Jonang Lamrim – Part 1 (Intro)

[This is part of an ongoing Lamrim series. All related posts can be found here.]

I have been attending teachings from  Khenpo Choejor Gyamtso on Jetsun Taranatha’s ‘Essence of Ambrosia‘ – the principle lamrim text of the Jonang lineage. I have decided to begin a new series of posts dedicated to this topic. I feel this will aid me in reviewing the teachings as well as perhaps benefiting others by sharing some of my reflections here.

For those who are not familiar, ‘lamrim’ can be translated into English as ‘stages of the path’ and can be thought of as a way to systematically group many of the diverse teachings of Buddhadharma into a graduated, step-by-step format. There are several versions of lamrim preserved and transmitted through the different lineages. All lamrim texts (that I am aware of) share as their root text A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment by the great scholar and accomplished spiritual master Atisha (982–1054 CE) wherein he classifies three types of motivation, capacities or scopes – 1)  the lesser scope, 2) the middling scope and 3) the highest scope. As stated in Atisha’s Lamp

Know that those who by whatever means
Seek for themselves no more
Than the pleasures of cyclic existence
Are persons of the least capacity.

Those who seek peace for themselves alone,
Turning away from worldly pleasures
And avoiding destructive actions
Are said to be of middling capacity.

Those who, through their personal suffering,
Truly want to end completely
All the suffering of others
Are persons of supreme capacity.

[For those who are interested in Atisha’s root text, there is a pdf version of an English translation hosted online by]



Some of the popular lamrim texts are Gampopa’s The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, Tsongkhapa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment and Taranatha’s Essence of Ambrosia. In this series I will focus solely on the latter.

It is also to be noted that Essence of Ambrosia is based on sutra level teachings and practice rather than tantra. However, since tantra has sutra as a foundation, the latter should not be neglected. In fact, tantra is unworkable or can be quite dangerous without having a strong foundation in sutra.

Continue to part 2

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