a presentation of karma, or cause and effect. The proposition that “if this is done, that arises” is held to be a fundamental truth. By adhering to the reality of all phenomena existing in a state of mutual dependence, Buddhism must be practiced in harmony with the principle of seeking truth from facts. Buddhism is not a tradition that adheres solely to scripture; it is one in which reason is paramount. Any doctrine that contradicts evidence or sound reasoning, or that contradicts that which is validated by direct experience, should not be accepted and should be discarded. New ways of explaining phenomena that emerge from the investigative skills of modern research and do not accord with traditional explanations found in Buddhist texts of the past should be willingly accepted.

Even the words of Śākyamuni Buddha himself should be practiced having first examined them as one would examine the purity of gold through burning, cutting, and polishing. [xi] This the Buddha himself advised us to do. His instructions are not to be held as objects of veneration, nor followed simply because they are the words of our teacher. This independence of thought decreed by the mighty Buddha is the xvcentral pillar and peerless feature of this tradition. Those religions that determine what is and what is not allowed on the basis of the controlling decrees of a creator or of a founding saint, do not accord, in this aspect, with this fundamental tenet of Buddhism. Therefore, when we actually apply ourselves to religious practice, except in those areas of working to benefit others, we cannot simultaneously engage in different traditions, like having a foot in each camp, because of these fundamental differences in the path. Nor would it be of any benefit.

These days, in the conspicuous race of the human intellect to investigate fields of knowledge, competitiveness has increased accordingly. Because of this, many open-minded people, including those who propound modern scientific views, are convinced that Buddhist philosophy and its related trainings stand up to scrutiny. Non-Buddhists are recognizing that Buddhism can provide practices for developing happiness and eradicating suffering, practices that are therefore effective in bringing peace and well-being to society. Such voices are becoming more pronounced. For those who seek out new fields of knowledge and who have taken on the responsibility of promoting the welfare of our human society, Buddhism has become a new area of interest. This clearly illustrates the unique prestige of this tradition. It continues to receive much praise from all quarters that not only is it not a poison, but it can be substantiated by verifiable evidence and experience that it is medicine. This inspires limitless and joyous confidence.


Volume 2 is a translation of Oral Transmission of Mañjuśrī: Instructions on the Stages of the Path, a Buddhist presentation comprising, for a person who seeks liberation, the essential ways to practice in a single meditation session. It is an example of the stages of the path genre, one of the many condensed and extensive stages of the path works composed by the great masters of the past. It was composed by the xviGreat Fifth Dalai Lama, whose work was an unparalleled kindness for both the modern religious and secular systems of Tibet and for its people. He was genuinely a great being endowed with learning and accomplishment. This text takes as its foundation the unrivaled work Extensive Exposition of the Stages of the Path, composed by the all-knowing Tsongkhapa Losang Drakpa (1357–1419), [xii] and excellently summarizes the main points of practice.

I have taken Oral Transmission of Mañjuśrī, which was held in great esteem by many masters of the past, as a basis for the teachings in volume 2 and I have provided, with great respect and service, a somewhat expanded explanation in the form of a supplement.

The explanation in these volumes does not just follow the traditional modes of the past. It is in accordance with these changing times and follows the great ocean waves of beliefs and dispositions of the beings of this world, however they live. It is aimed at those who have a liking for religion in general, or specifically for Buddhism, and at those who are monks and nuns, lay men and women, Tibetan and non-Tibetan, who out of faith have entered this doctrine. It is also for those who have hostility toward religion, or have no particular feeling toward it, and for those who hold various political views. It is a work compiling the wisdom of different valuable philosophies and the great ways of the bodhisattvas.

This work is a small gift for the discerning people of this vast world and is offered with the pure motivation that it will reveal the excellent path of immediate and permanent happiness by opening new eyes of wisdom in all those of unbiased minds.

The Buddhist monk and propounder, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, India, the sixth day of the tenth month of fire monkey year of the seventeenth cycle, corresponding to December 5, 2016.

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