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In Tibetan, “stages o f the path” ; a common abbreviation for byang chub lam gyi rim pa (jangchup lamkyi rimpa), or “stages of the path to enlightenment,” a broad methodological framework for the study and practice of the complete Buddhist path to awakening, as well as the name for a major genre of Tibetan literature describing that path. It is closely allied to the genre known as bstan rim, or “stages of the doctrine.” The initial inspiration for the instructions of this System is usually attributed to the Bengali master Atiśa Dīpamkaraśrījñāna, whose Bodhipathapradīpa (“Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment”) became a model for numerous later stages of the path texts. The system presents a graduated and comprehensive approach to studying the central tenets of Mahāyāna Buddhist thought and is often organized around a presentation o f the three levels o f spiritual predilection, personified as “three individuals” (skyes bu
gsum): lesser, intermediate, and superior. The stages gradually leadtheStudentfromthelowestlevelofseekingmerelytoobtain a better rebirth, through the intermediate level ofwishing for one’s own individual liberation, and finally to adopting the Mahāyāna outlook of the “superior individual,” viz., aspiring to attain buddhahood in order to benefit all living beings. The approach is most often grounded in the teachings of the sütra and usually concludes with a brief overview of tantra.
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