In my own case, regardless of my limited capacity, I try my best to develop these two minds: the wisdom understanding emptiness, and bodhicitta—the wish to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. Merely trying to approach and cultivate these two minds brings greater peace and happiness. The development of these two minds is really the heart of Buddhist practice. It is the essential meaning of this Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. If we were to examine all the sutras and words of the Buddha, along with the subsequent treatises that are commentaries to them, we would find that they can be summed up in these two practices. Therefore, we should study these teachings motivated by an aspiration to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings.
Today, Buddhism is spreading throughout the Western world, encountering new cultures and new languages. During such a period of transition it is very important that the Dharma be transmitted by scholars and practitioners who possess a deep and vast understanding of the teachings, because that is the only way to protect the authenticity and purity of the teachings.
Atiśa exemplified this role by bringing the pure teachings from the great monastic centers of North India and establishing them in Tibet in an authentic and complete form that was, at the same time, suitably adapted to the Tibetan personality. He reestablished monasticism in Tibet and emphasized ethical conduct as the heart of Buddhist training. He dispelled the many misconceptions and erroneous customs that had entered the practice of the Dharma in Tibet. In this way he reestablished the pure Buddhadharma in many places where it had been lost, and enhanced it where it survived.
Requested by Jangchub Ö to give a teaching that would be beneficial to the Tibetan people in general, Atiśa composed the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, which condensed the essential points of both sutras and tantras into a step-by-step method that would be easy to follow. This text inaugurated the grand tradition of the study and practice of the stages of the path method in Tibet. Atiśa also worked with his Tibetan students on the translation of many texts from Sanskrit into Tibetan and so made a rich contribution to the flourishing of Buddhism in the Land of Snows.
Geshe Sopa, the author of this commentary on the Lamrim Chenmo was one of the several good students of Geshe Lhundrub Tabke and was therefore chosen to debate with me during my final examination. Geshe Lhundrub Tabke, who became the abbot of Sera Je, was in turn one of the several good students of Geshe Tsangpa Lhundrub Tsondru, who was a renowned scholar at the time of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama and later ascended the throne of Ganden Tripa. Geshe Sopa is therefore the third generation of high-quality scholarship commencing from Geshe Tsangpa Lhundrub Tsondru and he continues the excellent tradition today.