The second Stages of Meditation says:

One who engages in the method for accomplishing
Buddhahood needs an unmistaken method,
for however hard you try, a mistaken path will
not bring about the desired result, like yanking a
cow’s horn to get milk. If it is faultless but incomplete,
the result will not come about despite your
effort, just as a sprout will not grow if the seed,
water, earth, or the like is missing.

Well then, what are the complete and mistaken causes and conditions? Vairocana’s Manifest Enlightenment (Vairocanabhisambodhi) says:

O lord of Secrets, the wisdom of omniscience
arises from the root that is compassion. It arises
from the cause that is bodhicitta. It is concluded
by method.

In this regard “compassion” has already been explained. “Bodhicitta” is both conventional bodhicitta and ultimate bodhicitta. “Method” is thoroughly complete generosity and so forth. This was explained by the great trailblazer Kamalasila.

One erroneous conception regarding the path is upheld by the Chinese Heshang and others, who say, “As long as they are discursive thoughts – even if they are good conceptions, to say nothing of bad conceptions – they bind is in cyclic existence. Therefore their effects do not transcend cyclic existence, just as one can be bound with fetters of gold or ropes, just as both white and black clouds obscure the sky, and just as pain is produce whether one is bitten by a white or a black dog. That is why equipoise without conceptions about anything is the path to Buddhahood. Generosity, ethics, and so forth were taught for the sake of immature beings incapable of meditating on this definitive meaning. Therefore, having found the definitive meaning, to engage in that conduct is like a king becoming a commoner or like tracking an elephant’s footprints after you have found the elephant.” [146]

Heshang substantiates his position by quoting eighty passages from sutras that praise nonconceptuality. His statement that all the factors of method are not a genuine path to Buddhahood is an enormous denigration, and by negating engagement in the essence of the Victor’s teachings – selflessness – with a fine investigative wisdom, it abandons the ultimate meaning, straying far away from it. Kamalasila has negated this well with stainless scriptures and reasonings and has presented in detail the good path that pleases the victors. Yet there are still some who scorn the side of conduct such as guarding and restraint and who discard them while cultivating the paths an act as has been described above. It appears that some not only denigrate the factor of method but also discard the way of understanding the view, while others discard the search for the view of suchness by means of fine investigative wisdom and then cleverly assert the Chinese meditation of not thinking about anything.

They do not approach meditation on emptiness either. Even if it were accepted as meditation on emptiness, the statement “Those who meditate well on the meaning of emptiness should meditate on emptiness alone and need not cultivate a subject that has a conventionality as its object in the domain of conduct” contradicts all the scriptures and simply seems to leave behind the path of reason. The object to be achieved by Mahayanists is nonabiding nirvana. For that, nonabiding in cyclic existence is achieved through what is called the wisdom realizing suchness, the stages of the path based on the ultimate, the path of the profound, and what is called the accumulation of wisdom and the factor of wisdom. Nonabiding in nirvana or peace is necessarily achieved through what is called the wisdom that knows things in their variety, the stages of the path based on conventional truths, the vast path, the accumulation of method, and the factor of merit.

The following words are taken from the Sutra Teaching the Tathagata’s Inconceivable Secret:

The accumulation of wisdom is what eliminates
all mental afflictions. The accumulation of merit
is what fully nurtures all sentient beings. Blessed
One, since this is so, the bodhisattva great beings
[147] put joyous effort in the accumulation of
merit and wisdom.

Also, the Teaching of Vimalakirti Sutra (Vimalakirtinirdesasutra) says:

In response to the questions “What is the bondage of
bodhisattvas?” and “What is their liberation?”:
Wisdom not conjoined with method is bondage.
Wisdom conjoined with method is liberation.
Method not conjoined with wisdom is bondage.
Method conjoined with wisdom is liberation.

And in the Gayasirsa Hill Sutra:

The bodhisattva path, in brief, is made up of two.
What are the two? They are method and wisdom.

Their significance is also clearly taught in Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment (vv.41-43):

The obstructions will not be exhausted
without engaging in perfect wisdom.

Therefore, in order to eliminate
all afflictive and cognitive obstructions,
the yoga of the perfection of wisdom
should always be practiced combined with method.

That is why method divorced from wisdom
as well as wisdom divorced from method
are referred to as “bondage”. Therefore
you should not abandon either.

And (vv. 45 – 47)

The victors explained method as
all the accumulations of virtue,
the perfections of generosity and so forth,
except for the perfection of wisdom.

Great beings who cultivate the wisdom aspect

Through familiarity with the methods
thereby quickly achieve enlightenment,
Not by meditating on selflessness alone.

Wisdom is thoroughly explained as
knowing the emptiness of inherent existence,
which is to realise that aggregates, elements,
and sources are not produced.

The Questions of Ratnacuda Sutra (Ratnacudapariprcchasutra) teaches that it is necessary to meditate on the emptiness that possesses all supreme aspects – complete in all the method factors of generosity and the rest.

The Gathering All the Threads Sutra says:

Foolish people seek to repudiate the bodhisattvas’ [148]
practice of the six perfections for the
sake of enlightenment, saying, “You should train
in the perfection of wisdom alone. What is the use
of training in anything else?”


Foolish people also say, “One becomes enlightened
by only one approach, the approach of emptiness.”
However, they do not have completely pure conduct.

One may claim, “Training in the conduct of generosity and so forth is necessary if one does not have a stable realization of emptiness, but if one has that, it is sufficient”. If this were so, conduct would not be necessary for the victors’ children who have attained the first ground and so forth, nor especially for the victors’ children on the eighth ground who have achieved power over nonconceptual wisdom. However, this is incorrect, for the Ten Grounds Sutra teaches that on each of the ten grounds, one perfection such as generosity becomes paramount, but that does not mean that the remaining ones are not practiced. Therefore, on each of the grounds, all six or all ten perfections are said to be practiced.

In particular, on the eighth ground when the bodhisattva has exhausted all mental afflictions and therefore abides in the ultimate with all elaborations pacified, the buddhas exhort him and say, “Buddhahood cannot be achieved through this mere realization of emptiness; this realization is achieved even by sravakas and pratyekabuddhas. Look at my immeasurable bodies, wisdom, buddhafields, and so forth. You do not have my powers and the like. Therefore set about it with joyous effort. Think of the unpacified sentient beings agitated by various mental afflictions. Do not give up patience either”. If the buddhas are so emphatic in explaining to eighth-ground bodhisattvas the need to train in bodhisattva conduct, this obviously applies even more so to others. Although there are indeed differences in the context of the high paths of unsurpassed mantra, it was already explained above that both the Mantrayana and Paramitayana are the same by and large in sharing the structure of the path of the two types of bodhicitta and training in the six perfections.

The opponent might respond, “We do not assert that generosity and so forth are unnecessary but that they are complete in the mind with no thoughts [149] because nonapprehending generosity is complete by nonadherence to the recipient, to the act of giving, and to the substance given. The remaining perfections are likewise complete in this way. This is also because the sutras say that the six perfections are contained in each one of them”. If all the perfections were complete simply through this, they would also be complete in the samatha or a tirthika’s single-pointed mind at the time of meditative equipoise since there is no adherence to those three in that way. In particular, as the Ten Grounds Sutra says, sravakas and pratyekabuddhas who have a nonconceptual wisdom of reality would become Mahayanists during meditative equipoise because the entire bodhisattva conduct would be complete.

If you assert that this alone is sufficient because it is taught that all six are included in each perfection, then it would also be appropriate just to offer a mandala with the verse “Giving cow dung together with water… “ since it is said that all six are present in it.

The following analogy is given in order to illustrate conduct conjoined with the view and wisdom conjoined with method. When a mother tormented by sorrow at the death of her beloved child engages in conversation with other people and the like, no matter what mental states arise, she does not give up her sorrow because it is so powerful, even though not all her mental states are those of sorrow. Similarly, if the wisdom realizing emptiness is very powerful, then even though the mental states that observe your generosity, prostrations, circumambulations, and so forth do not realise emptiness, this does not contradict the fact that they operate with the power of that wisdom. If you start off with the intense power of bodhicitta, as you do at the beginning of a meditation session, although bodhicitta is not manifest during the concentration of emptiness, that does not mean it is not influenced by it. The way in which wisdom and method are not separate is also like that.

Do not be misled by the statement that, for example, the body, wealth, and long life you enjoy in cyclic existence are results of the accumulation of merit. When method is divorced from wisdom, this is indeed the case. However, if they are conjoined, merit is altogether suitable to be the cause of liberation and omniscience. There are infinite scriptural passages for this, like in Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland (3.12):

In brief, Your Highness, the form body [of a buddha] [150]
is born from the accumulation of merit.

Moreover, you [the opponent] sometimes expound that the faulty conduct and all the mental afflictions that become the causes of the lower rebirths can also become causes of Buddhahood, and sometimes you seem to say that the virtues of generosity, ethics, and so forth that lead to higher states are causes of cyclic existence rather than causes of enlightenment. You should settle your mind before talking!

Do not misconstrue these statements from the sutras:

Adherence to the six, generosity and so forth, is the action of Mara.

The Three Heaps Sutra (Triskandhakasutra) also explains:

Making offerings while falling into objectification,
guarding one’s ethics while considering ethics to
be supreme, and so forth should be confessed individually.

Also the Questions of Brahma Sutra (Brahmapariprcchasutra) says:

Conduct in all its varieties is conceptual. Thorough
nonconceptuality is enlightenment.

The meaning of the first is that generosity and so on motivated by erroneous clinging in terms of the two selves is explained as an action of Mara because it is impure. However generosity and so forth are not presented as the actions of Mara. Otherwise, you would have to say, “Giving gifts should be confessed in general” without the need for it to have fallen into fixation, saying, “Bestowing gifts having fallen into fixation”. Therefore it follows that it was not taught in this manner. In the third Stages of Meditation, it become a very crucial point for Kamalasila to give this kind of answer, for if you misunderstand this, you will apprehend signs of a self of persons or a self of phenomena and assert the entire side of conduct to be qualified by signs.

If the mind of giving that thinks “I will give away this substance,” the mind of restraint that thinks “I will restrain myself from this faulty conduct, “ and all such virtuous conceptions were apprehensions of a self of phenomena apprehending the three spheres, it would make sense for those who have found the view of selflessness of phenomena to stop the, in every way, just like hatred, pride, and so forth, [151] and it would be inappropriate to rely on them for that purpose. If any conception that thinks “This is this” were considered to be an apprehension of a self of phenomena that apprehends the three spheres, then thinking about the excellent qualities of a spiritual teacher, the great significance of the freedoms and endowments, and so forth, remembering death, thinking about the suffering of the lower rebirths, going for refuge, contemplating that from this action arises that effect, training in love, compassion, and bodhicitta, and training in the trainings of engaged bodhicitta would be thoughts that think “This is this,” “From this that arises,” and “This has these excellent qualities and those faults”. Since those necessarily induce certainty, the apprehension of a self of phenomena would increase more and more as certainty with respect to those above-mentioned topics increases. Moreover, certainty about those paths would decrease as certainty about the selflessness of phenomena is nurtured more and more. Thereby, the side of conduct and the side of the view would come to contradict each other like hot and cold, and a strong and enduring mind of certainty about both could not be generated.

At the time of the result, both the truth body and the form body are construed as the object to be obtained, and these are not contradictory, Accordingly, at the time of the path, these following two must also not be contradictory: a mind of certainty induced with respect to the total freedom from even the merest particle of elaborations of a referent object that is apprehended as having signs of the two selves, and a mind of certainty inducted with respect to “From this, that arises” and “This has that fault or quality”.

That depends, in fact, on how the view of the two truths is established in the context of the ground. The valid cognition thoroughly positing the ultimate determines the mode of subsistence or the manner of being of all the phenomena of cyclic existence and nirvana as being without the merest particle of inherent existence. The valid cognition of conventions thoroughly positing causes and effects individually determines phenomena that are causes and effects without the slightest confusion. Once you gain certainty, by way of scriptures and reasonings, that these two do not harm each other in the least but rather assist each other, then you will realise the meaning of the two truths and you will come to count yourself among “those who have found the intention of the Victor”.

The meaning of the third scriptural passage is explained in the third Stages of Meditation. The context for this line of the sutra is an analysis of production and so forth in order to teach that generosity and so forth are not really produced, so the term “conceptuality” [152] is used to teach that they are merely imputed by conceptuality. However, they are not taught to be object to be discarded and not relied upon. The Compendium of the Sutras (Sutrasamuccaya) also clearly sets forth that a one-sided path is not enough:

Bodhisattvas who lack skillful means should not
make strong effort in the profound Dharma

The Sutra Teaching the Tathagata’s Inconceivable Secret says:

Child of the lineage, it is like this. A fire burns
because it has a cause; if the cause is absent, it subsides.
Likewise, a mind blazes due to an observed
object; if the observed object is absent, the mind
Therefore the bodhisattva skilled in means
knows how to completely extinguish observed objects
by means of the thoroughly pure perfection
of wisdom, but he [she] does not completely extinguish
observed object with respect to the roots of virtue.
He [she] does not allow the observed objects for
mental afflictions to arise but places the mind on
the observed objects of the perfections. He [she] also
individually analyses the observed object that is
emptiness but looks upon the observed object that
is all sentient beings with great compassion.

You must differentiate between statements that there is an observed object and statements that there is no observed object. The bonds of the mental afflictions and apprehending signs need to be loosened, whereas the ropes of the trainings need to be tightened. The two misdeeds must be destroyed, whereas virtuous actions need not be destroyed. Therefore being restrained by the trainings and being bound by the apprehension of signs are not the same, nor is loosening one’s guarding and restraint the same as loosening the bonds of an apprehending a self. Therefore the meaning of destruction and self-liberation and so forth need to be examined well.

When Master Kamalasila negates mental inattention, he does not negate the meditation where the mind is placed within the view that has determined the meaning of the ultimate mode of being and settled single-pointedly on that without attending to anything else. However, he does negate that meditation on emptiness consists of a mere stabilization in which the mind is left without conceiving anything, without placing it on the meaning determined by the view, the ultimate mode of being. [153] This is the same for the Mantrayana and Paramitayana. What similarities and differences exist between the two systems with regard to analysing with the wisdom of fine investigation and maintaining one’s meditation will be explained below.



This has two points: how to train in the Mahayana in general and how to train in the Vajrayana in particular.


This has three points: developing the wish to train in the precepts of bodhisattvas, taking the vows of the victors’ children after developing the wish, and training in the vows after taking them.


It is inappropriate to study the precepts of the Vinaya and tantra without taking the respective vows, vows, but these precepts are different. First, you come to understand the precepts so that your mindstream is purified. Then, if you feel enthusiasm for holding them, the vows are imparted on you. They will be very stable if you bring them to mind as an object after having understood the precepts, development a heartfelt desire to train in them, and then take the vows. That is why this is a good method.


In my commentary on the ethics chapter of Asanga’s Bodhisattva Levels, I already extensively determined how to first take the vows, how to then guard against the root downfalls and infractions that are misdeeds, and how to restore the vows if they have degenerated. Therefore, since the vows certainly need to be looked into before they are taken, consult that source to understand these points.


This has three points: the foundation of the precepts, how the precepts are contained in it, and the stages of training.


Although there are infinite clear divisions, when grouped together by type, all the precepts of bodhisattvas are contained in the six perfections. Therefore the six perfections constitute the great synopsis that condenses all the essential points of the bodhisattva path.


This has two points: the main topic, which is the specific number of perfections, and a secondary discussion of their specific order.


The Blessed One made just a synopsis of the six perfections, whereas Maitreya, the holy regent of the victors, established certainty in them by elucidating, as they had been intended, the essential points among the reasons for their formulation. They account for how their number was specified. Therefore, when you find certainty about this in a way that captivates the mind, you will hold the practice of the six perfections as supreme instructions. The number of the perfections is specified as six from the points of view of: high status, the accomplishment of the two welfares, the complete accomplishment of the welfare of others in all aspects, [154] their comprising the entire Mahayana, their influencing all aspects of path or method, and the three trainings.


To bring the vast conduct of a bodhisattva to completion, you need many consecutive lives, and to progress along the path in them, you need a life totally complete in all excellent characteristics. Without it, even if you practice with something that merely has some excellent aspects like our current life, there will be no progress whatsoever. Thus a life that is excellent in all aspects is necessary. To elaborate, you need a life that is endowed with the four excellences, wealth at your disposal, a body with which to practice, companions with whom to practice, and the ability to complete the actions you undertake.

However, many things become conditions for the mental afflictions simply because they are excellent. Thus it is also necessary not to come under the power of the mental afflictions. But that is not enough either; you must differentiate well the objects that are to be unmistakenly engaged in and turned away from with respect to what should be adopted and what should be discarded. Otherwise, the excellences will destroy you, just like bamboo and plantain trees are destroyed by bearing fruit and like a young molly mule is destroyed by pregnancy. The wise will understand that the excellences are the effects of previous good actions and will strive for their causes again so that they will increase. The unwise will use the effects previously accumulated and thereby exhaust them. If you do not develop them anew, they will engender suffering in future lives. Hence, in future lives, those six perfections will not emerge causelessly nor from a nonconcordant cause. Like their respective corresponding causes, the perfections are specified as six.

The wealth and so forth at the time of the path are temporary higher states, while those in ultimate higher states such as an excellent body and so forth exist on the buddha ground. Similarly, Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras (16.2) states:

Excellent wealth, body, companions,
and effort are higher states [of the first four perfections].
To not be controlled by mental afflictions
and to be unmistaken regarding activities [are result of the final two].


When you train in bodhisattva conduct with such a life, there are only two types of bodhisattva activities: [155] those that accomplish one’s own welfare and those that accomplish the welfare of others.

Specifically, in order to accomplish the welfare of others it is necessary to first benefit them with material gifts. Since generosity accompanied by harm to sentient beings leads to nothing, it is itself of great benefit to others to completely turn away from actions that harm others, together with their bases. Therefore ethics are necessary. However, those pure ethics cannot come about if you are unable to bear being harmed and you retaliate once or twice. So to perfect ethics, it is necessary to have the patience that in the face of harm thinks, “It does not matter”. Since your patience prevents you from retaliating, you then prevent others from accumulating a lot of bad actions. Inspired by that, they will then apply themselves to virtue. Thus it is of great benefit to others.

If you own welfare is to attain the happiness of liberation through the power of wisdom, this will not come with a distracted mind, and so you must place your mind in equipoise by means of meditative staiblisation. Thus it is necessary to achieve the suppleness of a mind that abides on the observed object for as long as you wish. Since this does not arise in the lazy, you need to set about it with joyous effort, not relenting day or night. This is the basis of the other perfections. Therefore, in order to bring about the two welfares, the perfections are specified as six. Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras (16.3) says:

Great effort for the welfare of beings
I made by giving, not harming and patience.
Abiding and liberation, together with their bases,
enact your own welfare in all aspects.

These components do not exhaust the means of securing the welfare of others in its entirety.

In the statement “Abiding and liberation,” the mind abiding on the observed object is said to be the work of meditative stabilization, and liberation from cyclic existence is said to be the work of wisdom. When these two are differentiated, samatha will not be mistaken for special insight.


At the outset, eliminate their poverty through material things. Following that, do not harm any sentient beings whatsoever. Not only that, be patient when harmed. Since you are their companion, act with undaunted joyous effort. Relying on meditative stabilization, fulfil their wishes through magical emanations and so forth. When they have become suitable vessels, offer them good explanations in reliance upon wisdom, so that you liberate them by clearing up their doubt. This is why the perfections are specified as six. [Ornament for the Mahayana Sutra (16.4) says:]

The welfare of others is also your own welfare
when you are unstinting, cause no harm at all,
are patient when harmed, are not thwarted by what is
to be done,
and are joyful and well-spoken. [156]


You will not be attached to wealth you have acquired, and you will not view wealth that you have not acquired with interest. When that is present, you will be able to guard the trainings, whereby you will take up ethics and respect them. You will not be discouraged because you have patience with sufferings caused by sentient beings and non-sentient phenomena. You will apply yourself to and delight in any kind of virtuous activities, and so you will not be discouraged by them. You will cultivate the nonconceptual yoga of Samatha and special insight. These six encompass all Mahayana practices, which you arrive at through these six. They are sequentially accomplished through the six perfections, and nothing more than those six is necessary. Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras (16.5) says:

All Mahayana is merely this:
taking no joy in wealth, having highest respect [for
not being discouraged regarding the two,
and nonconceptual yoga.


Generosity is the path of the method of nonattachment to wealth, or objects you have acquired, because you become free from attachment to them by getting used to giving them away. Ethics is the method for avoiding the distraction of trying to acquire objects not yet acquired, because the vows of a fully ordained monk prevent all the distractions of earning a living. Patience is the method for not giving up on sentient beings, because one is not depressed by all the sufferings caused by their harm. The method for increasing virtue is joyous effort, because it increases through undertaking virtue with joyous effort. The last two perfections are the methods for completely purifying the obstructions, because the mental afflictions are completely purified by meditative stabilization and the obstructions to omniscience are completely purified by wisdom. That is why the perfections are specified as six. Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras (16.6) says:

One path is nonattachment to objects.
The others are restraint from the distraction of
obtaining them,
not giving up on sentient beings, increasing virtues,
and purifying obstructions.


The nature of training in ethics is ethics. Moreover, since it is adopted when you have the generosity that is indifferent to wealth, the accumulation of ethics is that generosity. Also, when ethics are adopted, patience follows, because it is protected by the patience that does not return abuse for abuse. [157] Meditative stabilization is training of the mind [in concentration, the second training], whereas wisdom is training in wisdom. Joyous effort is included in all three trainings. This is why the perfections are specified as six. Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras (16.7) says:

The Victor perfectly explained the six perfections
from the perspective of the three trainings:
the first training includes the first three perfections,
the other two are aspects of the last two perfections,
and one perfection is included in all three trainings.

Thus one thoroughly completes either one’s own or others’ welfare by means of a certain excellent physical basis, through the variety of methods one possesses depending on one’s vehicle. The perfections should thus be known as six because they are completely perfected and subsumed by the basis that accomplishes a give practice, the welfare, the Mahayana, the method, and the trainings. You should think about this until you gain great that they are the sum of all the essential points of the bodhisattva practices.


This has three points: the order in which they arise, the order in terms of superiority, and the order in terms of subtlety.


If you have generosity that is indifferent and not attached to wealth, you will adopt ethics. If you possess ethics that retrain faulty behaviour, you will be patient with regard to harm. If you have patience that does not despair with respect to hardships, adverse circumstances will be few, so you will be able to act with joyous effort. As you act with joyous effort day and night, the concentration that is able to establish the mind in virtue will arise. When the mind is in meditative equipoise, you will realise reality just as it is.


The earlier are inferior and the latter are superior.


Since the earlier are easier to engage in and perform than the latter, they are coarser. Since the latter are more difficult to engage in and perform than the earlier, they are more subtle. Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras (16.14) says:

The latter grow based on the earlier ones;
they were taught in stages like that
because they abide as inferior and superior
and they are coarser and more subtle.


This has two points: how to train in the conduct in general and how to train in the last two perfections in particular.


This has two points: training in the perfections that ripen one’s own buddha qualities and training in the four ways of gathering disciples that ripen the minds of others. [158]


This has six points: how to train in generosity, ethics, patience, joyous effort, meditative stabilization, and wisdom.

(to be continued…)