The Lamrim: Stages of the Path

A PathThis article introduces the spiritual path as organized in a sequence of spiritual development. It is rooted in Tibetan Buddhism and is known as the Lamrim (Tibetan). Here is an overview . . .

It has been suggested that although there are countless living beings – humans and non-humans – all may be included within three broad types: those who seek mainly worldly happiness, those who seek mainly the attainment of liberation from samsara (cyclic existence), and those who seek mainly the attainment of full enlightenment.

In a scripture known as the Stages of the Path (Tibetan: Lamrim), we find that the actual practice of the stages of the path fulfils the desires of all three kinds of being.

The practice of Lamrim is important because everyone needs to cultivate peaceful states of mind to peacefully co-exist with one another. By listening to or reading these teachings, we can learn how to control our mind and to keep a good motivation in the heart. This will lead to making our daily actions more and more pure and meaningful.

By controlling our mind, we can more readily solve our daily problems, and by gradually improving our daily practice of Lamrim, we may advance from our present stage to the stage of a Bodhisattva (someone whose spiritual practice is directed toward the achievement of enlightenment for the welfare of all beings). By progressing further we can become a fully enlightened being. This is the essential purpose and meaning of our human life. Such a great attainment can be the result of our practice of Lamrim. (The above has been based on and adapted from Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang. Joyful Path of Good Fortune: The Complete Buddhist Path to Enlightenment. Ulverston, England: Tharpa Publications, 1995; pages ix-xi.)

In summary, the Lamrim (one of the great classics of Tibetan literature) literally means “stages of the path”. It offers a comprehensive overview of the entire path to enlightenment based on the main body of the Buddha’s teachings

The Lamrim arranges the Buddha’s teachings in a manner that is easy to understand and to put into practice. The teachings are presented along a continuum, characterized by three spiritual attitudes: People who may overall have modest motivation, medium motivation, or high motivation.

On this website, the stages of the path are presented as follows:


The Lamrim: author and authenticity; how to receive its instruction

The Spiritual Guide: how to rely on a spiritual guide

Precious Human Life: how to take the essence of this precious human rebirth

Modest Scope Motivation (striving for a rebirth in the upper realms: human, demigod, or god)

Death: reality that this life will end and that one will die

Suffering: in a rebirth in the lower realms (hell being, hungry ghost, animal)

Going for Refuge: in the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha)

Karma: the law of cause and effect

Medium Scope Motivation (striving for liberation from cyclic existence)

Truth of Suffering: in all of cyclic existence

Origin of Suffering: afflictive emotions (especially attraction and aversion)

Cessation of Suffering: free of suffering and its origins

Path to Freedom from Suffering: ethics, concentration, and wisdom

12 Links of Dependent Arising

High Scope Motivation (striving for complete Buddhahood)

Bodhichitta: mind that seeks enlightenment to benefit others

Mind of Enlightenment: how to develop

Perceiving Others: seven-point instruction in how to view others

Cherishing Others: self-cherishing versus cherishing others

Six Perfections: training in the six perfections

I find that this organizing and arranging of the main body of the Buddha’s teachings is insightful and meaningful. It presents a path for spiritual seekers to consider in their own practice.

With metta,

Alexander Peck

Click here for a PDF copy of LAMRIM-Stages of the Path.

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Click here for a PDF copy of LAMRIM-An Abbreviated Outline-TABLE.

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