The Lamrim is the essence of all Buddha’s teaching because its principal source is the sutras on the Perfection of Wisdom and upon this foundation it presents a range of paths and practices incorporating all Hinayana, general Mahayana, secret Vajrayana teachings originating from Buddha.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in The Path to Enlightenment
The above quotation refers to the greatness of the Lamrim teachings. According to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Lamrim contains the practices of all three levels of practice – Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. The Lamrim is seen as a wish-fulfilling jewel because it comprises all the different practices by which one can gain all levels of realisation. In Path to Enlightenment, the Dalai Lama mentions the four great benefits of the Lamrim:
- the various doctrines of Buddha will be seen as non-contradictory;
- the various teachings will be taken as personal advice;
- the thought of Buddha will easily be found, and
- one will be held back from the great mistake of abandoning any aspect of the holy Dharma
In the Kechara House Dharma Library there is a commentary on Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim Chenmo by Geshe Lhundrup Sopa entitled Steps on the Path to Enlightenment, Volumes 1 & 2 (2004). In this work, Geshe Lhundrup Sopa explains what it means to say that all the teachings are non-contradictory by quoting a commentary by Avalokitavrata on his teacher Bhāvaviveka’s text Lamp for Wisdom (Prajñā-pradīpa-tīkā) which says:
The teachings are the scriptures of the Blessed One. They infallibly teach what must be understood, what must be eliminated, what must be manifested, and what must be cultivated by those gods and humans who wish to attain the state produced by the nectar of immortality.
Avalokitavrata in Steps on the Path to Enlightenment
In this quotation, “teachings” refer to the teachings of the Buddha which unerringly present the four noble truths. What needs to be understood is the nature of suffering. What we need to eliminate is the cause of suffering. What must be manifested is the cessation of suffering and what we need to cultivate is the path.
The Buddha taught different things at different times, according to the level of the disciple. Although on the surface, the teachings (Hinayana, Mahayana or Vajrayana) may appear inconsistent and contradictory, their aim is the same, which is to lead someone to enlightenment. Therefore, everything that the Buddha taught is like the “nectar of immortality” that produces the state beyond death (nirvana) or freedom from samsara.
“All roads lead to Rome” as the saying goes. Just as “the rivers of the three vehicles flow into the ocean of the Buddha’s Dharma” (Lama Tsongkhapa in Great Treatise on the Stages of Mantra), all the teachings are methods that lead disciples to Buddhahood according to their abilities and needs.