Sunday, July 16, 2006

lam rim - Stages of the Path

Many, especially in the Gelug tradition, has heard the term lam rim, stages of the path. This word is good to understand, of many reasons. First, lam is path, and rim is stage, so you saw that the way we translate it in the west it looks odd... Also, a better word is really rim pa, stage, even if rim is also fine.

Secondly, it's a good example how in Tibetan it is common to shorten terms, titles, and so on. It should really be lam gyi rim, with the gyi particle, genitive, between. Now if you read this from right to left, using the genitive particle that is hidden between, it is indeed stages of the path. So that explained the mystery.

To be more exact, there are many stages, and many paths, so maybe this should even include plural: lam rnams gyi rim rnams. Again, it's a good example of how even plural definitions are sometimes omitted to make terms and so forth shorter. It's tough to carve wood blocks for printing, that's my speculation.

As for lam rim, it has three main parts, practices for the lowest practitioners, practices for the medium level practitioners, and practices for the highest level of practitioners. You could also divide it into nges 'byung (renunciation), byang chub kyi sems (bodhichitta), and stong pa nyid (emptiness) sections.

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