In the Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism, Gampopa’s exposition of lamrim is known in English as The Jewel Ornament of Liberation. He introduced the lamrim to his disciples as a way of developing the mind gradually.

In Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation there are six parts, which show the whole path for liberation as follows:

(1) The Primary Cause: Buddha-Nature

(2) The Working Basis: The Precious Human Life

(3) The Contributory Cause: The Spiritual Master

(4) The Method: Topics (impermanence, the suffering of samsara, karma and its result, loving-kindness and compassion, refuge and precepts, cultivation of bodhicitta, training in aspiration bodhicitta, training in action bodhicitta, the six paramitas, etc.)

(5) The Result: Perfect Buddhahood

(6) The Activities: Activities of the Buddha

The Jewel Ornament of Liberation

The Jewel Ornament of Liberation is a famous survey of the ground, path and fruition of the Buddhadharma, written by Gampopa, the foremost disciple of Milarepa. It is said to capture the essence of both the Kadampa and Kagyüpa lineages of Mahayana teachings.


As mentioned in the Introduction, the text is structured around the following points:

(1) The cause is the buddha nature.

(2) The support is the most precious human body.

(3) The circumstance is the spiritual friend.

(4) The method consists of his instructions.

(5) The result consists of the kayas of perfect buddhahood.

(6) The activity is the spontaneous accomplishment of beings’ benefit.

Description of the Text

Contemporary translator, Ken Holmes, writes:

The Jewel Ornament of Liberation (or, Ornament of Precious Liberation) is the main textbook for the study of Mahayana Buddhism in the Kagyü monastic schools and colleges.

It is seen as a meditator’s textbook, inasmuch as it is not an eloquent, scholarly masterpiece or an elaborate discussion, but a need-to-know manual of essentials for a meditator. The language is down to earth and direct.

The eminent twentieth-century Tibetan scholar Kyapjé Kalu Rinpoché, recognized as an authority by lamas of all Tibetan schools, presented this text as an enlightened being’s (i.e., Gampopa’s) overview of the vast scriptures of non-tantric Buddhism and commented, “Even if you want to spend the rest of your life meditating in a cave, you must know Gampopa’s Ornament of Precious Liberation by heart and you must understand Maitreya’s buddha-nature teachings.”

In this work, Gampopa carefully picks out the most salient points on each topic and, more importantly, provides students with an overall Dharma framework of topics into which subsequent studies can easily be slotted.

Gampopa is always careful to back up his statements or summaries with quotations from the two main Indian Mahayana lineages. Although this is a textbook for Vajrayana meditators, the work remains exclusively a Mahayana treatise except for one or two minor references to his guru Milarepa and to the practice of Mahāmudrā.


The Jewel Ornament of Liberation is a masterwork of Tibetan Buddhism. For more than eight centuries, this text has provided a complete foundation for Buddhist study and practice — covering the initial entry into the path and continuing through to the achievement of Buddhahood.
(Taken from the back cover of the book)
“Anyone who knows the Jewel Ornament well
can say that they really understand Buddhism.”
(Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen)