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Recommended Mahayana Textual Study in Stages

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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 Preparatory Recommendations:

    Readings on the Foundations of Buddhism: 4 Noble Truths, Eight Fold Path and other important subjects from His Holiness Dalai Lama - The Path to Bliss
    Thich Naht Hahn's, Heart of the Buddha's Teaching
    From the Theravada Tradition, Walpola Rahula's, What the Buddha Taught

Essential Texts for Any Buddhist Practitioner (in order):

    The Discourses of the Buddha, in short, intermediate, and long forms. Author: The Buddha, translated by Bikkhu Bodhi, published by Wisdom.
    Introduction to Lam-Rim (Specifically Renunciation, Bodhicitta, and Correct View) from Atisha's Lamp On the Path to Enlightenment, and/or Gampopa's Jewel Ornament of Liberation.
    Stages of Meditation (Bhavana Kramma, Gom-Rim) by Kamalashila with commentary by His Holiness XIV Dalai Lama.
    Bodhisattva's Way of Life Chapters 1-8 Study by Shantideva. Then, Bodhisattva's Way of Life Study of the Wisdom Chapter and Study of Tenet Systems.
    Mind-Training Texts (Lojong), by Atisha, and Sakya Pandita.
    Introduction to (Pramana Vartikka, Tsema Namdrol) Logic and Perception Texts - Chapters 2 and 3. Study of Proofs of Future Lives, and Study Provisional and Definitive Meaning (Neyartha and Nithartha).
    Introduction to Abhidharma Texts - Study of Chapter Four - Karma, by Loppon Vasubandhu.
    Study of Perfection of Wisdom Texts (Prajnaparamita) - Ornament of the Middle Way with commentaries by Mipham and Gyaltsab Je. Study of Heart Sutra, Flower Ornament Sutra, Lankavatara Sutra, Vimalakirti Sutra, The Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala and the Diamond Cutter Sutra.
    Vinaya (Vowed Morality) Study. 3 Types of Vows and Ordination. (Dam Sum). Commentaries by Dudjom Rinpoche and Jamgon Kongtrul.
    Perfection of Wisdom Texts (Abhisamayalamkara, Ornament of Clear Realization, by Acharya Asanga, and Maitreya). Introduction to Tenet Systems from Sautrantika to Prasangika Madhyamika), Aryadeva's 400 verses.
    Study of the Ornament of the Sutras (Sutralamkara), by Acharya Asanga and Maitreya.
    Advanced Study of Logic and Perception Texts (Pramana Vartikka). Introduction to Debate Logic.
    Study of Distinguishing Phenomena from Pure Being, by Acharya Asanga and Maitreya).
    Study of Buddha Nature (Uttara Tantra), by Acharya Asanga and Maitreya.
    Study of Creation and Completion (Kye Rim and Dzog Rim).

Recommended Mahayana Practice in Stages (in order):

    Lam-Rim (Stages of the Path Meditations). Contemplation meditations highlighting compassion/bodhicitta practices such as tonglen (taking and sending) and introduction to calm-abiding/tranquility meditations. Meditations on 2 of the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness training: Mindfulness of Body, and Feelings.
    Gom-Rim (Stages of Meditation). Practical Instructions regarding the right internal and external conditions for meditation as well as guidelines regarding the stages of shamatha (calm-abiding).
    Lojong (Mind-Training) meditations on slogans through 7-Points. Meditations on Parting From the Four attachments and meditations on the Four Thoughts that Turn One's Mind Toward Dharma. Highlighting compassion/bodhichitta meditations.
    Ngondro Preliminary Practices. (Refuge and Bodhicitta, Vajrasattva, Mandala Offerings, and Guru Yoga). Highlighting bodhictta. Introduction to Creation and Completion stages.
    Mahamudra. Note: Buddha Nature Teachings and Pointing-Out Instructions Must be Received First. Highlighting bodhichitta.
    Dzogchen. Highlighting bodhicitta
    Tantras and Creation and Completion Teachings. Highlighting bodhichitta.

Special Note Regarding Tantras:

    Lower Tantra's may be given along the way as devotional or guru yoga practices such as Chenrezig, Manjushri and 21 Tara's - always peaceful. Higher Yoga Tantras (Annutaratantras) must be given much later such as Vajrayogini and Heruka practices with Kalachakra being last.
    Special practices such as the Six Yogas of Naropa are usually offered during long-retreat, such as the 3 year retreat. They include practices such as Inner Heat, Illusory Body and Consciousness Transference (Phowa), Dream Yoga and are generally included within the long Vajrayogini and Heruka cycles.

Recommended Commentarial Reading (Main Text Listed First, Recommended Commentaries listed after):

    Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa
        Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Thrangu Rinpoche.
    Atisha's Lamp On the Path to Enlightenment
        His Holiness Dalai Lama, The Buddhism of Tibet.
    Lam Rim Chenmo by Je Tsongkhapa, Vols. 1-3 by Snow Lion Publications
        Geshe Lhundrub Sopa, The Stages of Enlightenment in three vols. By Wisdom Publications.
    Stages of Meditation by Acharya Kamalashila
        Stages of Meditation commentary by His Holiness, XIV Dalai Lama, published by Snow Lion.
        Essential Practice, by Thrangu Rinpoche, Snow Lion Publications.
        King of Concentration Sutra (Raj Samadhi), with commentary by Thrangu Rinpoche, published by Rangjung Yeshe.
        Calm-Abiding, by Gen Lamrimpa and Alan Wallace, Snow Lion Publications.
    Bodhisattva's Way of Life by Acharya Shantideva
    Many translations are available - we recommend the translation by Padmakara as being the one that is closest to the meaning and the meter.
        Commentaries by His Holiness XIV Dalai Lama are abundant and should be utilized, esp. A Flash of Lightning in the Dark, for the difficult ninth chapter on Wisdom, by Snow Lion Publications.

Lojong (Mind-Training) Texts.:

    Great Path of Awakening by Jamgon Kongtul, trans. By Ken Mcleod.
    Mind-Training by Trungpa Rinpoche, by Shambhala.
    Parting From the 4 Attachments by Sakya Pandita, with commentary Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, from Snow Lion Publications.

Logic and Perception Texts (Pramana Vartika) By Acharya Dignaga and Acharya Dharmakirti:

    Asian Classics Institute, Courses IV, (on the Proofs for Future Lives), and XV (on how to differentiate provisional and definitive meanings in Buddhist texts).
    The Quantam and the Lotus by Matthew Ricard is an excellent, although sometimes difficult, read on the union of Buddhism and science.
    The Bridge of Quiessence by Alan Wallace is an excellent, although sometimes difficult, read on the bridge of western Philosophy and Psychology with Buddhism.

Abhidharma, by Acharya Vasubhandu, trans. By Louis Vallee Poussin, Asian Humanities Press:

    Asian Classics Institute, Course V. on Karma.

Prajnaparamita Texts. Just a few of the available classics:

    Classic Literature by Edward Conze.
    Meditation on Emptiness, and Emptiness Yoga by Jeffrey Hopkins, Wisdom and Snow Lion Publications.
    Dependent Arising and Emptiness, Elizabeth Napper, Wisdom Publications.
    Adornment of the Middle Way by Acharya Shantarakshita, Shambhala Publications.
    Introduction to the Middle Way by Acharya Chandrakirti, Shambhala Publications.
    Nagarjuna Seventy Stanza's Snow Lion Pub.
    Nagarjuna's Precious Garland and Letter to a Friend by Snow Lion Publications.
    The Emptiness of Emptiness, Huntingtion, Univ. of Hawaii Press.
    400 Verses of Aryadeva Snow Lion Publications.
    Analysis of the Abhisamayalamkara by Obermiller, Asian humanities Press.
    Gateway to Knowledge by Mipham Rinpoche, Vols. 1-3. Rangjung Yeshe Publications.
    Wisdom: Two Buddhist Publications Padmakara Translations.

Note: Westerners in particular should be considerate about receiving instructions regarding Ngondro and beyond from qualified teachers and hopefully by this point have begun to develop a serious and consistent relationship with a root teacher(s). Balancing practice and study from the very beginning is a must otherwise at best nothing will happen to you regarding transformation. At worst, you will become immune to the very medicine that would have protected you from suffering.

Finally, you should give up on receiving empowerments as a spiritual practice. Alexander Berzin's Relating to A Spiritual Teacher is an extraordinary guide in selecting an appropriate teacher.