In Tibetan Buddhism, the Lamrim (Tibetan for “stages of the path”) is a way of presenting the stages in the path to enlightenment as taught by Buddha.
There have been different versions of Lamrim in Tibetan Buddhist history, presented by the teachers of the Nyingma, Kagyu and Gelug schools.
However, all versions of the Lamrim are elaborations of Atiśa’s 11th Century root text A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment.
In the Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism, Gampopa’s exposition of Lamrim is known in English as “The Jewel Ornament of Liberation“. He introduced the Lamrim to his disciples as a way of developing the mind gradually.
In Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation there are six parts, which show the whole path for liberation as follows:
(1) The Primary Cause: Buddha-Nature
(2) The Working Basis: The Precious Human Life
(3) The Contributory Cause: The Spiritual Master
(4) The Method: Topics (impermanence, the suffering of samsara, karma and its result, loving-kindness and compassion, refuge and precepts, cultivation of bodhicitta, training in aspiration bodhicitta, training in action bodhicitta, the six paramitas, etc.)
(5) The Result: Perfect Buddhahood
(6) The Activities: Activities of the Buddha
Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug school, wrote one of his masterpieces on the Lamrim: The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path of Enlightenment (Tib. Lam-rim Chen-mo).
This Lamrim divides spiritual practitioners into three scopes, based on the motivation of their religious activity. The three kinds of persons are:
(1) Persons of modest scope;
(2) Persons of medium scope; and
(3) Persons of high scope.
Persons of modest motivation seek for happiness within samsara; their motive is to achieve high rebirth.
Persons of medium motivation seek for their own ultimate peace and abandon worldly pleasure.
Persons of high motivation, based on insight into their own suffering, seek to stop the suffering of all beings.
Lamrim texts cover essentially the same subject areas. However, the subjects within them may be arranged in different ways. For example, the Lamrim of Atiśa starts with bodhicitta (the altruistic mind of enlightenment); Gampopa’s Lamrim starts with the Buddha nature; Tsongkhapa’s text starts with reliance on a guru (Tibetan: lama).
Both Gampopa and Tsongkhapa have expanded the short root-text of Atiśa into a detailed system to understand the entire range of Buddhist teachings.
Source: Alexander Peck (January 2020)