Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

Taking the Result as the Path - Introduction

Core Teachings of the Sakya Lamdré Tradition

Translator’s Introduction

The tradition known as the Path with the Result or Lamdré (lam ’bras) is one of the great tantric systems of Buddhism in Tibet. For nearly a thousand years this vehicle for enlightenment has been the central focus of meditation practice in the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. According to Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen (1147–1214), one of the greatest masters of the Path with the Result, the name of the tradition emphasizes that the focus of practice is “taking the result as the path.” The result—the essence or innate true nature of a living being—is actually present at all times. Were this otherwise, the practices of the spiritual path would be futile. This essence is not transformed by the practices of the path because it is beyond conceptual elaboration. The qualities of a buddha, or enlightened being, are obtained instead through removing obscurations and transforming one’s body, speech, and mind. This process includes concentrated focusing on the essence itself. The result that is already present at the beginning is thereby taken as, or made into, the spiritual path by means of tantric techniques. This basic theme of tantric Buddhism will be explained in detail in the works translated in this volume.

The texts of the Path with the Result in this book are divided into two parts. Part I opens with the fundamental treatise of the system, formulated by the great Indian adept Virūpa (ca. seventh–eighth centuries). This quintessential mystical document is said to embody the vital meaning of the entire Buddhist doctrine in general and of the Hevajra Tantra in particular. This treatise is usually referred to as the Vajra Lines and consists of the instructions Virūpa originally gave orally to his disciple Kāṇha. The Vajra Lines consist almost entirely of mnemonic phrases that list topics in a cryptic, unelaborated form. These lines are called vajra or adamantine because they are extremely difficult to penetrate without instructions from a master of the tradition. However, when they are understood, they are like a magic gem that fulfills all spiritual wishes. For at least eight generations, the Vajra Lines were passed down in a unique oral transmission, spoken to only one person in each generation. The great translator (lo tsā wa) Drokmi Lotsāwa Shākya Yeshé (993–1077?) orally translated the Vajra Lines into Tibetan, but they were never written down until Sachen Künga Nyingpo (1092–1158) did so, probably in the year 1141. Until Sachen’s time, teaching the Path with the Result meant transmitting the Vajra Lines as an experiential oral teaching, sometimes over a period of many years.

After receiving permission from his teacher Shangtön Chöbar (1053–1135), Sachen wrote the first texts to explain the esoteric meaning of the Path with the Result. The most important of Sachen’s works are eleven commentaries on the Vajra Lines of Virūpa. These commentaries represent explanations given for the benefit of individual disciples (eight men and three women). The last of the eleven, also translated in part I, is known as the Explication of the Treatise for Nyak. Since then, this short work that Sachen wrote for his disciple Nyak Wangchuk Gyaltsen has been the primary text used when teaching the Vajra Lines in the Sakya tradition. It is considered the most profound of Sachen’s complete commentaries, even though the others are more detailed. Because the tradition was still largely oral at that time, many points are explained briefly or not at all in Sachen’s text. However, topics directly connected to meditation practice are usually made clear in the other works translated in this book. Sachen’s son Drakpa Gyaltsen added crucial and extensive annotations to his father’s final commentary, which have not been translated here. In summary, the Vajra Lines and the Explication of the Treatise for Nyak present the theoretical and practical basis for the Path with the Result and are intended for dedicated yogins and yoginīs.

Part II contains a series of the most important texts of the lineage within the Path with the Result that is known as the Lobshé or Explication for Disciples, a term used to distinguish it from the Tsokshé or Explication for the Assembly. Such a distinction within the tradition was not drawn until the time of the Sakya throne-holder Dakchen Lodrö Gyaltsen (1444–95). The Explication for Disciples claims that its teachings represent the uncommon esoteric transmission that was passed down from Sachen’s time forward only to his descendents, the Khön family of Sakya. Eventually, Dakchen Lodrö Gyaltsen bestowed the teachings on his Dharma heir, Künpang Doringpa (1449–1524), who was not a member of the Sakya family. However, the specific details that characterize the Explication for Disciples were not written down until the time of Tsarchen Losel Gyatso (1502–66), Doringpa’s main disciple. Tsarchen’s special teachings were primarily recorded by his two most important students, Jamyang Khyentsé Wangchuk (1524–68) and Mangthö Ludrup Gyatso (1523–96). Both Khyentsé Wangchuk and Mangthö Ludrup wrote extensively according to the Explication for Disciples, but Khyentsé’s works have usually been favored when teaching and practicing the Path with the Result in this tradition.

The texts of the Explication for Disciples were kept strictly secret and passed down only as handwritten manuscripts for more than three hundred years. Not until the beginning of the twentieth century were the works of Khyentsé and Ludrup, along with many other texts of the Path with the Result, finally cut onto woodblocks for publication by the famous Dergé printing house. This was due to the efforts of the master Jamyang Loter Wangpo (1847–1914). In 1904 and 1905, Loter Wangpo twice taught the Explication for Disciples in full. During that period he noted that complete sets of the texts were very scarce and that the tradition was in danger of dying out in the near future. He resolved to have the rare manuscripts of the tradition gathered from different locations and cut onto woodblocks for publication.

Loter Wangpo carried out publication despite opposition by some people who felt that the Path with the Result in general, and the teachings of the Explication for Disciples in particular, should remain secret. By way of explanation, he pointed out that the Path with the Result had been an oral tradition until the later part of Sachen’s life, when he set the first texts down in writing. Much later, in the sixteenth century, Tsarchen, Khyentsé, and Ludrup had realized that future generations would not be able to uphold the special Explication for Disciples as an oral transmission and had decided to write down these teachings. To those who objected that it was wrong to have the profound teachings that were the heart blood of the ḍākas and ḍākinīs cut onto printing blocks, Loter Wangpo replied, “No matter what you say, I have the authority to do so!” As a result of his determined action, the books became more widely available, and the tradition spread and has remained vital until the present day.

All of Jamyang Khyentsé Wangchuk’s writings on the Path with the Result are translated in part II of this book. According to his autobiography, Khyentsé wrote these works in 1559, after receiving the transmission of the Explication for Disciples from Tsarchen near Shalu monastery. These texts are summarizing notes compiled by Khyentsé to record Tsarchen’s teachings. The first of Khyentsé’s works is a history of the Path with the Result. He tells the story of the Indian masters beginning with Virūpa, and then continues with a more detailed account of the early Tibetan teachers of the lineage. In composing this work, Khyentsé clearly used all the earlier historical writings of the Sakya masters Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen, Martön Chökyi Gyalpo (ca. 1198–ca. 1259), and others. However, he took much of the story of Virūpa and the lives of the early Tibetan masters directly from the fourteenth-century chronicles of Chagen Wangchuk Gyaltsen, which were clearly the main written source. Chagen’s work contained special information from the Shama transmission of the Path with the Result, and because Khyentsé combined this material with the accounts of the masters of the Sakya transmission, his work became a unique historical treasure for the later tradition. The contents of Khyentsé’s text indicate that his teacher Tsarchen used all available earlier histories of the Path with the Result when teaching. For many readers of this book, it may be most beneficial to first read this history and the following supplement (which contain biographies of all the earlier authors) before turning to the other texts concerned with the specific theories and practices of the tradition.

The second text translated in part II is a supplement to Khyentsé’s history. This work was mostly written by the master Künga Palden in the late nineteenth century. It was then brought up to date by Loter Wangpo at the beginning of the twentieth century, perhaps when he was preparing the Dergé edition of the entire collection. The work is a series of brief sketches of the lives of the primary masters of the tradition after the time of Müchen Könchok Gyaltsen (1388–1469). With the exception of the information about the Fifth Dalai Lama, who made significant literary contributions to the tradition but did not transmit the teachings, the content of these short biographies has been gleaned from the full-length biographies contained in the Dergé collection. The latter part of this supplement follows the transmission line through the abbots of Ngor monastery, with which Loter Wangpo was affiliated. Although not described in the text, a transmission of the Explication for Disciples through the masters of Nālendra monastery has also survived to the present day.

Following Künga Palden and Loter Wangpo’s supplement, which was inserted into the original set of Khyentsé Wangchuk’s works when the Dergé edition was prepared, there is a text by Khyentsé describing how to explain and practice the Path with the Result. This work clarifies the meaning of the name Path with the Result and describes a few of the distinguishing markers of the system, such as the four authentic qualities and the four oral transmissions. The contents of two early collections of instructions from the tradition, the Yellow Volume and the Little Red Volume, are also briefly discussed.

The Mahayana basis of the Path with the Result is fully presented in the explanation of the Three Appearances, which contains all the preliminary topics of meditation necessary for beginning the Vajrayana path. Here Khyentsé provides detailed instructions on a number of crucial subjects, beginning with taking refuge and awakening the enlightenment mind. The main section of the text begins with an explanation of the first of the three appearances: impure appearance, or how the world appears to living beings who are immersed in impure states of mind because of their afflictions. Here the practitioner reflects upon the faults of samsara, the difficulty of gaining a human birth with all the freedoms and endowments necessary to practice Dharma, and the causes and results of actions. Next comes reflection upon the second of the appearances: experiential appearance, or how various experiences appear to a yogin or yoginı who has cultivated meditative concentration. This topic is explained by means of reflection upon love, compassion, and the relative and absolute enlightenment mind. Finally, the pure appearance of a sugata or buddha is discussed. This is briefly explained in relation to the inconceivable secret and the omnipresence of enlightened body, speech, and mind. A short addendum of notes by the Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Losang Gyatso (1617–82), has been added at the end of Khyentsé’s work. These notes explain how the teacher should integrate the various reading transmissions and explanations of supplementary texts into the schedule when teaching the Three Appearances.

The next text in this volume is Khyentsé Wangchuk’s summarizing notes on the Three Continua. The main practices of the Path with the Result begin with this work. The text is principally concerned with the meditative cultivation of an experiential realization of the indivisibility of samsara and nirvana. First is a brief presentation, by means of the three aspects of coemergence, to demonstrate that all phenomena arise from mistaken notions about the intrinsic nature of the mind, which is described from the three perspectives of lucidity, emptiness, and their essential unity. Next is an extensive explication by means of three key points of practice: establishing that appearances are the mind, establishing that the mind is illusory, and establishing that the illusory mind has no self-nature. Finally an extremely extensive explication is given by means of the three continua: the causal continuum of the universal ground, the method continuum of the body, and the resultant continuum of mahāmudrā.

The final two texts by Jamyang Khyentsé Wangchuk and a supplementary work by the Fifth Dalai Lama further elaborate the second of the three continua, the method continuum of the body. These summarizing notes explain the practices of the path in connection with the four initiations. They are sometimes very brief and may seem fragmentary because they are meant to be accompanied by the oral explanations of a living master. The two texts by Khyentsé Wangchuk explain the practice of the outer and the inner creation stage of the deity Hevajra. The creation stage of the deity is the practice of the path of the vase initiation, which is the first of the four initiations. In addition to the inner and outer creation stage meditations, Khyentsé also explains the view, the culmination of attainment, the practice of transference, and the intermediate-state practices in connection with the vase initiation. However, the work ends abruptly at this point without explaining the dream yoga, which is the sixth and final section of practice in regard to each initiation.

Jamyang Khyentsé Wangchuk passed away in 1568 at the age of fortythree, apparently leaving his series of compositions unfinished. For the next eighty years, when the Explication for Disciples was taught using Khyentsé’s incomplete works, the final sections of the teaching were taught on the basis of the earlier writings of Lama Dampa Sönam Gyaltsen (1312–75) and the works of Tsarchen’s other great Dharma heir, Mangthö Ludrup Gyatso. Finally, after receiving the complete transmission of the Explication for Disciples from the master Sönam Chokden (1603–59) in 1649, the Fifth Dalai Lama wrote a supplement to complete Khyentsé’s work. The Fifth Dalai Lama’s summarizing notes on Sönam Chokden’s explanations begin with the dream yoga of the vase initiation and go on to explain all the remaining topics of meditation in connection with the three higher initiations. Even more than Khyentsé’s writings, this text by the Fifth Dalai Lama is clearly pieced together from notes made when he received the teachings, and many topics are very briefly treated and must be elaborated upon orally when the transmission is given.

As a fitting conclusion, the final text is Mangthö Ludrup Gyatso’s brief, eloquent, and profound synopsis of the key points of practice according to Tsarchen’s transmission of the Explication for Disciples. Ludrup composed this work in 1581, at least six years before writing his own complete series of detailed manuals of guidance.

The Path with the Result is a vast and complex system of theory and practice, said to contain everything necessary for the attainment of complete enlightenment in one lifetime. For anyone wishing to practice and understand this tradition, the works translated here will reward careful and sustained study and reflection. The tantric practices should only be attempted under the guidance of a qualified master of this system. The words of Sakya Paṇḍita Künga Gyaltsen (1182–1251), one of the foremost masters of the Path with the Result, remain particularly relevant today as the tradition spreads into cultures outside Tibet:

Nowadays many are interested in mantra, but very few study secret mantra
If it is difficult for the intelligent to understand
the intention of the tantras even if they are energetic, how could foolish people who have not studied understand the intention of the tantras?

For most of us, it will only be possible to gain a thorough understanding of the intention of the Vajrayana scriptures and the systems of meditation and theory that evolved from them when much more of the tantric literature of India and Tibet has been translated into European languages. Translation is one of the forms of transmission and transmutation during the spread of a tradition from one culture to another. The spiritual and literary treasury of Tibet is incredibly rich. This book is a first step in the long-term process of translating the basic texts of one specific tradition, the Path with the Result.


How to cite this document:
© Institute of Tibetan Classics, Taking the Result as the Path (Wisdom Publications, 2006)

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