Chapter 18: The Aspects of the Five Paths

The mental development of wisdom and compassion described in the first seventeen chapters, in which one purifies the different levels of obscuration, is fully cultivated through five paths.

The first is called the path of accumulation. Through study and training in the four foundations—the rarity and preciousness of human life and its opportunities; the impermanence of all compound phenomena, including precious human life; the all-pervading suffering of samsara; and inexorable karmic causation—one gets a clear understanding of the need to free oneself from samsara and attain enlightenment. On the basis of this awareness, one’s efforts are focused and organized into the spiritual path. With the guidance of spiritual masters, one starts to gather the different instructions and methods that will establish the mind in clarity and one-pointedness. On this foundation, great loving-kindness, compassion and bodhicitta are developed. This is the path of accumulation.

Second, on the path of preparation, one develops further by training the mind well and strengthening the power of wisdom in order to counter the afflicting emotions. By studying and familiarizing oneself through practice with the idea that everything is interdependent and illusory, one will gain the talent to suppress and subjugate all the powers of the afflicting emotions. This is the path of preparation.

On the basis of one-pointed meditative concentration and with the support of special insight, one penetrates the nature of the mind itself and is completely victorious in the battle with delusion and afflicting obscurations. The process of realizing the all-pervading emptiness in the meditative state is called the path of insight.

In order to enhance and purify all the habitual tendencies, to dispel obstacles from the path to enlightenment, one needs constant reminding and mindfulness. Recalling the impermanence of all phenomena dispels attachment to this life. Recalling the suffering nature of samsara dispels attachment to the pleasures of samsara. Recalling loving-kindness and compassion dispels the obstacles to one’s own peace and liberation. Enhancing the practice of bodhicitta dispels ignorance about how to attain enlightenment. And practicing understanding everything as the selfless nature of illusion is the method to dispel grasping phenomena as real. This manner of training is called the path of meditation.

When one perfects all these trainings, there is no need to learn any more. When one purifies, completely annihilates, all the subtle obscurations through the vajra-like absorption, the all-pervading primordial wisdom blossoms. This is called the path of all-pervading wisdom. When one realizes this level, there is nothing more to dispel and nothing to add. It transcends all the conceptions of duality and actualizes the primordial mind as such. This is called the path of perfection and is Buddhahood.

Source: Gampopa, Dharma Lord. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation: The Wish-fulfilling Gem of the Noble Teachings. Translated by Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche. Edited by Ani K. Trinlay Chodron. Boulder, Colorado: Snow Lion, 1998.