This has two points: identifying the karma that is accumulated, and how karma is accumulated.


Mental karma is the karma that is intention, the mental factor makes its concomitant mind and urges it toward objects.

First, the Vaibhasikas divide the karma of body and speech that is motivated by that intention into the perceptible and the imperceptible and posit them as only being form.

Master Vasubandhu refutes that and maintains that karma of body and speech is the intention that operates together with the perceptible physical and verbal actions, whereby he explains both types of karma to also be intention. [107] In this regard, non-virtuous karma is non-meritorious karma. Meritorious karma is virtuous karma included in the level of the desire realm. Immovable karma is contaminated virtuous karma included in the levels of the form and formless realms.


Once you have directly realised selflessness, you can still be reborn in cyclic existence under the power of karma and mental afflictions. However, you do not newly accumulate any propelling karma. Therefore those who accumulate the karma that propels one into cyclic existence are all ordinary beings up to and including those abiding on the great level of supreme worldly dharma on the Mahayana path of preparation.

If, with that body, you create non-virtuous actions by means of the three doors – for instance, killing – you will accumulate non-meritorious karma. If you create virtuous actions, such as giving gifts and guarding ethics, you will accumulate meritorious karma. If you cultivate the samatha and the like included in the [form-realm] dhyanas and the levels of the formless realm, you will accumulate immovable karma.


This has five points: conditions for death, the minds of death, from where the heat withdraws, how the intermediate state is reached after death, and how you take rebirth in an incarnation.


To die from the exhaustion of one’s lifespan is to die when the time has come, when one’s entire lifespan propelled by previous karma is exhausted. To die following the exhaustion of one’s merit is, for example, to die from a lack of basic requirements. To die by failing to avoid dangers includes the nine causes and conditions for death, such as overeating, taught in the sutras.


Both virtuous minds such as faith and non-virtuous minds such as attachments arise in the mind as long as coarse compositional factors operate depending either on one’s own actions or on being made to recall them by others.

To die with an unspecified mind implies that one did not recall virtuous or non-virtuous minds by oneself nor was one reminded of them by others.

For those who have cultivated virtue, death is like going from thick darkness into light. At the time of death, various pleasant dream-like forms appear to them. They die happily, and even the end-of-life agony is of very minor severity.

For those who have cultivated non-virtue, it is like going from light into thick darkness. At the time of death, various dream-like repulsive forms appear to them, intense feelings of pain arise, and the end-of-life agony is also severe. In all birthplaces except for gods and hell beings, there is end-of-life agony. [108]

Neither happiness nor suffering, as explained above, arise in those who have an unspecified mind. At the time of death, whichever mind is most familiar becomes manifest, virtuous or non-virtuous, and other minds do not subsequently operate.

If they are equally familiar, that which is recalled first will become manifest, and others do not subsequently operate.

At the time when the mind becomes subtle, virtuous and non-virtuous minds come to a stop and become unspecified minds.

At the time of death, the attachment to a self that they have long been familiar with befalls everyone until perception becomes unclear. After that, you take joy in a body under the influence of attachment to a self and think, “I am becoming non-existent”. That is the cause for reaching the intermediate state.

While attachment to self also arises in stream enterers and once returners, they analyse it with wisdom and eliminate it rather than acquiescing to it, just like, for instance, a strong person beating someone weak. That attachment to a self does not arise in non-returners.


In those who have cultivated non-virtue, the heat first withdraws from the upper part of the corpse and dissipates down to the heart. In those who have cultivated virtue, the heat first withdraws from the lower part of the corpse and dissipates up to the heart. In both cases the consciousness transfers from the heart. The place where the consciousness first enters into the semen and blood becomes the heart, and where it eventually exits is that very place it first entered.


Death and the intermediate state are reached, from the place the consciousness exits, as explained above, without a break, just like the swing on the armature of a scale.

A being in the intermediate state has complete sense powers, such as eyes, and has the body of whatever it will become in the following birth. Its vision is flawless like the divine eye until it takes rebirth, and its body it also unobstructed as though possessed of magical powers.

It is seen by intermediate-state beings of similar type and by the flawless divine eye arisen from meditation.

It is set forth in the Treasury of Abidharma that once any being has reached the intermediate state, there is no diverting it into some other rebirth; however, the Compendium of Abhidharma (Abhidharmasamuccaya) also explains reversals.

The intermediate existence of those who have cultivated non-virtue appears like black cloth or like a dark night, [109] and the intermediate existence of those who have cultivated virtue appears like a white blanket or a moonlit night.

It sees intermediate-state beings of similar type as well as their and its own birthplaces. The Descent into the Womb Sutra states that the intermediate state of hell beings is like the color of a burnt log, the intermediate state of animals is like smoke, the intermediate state of hungry ghosts is like water, the intermediate state of desire-realm gods and humans is like gold, and the intermediate state of form-realm gods is white.

If you are reborn from the formless realm into the two lower rebirths, there is an intermediate state. However, if you are born from those two realms into the formless realm, the aggregates of the formless realm are obtained wherever your die, and there is no intermediate state.

It is taught that the intermediate-state being of a god travels upward, that of a human travels straight ahead, and that of someone who has done faulty actions travels downward with the eyes cast downward. For the three lower rebirths the same meaning is intended.

As for its lifespan, if it does not find the conditions for rebirth, it abides for as many as seven days. If it finds them, the number of days is uncertain. If it does not find them, it changes bodies and abides up to seven times seven days.

However, it does not abide any longer than that, since it will certainly find the conditions for rebirth by then. After seven days in the intermediate state, a god might die and transfer into, for example, another intermediate state of a god or an intermediate state for a human being, and so forth.

This is because the seeds of the intermediate state change through the changing activity of other karma. It is the same for other intermediate states.


The Many Levels (Bahubhumika) teaches that when you are born in a womb, an erroneous vision arises with regard to the semen and blood of your father and mother. In that moment, like an illusion, you see your parents having intercourse even though they are not, and you develop attachment to them. The Treasury of Abhidharma Autocommentary, however, explains that you see your parents actually having intercourse. Furthermore, if you are to be born female, you want to get rid of the woman and you become attached to the man and want to sleep with him. If you are to be born male, you want to get of the man and you become attached to the women and want to sleep with her. Once this kind of desire has arisen, the closer you approach, the other limbs of that man and woman no longer appear, and you see the male and female sexual organs. After becoming angry at that, the intermediate-state being dies, transfers, and is reborn.

Furthermore, intense attachment between father and mother concludes with the emission of a thick fluid. After that, two drops of semen and blood invariably emerge from the two. Once the two substances have united in the woman’s womb, [110] they turn into something like, for instance, the skin on boiled milk that has cooled. At that point, the intermediate existence ceases. At the exact same time that ceases, by the power of the consciousness that connects with the new birth, another combination of semen and blood arises, one that accords with a fusion of the subtle elements that are a basis for the sense powers.

Along with that, the consciousness that enters at that time is posited as the foundational consciousness by those who accept a foundational consciousness. Those who do not accept a foundational consciousness assert that is the mental consciousness that takes rebirth.

If it has no desire to go to a birthplace, the intermediate-state being will not go there, and if it does not go there, it will not be born there. Therefore the intermediate -state being of someone devoted to wrongdoing who has committed and accumulated an action for rebirth in hell, such as killing sheep or trading in poultry or pigs and the like, will see, as if in a dream, sheep and so forth as his birthplace and will rush there with the delight of previous familiarity. He will then become angry at the sight of his birthplace, the intermediate existence will end, and he will be born there. Similar to this are rebirths as hell beings, hungry ghosts with goiters, and so forth.

Levels of Yogic Practice says that if you are born as an animal, hungry ghost, or human being or as a god in the desire and form realms, you will see delightful beings of similar type to yourself at your birthplace. Then, having generated delight in and desire for that, you will go there. As you get angry at your birthplace, the intermediate existence ceases and you are born there. The way in which someone other than those, one who is devoted to wrongdoing and trades in poultry, pigs, and the like, is born in hell is similar to this.

In the Treasury of Abhidharma, the line “Others strongly desire odors and an abode” (3.15) means that if you are born from heat and moisture, you are born upon desiring  odors, and if you are born miraculously, you are born upon desiring an abode.

Moreover, the commentary explains that if you are born in the hot hells, you go to the intermediate state upon desiring heat, whereas if you are born in the cold hells, you go to the intermediate state upon desiring coolness. The Treasury of Abhidharma Autocommentary explains birth from an egg to be similar to birth from a womb.


When you have come to understand the characteristics of cyclic existence in detail from the point of view of sufferings and their origins, the desire to eliminate them and the desire to attain their complete pacification arises.

While this is indeed the attitude of renunciation, it is not sufficient by itself. Therefore you should generate that mind to the same extent as the mind that does not want to be stuck in a house ablaze with fire or stay locked up in prison and to the same extent that it desires liberation from them. [111] It will then still be necessary to increase it.

As Sharawa taught, if this attitude is no more than mediocre, like flour thrown into sour milk, the view that rejects the causes of cyclic existence, the origins, will also not become more than that.
Accordingly, one’s striving for liberation, the cessation that is the ceasing of sufferings and origins, will be the same. Because of that, the desire to accomplish the path of liberation will be mere words, and also, there will be not basis for the compassion that cannot bear the suffering of other beings who wander in cyclic existence.

Since unsurpassed uncontrived bodhicitta, which has the power to arouse the mind, will not arise, you become a Mahayanist only in the way your understanding follows from words. For that reason you should cultivate that attitude again and again.


You may think, “It is explained in the Sutra Teaching the Tathagata’s Inconceivable Secret (Tathagatacintyaguhyanirdesasutra)  that if you cultivate extreme revulsion and disenchantment with cyclic existence, you will fall into the extreme of peace like the sravakas because of your disgust for re-entering cyclic existence. Therefore it is excellent for Hinayanists but unreasonable for bodhisattvas to cultivate disenchantment”.

The meaning of the statement “Thus a bodhisattva should not be terrified by cyclic existence” is not to point out that he should not be repulsed by the sufferings of birth, aging, illness, death, and so on of wandering in existence under the power of karma and the mental afflictions.

Rather, it is that, owing to his bodhicitta, he should not be afraid of taking rebirth in existence for the benefit of sentient beings under the power of aspirational prayers and compassion.

In fact, as we wander in existence under the power of karma and the mental afflictions, we are oppressed by many sufferings and cannot even bring about our own welfare, let alone anyone else’s. Since that is the door to all degeneration, we need to block it. We must develop extreme disenchantment, even more than the Hinayanists, and enjoy taking rebirth in existence under the power of aspirational prayers and compassion. In accordance with that, the same sutra also says:

Bodhisattvas, having taken care of ripening sentient
beings, view cyclic existence to be beneficial,
unlike the great passage to peace.

It is set forth in the Bodhisattva Levels that if someone with bodhisattva vows expresses himself in the above manner and fails to differentiate the two, he commits an afflicted misdeed.

[112] The intention of Four Hundred Stanzas, clearly set forth by the great master Candrakirti in his commentary on that text, is to see those sentient beings as one’s relatives and thus generate bodhicitta after developing revulsion for cyclic existence.


Through meditation on the faults of existence as explained above, an intense desire to renounce cyclic existence and, owing to that, the need to avert cyclic existence arise. Therefore two points are made in this regard: the kind of life through which cyclic existence is averted and the kind of path to cultivate to avert it.


Letter to a Friend (v.64) states:

Now that you have obtained a birth of freedom
beyond the so-called defective eight unfree states,
make an effort to avert rebirth.

As is set forth here, you need to avert cyclic existence at this time when you have the freedoms and endowments, for it has already been explained that in the unfree states there is no opportunity to avert it. Naljorpa Chenpo Jangchup Rinchen said, “Now is the time to distinguish ourselves from cattle”. Potowa also said, “Since it has not yet stopped by itself while we were roaming about so long, it will also not now stop by itself. Therefore we must avert it. However, the time to avert it is now that we have obtained the freedoms and endowments”.

Even more than that, lay people have many obstacles to accomplishing the Dharma and have the disadvantage of numerous faults. Since those who are ordained avert them, the ordained have the best life for averting cyclic existence. That is why the wise should delight in ordination.

The Questions of Householder Ugra Sutra says that lay bodhisattvas should aspire to ordination. This mainly refers to aspiring to full ordination. Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras (20.5) also says:

Those on the side of the ordained
have limitless excellent qualities.
Thus those exerting themselves in vows
excel over householder bodhisattvas.

Thus ordination is not only praised for the attainment of the complete release that is liberation from cyclic existence but is also presented as the best basis for the accomplishment of omniscience by way of the perfections and mantra.

[113] Among the three vows, the vows of ordination are those of pratimoksa. That is why you should respect the pratimoska vows as the root of the teachings.


Letter to a Friend (vv.104-5) says:

Even if your head or clothes caught fire,
give up fighting it; simply make an effort
to destroy the occurrence of future rebirths.
There is no purpose better than that.

Through pure ethics, wisdom, and concentration,
attain nirvana, the peaceful, immaculate, tamed state,
which is ageless, deathless, and limitless,
free from earth, fire, water, wind, sun, and moon.

Train in the three types of precious trainings of the path as set forth in this statement.

If this were an independent commentary on the path of persons of medium capacity, an extensive commentary on the three trainings would be necessary here. However, since this is not the case, the trainings in wisdom, special insight, and the training of the mind for generating samatha will be explained in the context of persons of great capacity. Therefore here I will only briefly state the way to train in ethics.

In this regard, initially contemplate the benefits of ethics again and again, and increase your heartfelt enthusiasm for it. Letter to a Friend (v.7) says:

It is said the rules are the basis, the ground of all excellent qualities,
just like the earth is the basis for the animate and the inanimate.

And in the Questions of Subahu Tantra:

Just as crops grow faultlessly depending on the soil,
the most superior virtuous phenomena grow
depending on someone’s ethics,
moistened by the water of compassion.

Contemplate this according to these statements.

Just as guarding the ethics you have undertaken brings enormous benefits, likewise there are great faults to not guarding them. You should contemplate the faults of not guarding them again and again as taught in the scriptures.

The Sutra on Cherishing Monks (Bhiksuparejustutra) says:

Ethics are happiness for certain people;
ethics are suffering for others.
They are happiness for those who have them;
they are suffering for those who breach them.

The Root Tantra of Manjusri (Manjusrimulatantra) says

If ethics decline in those who recite, [114]
there will be no highest attainments,
nor will there be middling attainments;
even the least ones will remain absent.

The King of Sages did not teach
mantra attainments for those of loose ethics,
nor is that the place or direction
to go to the city of nirvana.

How could there be in such bad children
any attainments of mantra at all?
How could there be fortunate rebirths
for those beings who disregard ethics?

If they do not take high rebirths
nor partake of highest bliss,
what need to mention their accomplishing
the mantras that the Victor taught?

The King of Concentrations Sutra says:

The trainings that I taught to those
who wear the laity’s gray apparel –
even monks who are fully ordained
will not have those trainings then.

According to this statement, striving in the trainings is special and has more effect at this time when it is said that even fully ordained monks do not completely guard the five basic trainings taught to lay vow-holders. Therefore you should make effort in this. The same sutra says:

At the time when the Dharma decays and the Sugata’s
teachings are coming to an end,
the merit of those who practice a single training just one day and night
will extraordinarily exceed the one who for millions
of aeons, as many as there are sands in the Ganges,
and with a clear mind honors billions of trillions of
buddhas with food, drink, parasols, banners, and
garlands of light.

Among the four causes for infractions, the antidote to not knowing is to study and know the trainings.

The antidote to carelessness is the mindfulness that does not forget the objects and aspects of what to adopt and what to discard; the vigilance that individually analyses the three doors at every moment and brings to mind the good or faulty actions you engage in; the shame that shuns faults from the perspective of oneself or the Dharma; the embarrassment that shuns faults, thinking that others will criticise you; [115] and the intimidation that fears the fully ripened effects of faulty conduct. Train in these and others.

As an antidote to a lack of respect, be respectful toward the Teacher, his formulated rules, and those whose conduct accords with purity.

As an antidote to many mental afflictions you should examine your mindstream and try to apply the antidote to whatever mental affliction predominates.

If you do not put effort into this and commit even a minor transgression and then think, “it is a small mistake,” this engagement in carelessness with respect to the formulated rules will only cause you to suffer, because as Exegesis of the Discipline says:

Those who are unconcerned with regard to the teachings
of the compassionate Teacher and slightly transgress them
will from that come under the power of suffering,
like mango groves that are spoiled through cutting bamboo.

Though some can transgress the royal decrees of the king
and, if it’s infrequent, not get punished at all,
if they transgress the Buddha’s words improperly,
they will migrate to the beasts like the naga Elapatra.

Therefore put effort into not being stained by faults and infractions. If you are nevertheless stained by them, do not leave it at that indifferently but put effort into undoing the downfall or bad action as has been taught.

If this method of guarding morality is for those who hold the pratimoksa vows, it is also similar in the case of mantra, because the Questions of Subahu Tantra states:

Among all pure ethics from the pratimoksa
and the Vinaya that I, the Victor, taught,
lay people practicing mantra should abandon
the signs and rituals and practice the rest.

Lay practitioners of mantra should behave as set forth in the Vinaya except for the trappings of ordination and some parts of the ritual actions. So what need is there to mention ordained practitioners of mantra?

Khamlungpa also said:

When a famine breaks out, everything depends
on barley. Likewise everything hinges on ethics;
therefore earnestly apply yourself to it. Pure
ethics also do not come about in someone who has
not reflected on actions and their effects. Therefore
it is an essential instruction to reflect on
them. [116]

Sharawa also said:

Generally, whatever happens, good or bad, depends
on the Dharma, Within that, if you rely
on what is suggested in the Vinaya, you need not
change anything. You will become sincere, withstand
investigation, enjoy practice, and have a
good end.

And Geshe Dromtonpa also said:

Many people rely on the Vinaya and reject mantra
or rely on mantra and reject the Vinaya. Only in
my guru’s tradition does the Vinaya become the
companion of mantra and mantra the companion
of the Vinaya.

Atisa said:

With us in India, whenever an important matter
or unprecedented activity arose, those who upheld
the scriptural baskets convened to determine
whether it was repudiated by or in contradiction
to the three scriptural baskets, and a decision was
made based on that. We from Vikramasila then
had the task to examine whether it was rejected
by or in contradiction to bodhisattva behavior,
and the decision was upheld by the entire ordained

That concludes the explanation of training the mind in the stages of the path common to persons of medium capacity.




Through meditating in this manner on the faults of cyclic existence from different perspectives over a long time, you will see all existence as a pit of blazing fire.

Your mind will be thoroughly overcome by the desire to attain the liberation that completely pacifies suffering.

If, because of that, you train in the three trainings, you will attain liberation that is freedom from cyclic existence, and that will not even be reversible, unlike the splendors of high rebirths.

Nonetheless, extinguishing one’s own faults and achieving excellent qualities will be limited, and your own welfare will not be complete. For that very reason, you will temporarily neglect the welfare of others.

In the end, you will be urged by the buddhas and have to enter the Mahayana. Therefore the intelligent enter the Mahayana from the start.

[117] The Compendium of the Perfections (6.65) says:

Those whose nature is of one taste with altruism
abandon forever those two vehicles
that have no power to bring about all the world’s aims
and enter the vehicle that the Victorious Sage taught out of compassion.

The happiness, magnificence, and capacity of being is to take responsibility for the welfare of others, because to observe only one’s own welfare is something even animals do. Therefore the natural disposition of great beings is to categorically strive for the benefit and happiness of others.

Letter to a Student (vv.100-101) says:

When cattle see a mouthful of grass that is easy to get, they eat it themselves;
when they are greatly tormented by thirst and find some water, they drink it with relish.
Here, whoever makes efforts to bring about the welfare of other beings
is magnificent and excels in the skills of great happy individuals.

Traveling, riding across the sky, the powerful sun illuminates all;
regardless of the burden, the earth supports the world with everything in it.
Those without the least self-interest, equal in nature to great beings,
totally strive for that singular taste of benefit and joy for the world.

That being so, those who see how sentient beings everywhere are tormented by sufferings and who toil for their welfare are called persons of great capacity, or the wise.

The same text says (v. 102):

Those who have seen sentient beings confused by dense gray clouds of worldly ignorance
as they fall without control into the blazing fire of suffering,
and who mentally toil and exert themselves for them as if fire
were blazing overhead, now they are great beings; they also are the wise.

There exists an entrance way to the Mahayana that possess the great skillful means such that by working for the welfare of others, you accomplish your own welfare without any incompleteness.

The Mahayana is the source of all your own and others’ excellence, the medicine removing all degeneration, and the great path travelled by all wise beings that nurtures and nourishes all beings through seeing, hearing, remembering, and touching. Engage in this best of vehicles with whatever ability of a great being you have, and think, “Oh, I have found exactly what I was looking for!” [118]

There are three points concerning the training of the mind in the states of the paths of persons of great capacity:
how generating the mind [of enlightenment] is the only gateway to the Mahayana,
how to generate that mind,
and how to train in the conduct after generating the mind.


As it is necessary to enter the Mahayana, think about how it is to be entered. There is no Great Vehicle apart from the Paramitayana and Mantrayana taught by the Victor.

Whichever of the two you may enter, the only gateway is bodhicitta.

Whenever this has arisen in the mind, even though nothing else has arisen, one is considered a Mahayanist, whereas whenever one is separated from it, whatever excellent qualities one may have, such as the realisation of emptiness and so forth, one will fall to the level of sravaka and the like and fall from the Mahayana.

This is taught in numerous texts of the Mahayana and is also established by reasoning. Therefore whether one is a Mahayanist is determined by whether one has this mind.

Thus Entering the Bodhisattva Way (1.9 and 3.26) says that as soon as this mind has arisen, you become a child of the Victors. Likewise, the Life of Maitreya (Maitreyavimoksa) says:

Child of the lineage, it is like this. For example,
even a broken precious diamond outshines all
gold jewelry, however refined; it does not lose its
name “diamond” and still averts all poverty. Child
of the lineage, likewise the precious diamond
that is the mind generation for omniscience, even
without effort, outshines all the gold jewelry that
is the excellent qualities of the sravakas and
pratyekabuddhas; the name “bodhisattva” is not
lost, and all the misfortunes of cyclic existence are

If that mind exists even in someone untrained in bodhisattva conduct, he is said to be a bodhisattva. Therefore it is not sufficient for the Dharma to be Mahayana Dharma, but rather it is important that the person has entered the Mahayana.

Whether you come a Mahayanist depends on bodhicitta itself.

If that mind is no more than an intellectual understanding, you being a Mahayanist is the same.

On the other hand, if you have fully qualified bodhicitta, you will also become a completely pure Mahayanist. Therefore you should make an effort.

With respect to this, the Marvellous Array Sutra says: [119]

Child of the lineage, bodhicitta is like the seeds of
all the Dharma of the Buddha.

This will be explained because it is necessary to gain certainty about it. Since water, manure, heat, soil, and so forth act as causes for a rice sprout when combined with a rice grain and as causes for sprouts of wheat, pulses, and so forth when combined with their respective seeds, they are common causes.

Since a barley seed is not suitable as a cause of a rice sprout and so forth even if the conditions are gathered together, it is the uncommon cause of a barley sprout, while the water, manure, and so forth that cooperate with it are the common causes of the barley sprout.

Similarly , like the water, manure, and so forth, is the common cause of the three types of enlightenment. That is why the Sublime Continuum (Uttaratantra, 1.34) says

Conviction in the supreme vehicle is the seed;
wisdom is the mother that gives birth to the qualities
of enlightenment.

This means that conviction in the Supreme Vehicle is like the father’s seed and the wisdom realising selflessness is like the mother. For instance, since a Tibetan father cannot have a child who is Indian, Chinese, or Mongolian, the father is the cause that determines the lineage. On the other hand, a Tibetan mother is like the common cause, since she can give birth to all kinds of children.

In his Praise to the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajnaparamitastotra, v. 17), Nagarjuna also says that sravakas and pratyekabuddhas equally rely on it:

Buddhas, pratyekabuddhas, and sravakas
definitely rely on you,
singular path to liberation;
it is true to say there is no other.

That is why the perfection of wisdom is also known as the mother. Since it is the mother of the sons of both the Mahayana and the Hinayana, it is not the wisdom realising emptiness that differentiates the Mahayana and the Hinayana. Rather bodhicitta and vast conduct differentiate them. In Precious Garland (4.90) they are also taught to be differentiated not by view but by conduct. The Sravaka Vehicle does not explain
the bodhisattvas’ aspiration,
conduct, or complete dedications.
How could they become bodhisattvas? [120]

Therefore, if even the wisdom realising emptiness is not a path unique to the Mahayana, what need is there to mention other paths? For that reason, it is necessary to train in bodhicitta, having made instructions on it one’s main concern.


This has three points:
the stages of training in bodhicitta,
the measure of it having arisen,
and the way to adopt it by means of ritual.


This has two variations: the sevenfold cause-and-effect instruction transmitted from Atisa, and the training based on texts by the bodhisattva Santideva.



The sevenfold cause-and-effect instruction is this: a complete buddha is born from bodhicitta; this mind from the extraordinary attitude; this attitude from compassion; compassion from love; love from the wish to repay the kindness; the wish to repay the kindness from remembering the kindness; and remembering the kindness from seeing beings as one’s mother. There are two points: generating certainty concerning the stages and the actual gradual training.


This has two points: the way compassion is the root of the Mahayana, and the way the other causes and effects become causes and effects of that compassion.


The first has three points: the importance of compassion at the beginning, the importance of compassion in the middle, and the importance of compassion at the end.


If your mind is moved by great compassion, you will certainly resolve to free sentient beings from cyclic existence. However, if your compassion is inferior, such deeds will not come about. Therefore whether you take responsibility of liberating all beings without exception depends on that compassion, and if you do not take that responsibility, you do not enter the Mahayana. That is why compassion is important at beginning. The Teachings of Aksayamati Sutra (Aksayamatinirdesasutra) says:

Venerable Saradvatiputra, the great compassion
of the bodhisattvas is inexhaustible. Why is that?
It is because it is a preliminary. Venerable Saradvatiputra,
it is like this. By way of analogy, just
as the inward and outward flow of the breath
is a preliminary for our human life-force faculty,
likewise the great compassion of the bodhisattvas
is a preliminary for perfectly accomplishing the

The Gayasirsa Hill Sutra (Gayasirsasutra) says:

“Manjushri, what initiates the conduct of bodhisattvas?
What is its object?”
Manjushri relied, “Divine child, what initiates
the conduct of bodhisattvas [121] is great compassion.
Its object is sentient beings”.


Although you enter the Mahayana when a mind like this has arisen once, when you see the great number and bad actions of sentient beings and the great difficulty, boundlessness, and limitless time required of the trainings, you may become discouraged and fall into the Hinayana. However, by familiarising yourself increasingly with great compassion rather than generating it just once, you will become unconcerned with your own happiness and suffering and will not despair over the welfare of others, whereby you will easily complete all the accumulations.


Even when the buddhas have achieved their result, they do not dwell in peace like the Hinayanists but bring about the welfare of however many sentient beings there are throughout space. This is also due to the power of great compassion, for without it, they would become like sravakas.

Glorious Candrakirti [in Entering the Middle Way (1.2)] said that for a harvest, what is important in the beginning is the seed, in the middle the water, and in the end its ripening. Likewise, for the harvest of buddhahood, what is important in the beginning, the end, and in the middle is compassion.

Shang Nachung Tonpa said, “Although I asked the Elder for instructions, nothing more came of it than ‘Let go of your worldly thoughts. Cultivate bodhicitta’”. Geshe Dromtompa laughed at him and said, “You got the central point of the Elder’s instructions! He knew the key point of the teachings, the Dharma”.

Since it is difficult to gain certainty about this, you must gather the accumulations and purify again and again, study the scriptures such as the Marvelous Array Sutra as well as their commentaries, and seek firm certainty. It is as the glorious Asvaghosa says, referring to the Buddha:

Your mind, Heroic One, is precious,
the seed of complete enlightenment;
only you know it as the essence;
other beings do not guess that.


This has two points: the way four of the sevenfold instructions, from understanding as mothers through love, are causes, and the way the extraordinary attitude and bodhicitta are their effects.


If you reflect again and again on the suffering of a sentient being, this will generally give rise to the mere wish that it be free from suffering. [122] However, for this mind to arise easily and for it to arise very strong and stable, its object must first be a sentient being who has the aspect of being likable and valuable.

When someone close to us meets with suffering, we cannot bear it. When our enemies meet with suffering, we enjoy it. When someone who is neither a friend nor an enemy meets with suffering, mainly a neglectful equanimity arises.

In this regard, since our mind finds the first ones are likable, the more we cherish them, the more their suffering becomes unbearable to us, and the more compassion arises for them. If we cherish them a little or moderately, our inability to bear their suffering will also be relatively small. But if we cherish someone very much, we find it unbearable when that person meets with only minor suffering.

When we see our enemies suffering, not only does the wish that they be free from it fail to arise, but also the thought occurs to us “May their suffering increase and may they not be free from it”. That is our reaction to someone we find unlikable.

Moreover, our joy at their suffering will also be greater or smaller depending on how much aversion they induce in us. With respect to the suffering of those who are neither friend nor enemy, we find it neither unbearable nor enjoyable. That is our reaction when someone is neither likable nor unlikable.

Given this is so, meditating on sentient beings as our relatives is to make them attractive to us. Since our closest relation is our mother, others are established as dear and likable to us through meditating on them as having been our mother, remembering their kindness, and wishing to repay this kindness. The effect of these three steps is a love that cherishes sentient beings like one’s only child. They produce compassion.

With respect to compassion and the love that wishes that others meet with happiness, there does not seem to be any certainty as to which one is the cause and which one is the effect.

These meditations on sentient beings as our relatives have been explained by the master Chandrakirti, the venerable Candragomin, and the master Kamalasila as the cause for bodhicitta to arise.


It should be sufficient to say that compassion arises based on such a gradual training of the mind and the desire to attain enlightenment for the welfare of all sentient beings arises after that. Why is the extraordinary attitude inserted between them?

Srvakas and pratyekabuddhas also have immeasurable compassion and the love that thinks, “If only sentient beings were to meet with happiness and if only they were free from suffering!” Yet those who are not Mahayanists do not take on the responsibility to accomplish happiness and eliminate suffering for every sentient being.

Therefore it is necessary to generate the extraordinary attitude, which is the special attitude of those with brave hearts. [123] This is understood from a quotation from the Questions of Sagaramati Sutra in the commentary of the Sublime Continuum.

After the mind to free sentient beings has arisen in this manner, you are still unable to complete even the welfare of one sentient being owing to your current situation. Not only that, even if you were to attain the states of the two kinds of arhats, you would only be able to complete the welfare of very few beings, and their welfare would be to merely accomplish liberation. They cannot establish them in omniscience, so who can complete the temporary and final welfare of limitless beings? If you reflect in this vein, you will come to understand that only a buddha is able to do this, and you will generate the wish to attain buddhahood for the welfare of sentient beings.


The second, the actual training, as three points:
training in the mind that strives for the welfare of others,
training in the mind that strives for enlightenment,
and identifying the bodhicitta that is the result of that training.


The first has two points:
laying the foundation for that mind to arise
and the actual generation of that mind.


This has two points: achieving an equanimous mind toward sentient beings and establishing that they all have a likable aspect.


The preliminary steps and the like, as explained above in the context of persons of lesser and medium capacity, should be adopted and maintained here as well. To start with, if you do not accomplish an equanimous mind, then having stopped the bias of attachment toward some sentient beings and hatred toward others, any love and compassion that arise will arise with partiality. As they do not arise if you observe them without impartiality, you should cultivate equanimity.

The two types of equanimous mind that have been taught are that which has the appearance of lacking mental afflictions such as attachment, anger, and so forth in sentient beings and that in which there is no attachment or anger toward sentient beings. Here, it refers to the latter of these two.

This is the order of meditation by which it will easily arise. Initially, take as your object of attention a neutral person who has neither helped nor harmed you and develop an equanimous mind through eliminating attachment and anger. When an equanimous mind towards that person has developed, you then need to develop an equanimous mind toward friends and relatives.

A mind that lacks equanimity toward them is either biased owing to attachment and hatred, or lacks equanimity owing to a lesser or greater degree of attachment. Once you are equanimous toward friends, you should then cultivate and equanimous mind toward enemies. The lack of equanimity toward enemies [124] derives from hatred that sees them as totally incompatible with yourself. After you have become equanimous toward them, you should cultivate an equanimous mind toward all sentient beings.

Moreover, Kamalasila’s second Stages of Meditation teaches you to think, “Since from their side all sentient beings are the same in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering, it would be unreasonable for me to benefit some whom I consider close and harm or fail to benefit others who I consider distant,” and “Since from my own side there is not a single sentient being who in beginningless cyclic existence has not been my companion hundreds of times, who would I have attachment for and who should I have hatred for?” Also with regard to attachment to our relatives, the Questions of the Daughter Candrottara Sutra (Candrottaradarikapariprcchasutra) says:

In former times I killed each one of you;
I, too, was slashed and cut into pieces by you.
We all have been foes and murderers of each other.
How can a mind of attachment arise in you?

Think about the way in which friends and enemies quickly change as it was explained above in the context of the fault of uncertainty. This will avert both anger and attachment.

We needs to distinguish friends from enemies by apprehending them to be the basis of their respective attributes. What is to be ceased is the mind that is biased owing to attachment and anger on account of someone being a friend or enemy; the notion of friend and enemy itself does not need to be averted.


This has three points:
meditating on them as one’s mother,
remembering their kindness,
and meditating on repaying their kindness.


In the sutras it is taught that, since cyclic existence is beginningless, our births are also beginningless. Therefore we have been born and we have died incessantly, so that there is no body in cyclic existence that we have not taken, no place where we have not been born, and also no one who has not been a relative such as our mother.

Moreover, not only have they been our mother in the past, they will also be so in the future. Therefore, reflecting in that way, try to gain firm certainty that they have been your mother, for once that certainty arises, it will be easy to remember their kindness and so forth. On the other hand, if it does not arise, you will have no basis for remembering their kindness and so forth.


Meditate according to Geshe Potowa, who maintained that the memory of their kindness will arise after meditating on all sentient beings as your mothers if you initially meditate on your mother of this life. [125] Visualise your mother in front of you in a clear aspect and repeatedly reflect, “She has been my mother not only now but countless times previously in the beginningless rounds of existence”. In that way, when she was your mother, she protected you from all harm and accomplished all happiness and benefit for you.

In particular, even in this life she initially carried you in her womb for a long time. Then, after she have birth to you, she pressed your yellow tousled hair against the heat of her body, swung you on her ten fingers, nursed you with her milk, fed you and wiped away your snot with her mouth, cleaned your feces with her hands, and cared for you untiringly in many different ways.

In addition, she gave you food and drink when you were hungry or thirsty. She gave you clothing when you were cold. In times of need, she gave you her possessions that she would not spend on herself. When everyday necessities were hard to come by, she bore great hardship and spared herself no bad action, suffering, or bad talk to get them and give them to you.

Whenever her child suffered from a disease and so forth, she wished from the depths of her heart to die rather than for her child to die, for herself to be ill rather than for her child to be ill, and so forth. With effort, she did whatever she could to eliminate her child’s suffering.

To summarise, by whatever degree of knowledge and whatever degree of ability she had, she thought single-pointedly about ways to bring about your happiness and benefit and to remove any harm and suffering from you.

If, by meditating in this way, a mind remembering her kindness that is not just words arises, then meditate on recognising other friends and relatives, your father and so forth, as also having been your mothers.

Then you meditate on recognising neutral persons as having been your mothers. When a similar mind arises toward them as that toward your friends and relatives, you should also meditate on recognising your enemies as having been your mothers. When a similar mind arises toward them as towards your mother, proceed to recognise all beings as having been your mothers and meditate, gradually extending it more and more.


There is nothing more shameful than carelessly neglecting your kind, suffering, protectorless mothers just because you do not recognise them anymore owing to birth, death, and transmigration and to being preoccupied with freeing yourself from cyclic existence.

Letter to a Student (v. 95) says:

My kin are drowning in the ocean of cyclic existence
and seem to have fallen into an abyss. If I neglect them,
unrecognised owing to birth and death and transmigration,
and seek liberation alone, nothing is more shameful. [126]

Thus you should take responsibility to reciprocate their kindness, thinking, “If neglecting such kind beings is inappropriate even for the ill-mannered, how can I reconcile it with my own ways?”

You may wonder, “Well then, how should I repay the benefit?” Whatever pleasures and riches of cyclic existence your mothers obtain, they are misled by all of them. Thus your should repay the benefit, thinking, “In the past, under the power of the evil spirits that are the mental afflictions which possessed me, I produced all kinds of additional sufferings in those who were already suffering by nature, like pouring salt in the wounds of those severely injured. I will establish all those who out of love have benefited me in the happiness of liberation, nirvana.

In brief, your own kind mother is restless and insane, blind and without anyone to guide here, and is stumbling with each step as she approaches a fearsome abyss. If she cannot put her hope in her child, who can she count on? If it is not for the child to free the mother from fear, who else should do it? Likewise, owing to the evil spirits of the mental afflictions, the minds of sentient beings who have been our mothers are agitated rather than in the natural state.

They are insane and without control over their consciousness, lack eyes to see the path to higher states and definite goodness, and lack a true friend, a guide for the blind. In each instant they stumble from being distracted by faulty behaviour and wander toward the abyss of cyclic existence in general and lower rebirths in particular.

As you see them, you should reflect that these mothers necessarily put their hopes in their child, and that it is also for the child to get their mother out of there. You should repay their kindness by definitely getting them out of cyclic existence. The Compendium of Trainings says:

Insane with afflictions, blinded by ignorance,
on a path with many abysses,
stumbling with every step, myself
and others are always subject to sorrow.
Beings are the same in suffering.

In view of this, although it is indeed said to be inappropriate to look for faults in others and you should marvel at the slightest positive quality [127] when you see it, here it is appropriate to focus on misery.


This has three points: meditating on love, meditating on compassion, and meditating on the extraordinary attitude.


The object of love is sentient beings who do not possess happiness. Its expressions are the thoughts “How wonderful it would be if they were to meet with happiness!” “May they meet with happiness!” and “I will make them meet with happiness!”

As regards the benefits, the King of Concentrations Sutra says:

Many kinds of offerings without measure
in myriad neighbouring pure fields
constantly offered to the most excellent beings
do not equal a fraction of the mind of love.

This is to say, the merit is much greater than that of constantly making incredibly vast offerings to the field that is the highest object. Also, Array of Qualities in Manjusri’s Buddhafield (Manjusribuddhaksetragunavyuha) explains:

In the land called Ornamented by a Thousand of
the great king Buddhesvara, in the northeastern
quarter, sentient beings possess a happiness similar
to the happiness of fully ordained monks who
have entered cessation. If a mind of love toward all
sentient beings generated in this land for as little
as the duration of a finger snap produces far more
merit than someone celibate practicing pure conduct
there for a trillion years, what need is there
to mention that of abiding in that mind day and night?

Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland (3.83-85) states:

Giving three hundred pots of food
three times daily does not equal
the merit of love maintained
for the duration of just one moment.

You will be loved by gods and humans,
they will protect you, and you will have
mental happiness and much pleasure.
Poison and weapons will not longer harm you.

You will achieve your goals without effort
and will be born in the Brahma worlds.
Even if you do not reach liberation,
you will win the eight qualities of love.

If you have love, gods and human beings will love you and naturally gather around you. Since the Victor [128] defeated the hosts of Mara by the force of love it is the best of protections and so forth.

The stages of meditation on love are to meditate initially on love for your friends and relatives, then for neutral persons, then for your enemies, and then for all sentient beings.

The way to meditation on love is as follows. Just as compassion arises when you reflect again and again on how sentient beings have the suffering of suffering, likewise you should reflect again and again how sentient beings are devoid of happiness, in that they lack both contaminated and uncontaminated happiness.

Once you have familiarised yourself with this, the wish for them to encounter happiness will arise naturally. In addition, having contemplated the various kinds of happiness, offer them to sentient beings.


The observed objects of compassion are sentient beings who suffer owing to any of the three kinds of suffering. Its expression is the thoughts “If only they were free from these sufferings,” “May they be free from them,” and “I will free them from them”. The sequence of the meditations is to meditate on compassion for your friends and relatives first, then for neutral persons, then for your enemies, and then for all the sentient beings of the ten directions.

This gradual meditation on equanimity, love, and compassion in which you differentiate their objects was developed by the master Kamalasila following the Abidharma Sutra. This is a very important point, because if from the start you train in observing sentient beings in general without dividing them into specific categories, it will seem as if equanimity and so forth have arisen, but when you then think about friends and so forth one by one, it will appear that they have not arisen for any of them.

On the other hand, if you experience a change in your mentality towards them one by one as explained above, and then extend that to many, finally focusing on them in general and sustaining it, those feelings will arise purely regardless of who is observed, whether a group or each one singly.

The way to meditate is in terms of the sufferings that were explained when contemplating how the sentient beings who have been our mothers have fallen into existence and are experiencing the general and specific sufferings.

The measure of the arising of compassion is taught in the first Stages of Meditation:

Compassion is complete at the points where it
expresses itself as a constant desire to remove the
suffering of all beings as if your beloved child
were unhappy and operates naturally in you
spontaneously and in accordance with your nature.
Thereby it obtains the name great compassion.

Thus is compassion toward all sentient beings naturally arises to the extent that it arises in a mother when the child she loves with all her heart suffers, [129] it is known as fully qualified great compassion. It should be known that this is also the measure of the arising of great love.


After meditating on love and compassion in this manner, finally, you will think, “Alas! If these sentient beings who are pleasant and dear to me are thus deprived of happiness and tormented by suffering, how can I give them happiness and how can I free them from suffering?” In taking upon yourself the responsibility to liberate them, you train the mind at least through the mere words.

Although this was mentioned briefly in the context of repaying kindness, it is shown here that the love and compassion that thinks “How wonderful it would be if they were to meet with happiness” and “How wonderful it would be if they were free from suffering” are not sufficient. This is because you need to generate the love and compassion that is capable of inducing the thought “I myself will accomplish the happiness and benefit of sentient beings”. As is taught in the first Stages of Meditation, you should practice it continuously and recollect it during all your activities, after sessions, and so forth, not just during meditation sessions.


Once you are encouraged by the steps explained so far and realise that enlightenment is necessary for the welfare of others, you will also develop the desire to attain it. However, that in itself is not sufficient. At the beginning you must increase your faith through thinking about the excellent qualities of the exalted body, exalted speech, exalted mind, and enlightened activities as they were explained above in the context of going for refuge. Then, since that faith is said to act as the basis for your aspiration, you generate the wish to attain those qualities from the depths of your heart. That will induce certainty that the achievement of omniscience is indispensable also for your own welfare.


The general definition is taught in Ornament for Clear Knowledge (1.18): “Bodhicitta is the desire for perfect complete enlightenment for the welfare of others”.

It is classified into two, aspiring and engaging bodhicitta, as taught in Entering the Bodhisattva Way (1.15), which follows the Marvelous Array Sutra. It says:

Just as one understands the difference between
the wish to go and actually going,
so the wise should understand
the difference between those two accordingly. [130]

Although there are many disagreements about this, the first Stages of Meditation says that aspiring bodhicitta is the mind that thinks, “May I become a buddha for the welfare of sentient beings,” and the engaging bodhicitta is that mind after the vow has been taken.

(to be continued…)