Over 2,500 years ago, Shakyamuni Buddha gained direct insight into the nature of reality, perfected the qualities of wisdom, compassion, and power, and revealed the path to enlightenment to his disciples. Since then, the teachings of the Buddha have been transmitted directly from teacher to student in an unbroken line that ensures their authenticity.
Over the centuries after the Buddha taught, his teachings spread throughout Asia, eventually reaching the remote country of Tibet. There, the teachings flourished until the 9th century, when a new Tibetan emperor closed his country’s Buddhist temples and monasteries—the great centers of Buddhist learning. In time, the people of the country were left with little correct understanding of the teachings. So in the 11th century, a new king invited the great Indian master Atisha to bring the pure lineage of the Buddha’s teachings once again from India, where they were still flourishing, to Tibet.
In order to clarify the popular misunderstandings he encountered in Tibet, Atisha organized the Buddha’s teachings into a complete presentation of the steps on the path to enlightenment. In his text A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, Atisha put the Buddha’s direct teachings in order, according to the sequence in which they are to be implemented by each practitioner who aspires to enlightenment. This model proved extremely useful, and there have since been many presentations of what came to be known as the lam-rim (Tibetan for “stages of the path”), all based on Atisha’s root text.
One especially influential and expansive commentary on Atisha’s text, was composed by Lama Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), the founder of the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism (the tradition followed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama).
Shantideva Meditation’s teachers are recipients of the Mahayana lineage, started by Shakyamuni Buddha and passed down to us by such masters as Atisha, Tsongkhapa, and Pabongka Rinpoche. As students, we aspire to receive this lineage of pure teachings ourselves, so that we may pass them on in a culturally relevant yet pure way to the next generation, thus ensuring their continued existence in our world, for the benefit of all beings.
Photo: By Spirit-Fire