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Excerpted from The Way to Freedom by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Copyright © 1994 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 


"There was sutra, or the path of study and practice by which it takes many lifetimes to achieve enlightenment, and tantra, the secret practices by which enlightenment can be achieved even in one lifetime."

Dalai Lama, The Way to Freedom, Part 2

This teaching of the stages of the path to enlightenment came to Tibet from India. Buddhism did not come to Tibet until the eighth century, but in the ninth century its practice was outlawed by Kind Lang-dar-ma. He closed the monasteries, which had been the primary center for teachings, as the Chinese have done today. Lang-dar-ma's destruction of Buddhism was extensive, but it was still possible to practice in remote regions, and the tradition was preserved. In the eleventh century, confusion arose of the existence of two approaches to the practice of the teachings. There was sutra, or the path of study and practice by which it takes many lifetimes to achieve enlightenment, and tantra, the secret practices by which enlightenment can be achieved even in one lifetime. 

In the eleventh century, an India monk named Atisha became famous for his ability to explain the Buddha's teachings and to defend them in debates with non-Buddhist philosophers. He was able to bring together all the diverse Buddhist philosophical positions that had developed over the centuries as well as the lay and monastic systems of practice. He was regarded as a nonpartisan and authoritative master by all the philosophical schools.

At that time the king of western Tibet, inspired by the great Buddhist faith of his ancestors, read many texts and found what he thought were contradictions among the different systems, especially regarding sutra and tantra. Many Tibetans at that time, due to a misunderstanding of the role of ethics in the two systems, thought that the practices of sutra and tantra could not be undertaken by one person. Yet the king was aware that when Buddhism had arrived in Tibet in the eighth century, the two systems had coexisted peacefully. The Indian master Shantarakshita had spread both the practice of monastic discipline and the vast and compassionate practices of sutra. At the same time the great yogi, Padmasambhava, was spreading the practices of tantra and taming the malevolent forces that plagued Tibet. These two masters undertook the practices of the Dharma together, without any hostility between them. 

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