To rely upon the teachings of Sutra.
We need to listen to, contemplate, and meditate on the instructions of Sutra. The simplest way to do this is to study, contemplate, and meditate on the Lamrim.
I remember when I first found Geshe-la’s books and the first time I read Joyful Path of Good Fortune. Prior to that, I had been going to the bookstore, buying books, then coming home and trying to make sense of them. I would then go back to the bookstore and try again. Because every individual instruction of Dharma has value, I was definitely receiving benefit and moving in a positive direction. But then I read about the pre-eminent qualities of the Lamrim. In particular, the fact that the Lamrim was the condensation of all 84,000 instructions of Buddha, so by practicing the Lamrim directly I was practicing all of Buddha’s instructions indirectly. This moved my mind so much, I literally got up off the couch and started dancing in my apartment, going “Yes!”
Let’s face it, we live in an age of no more than 140 characters. If people have to spend more than 3-5 minutes reading something, they simply give up. Several years ago, the average length of a New York Times op-ed column was 1,000 words. They have since shortened it to 800 words, because beyond that people lose interest and are pulled to the next thing. How many of us, in this modern world, have the time to wade through all 84,000 instructions and try make sense of them? And even if we had such time, why would we do so when it has already been done for us by great masters such as Atisha, Je Tsongkhapa and Venerable Geshe-la. We don’t need to know every street in our city, it suffices to know the streets that take us from where we are to where we want to go. We don’t need to know every detail of a study, what matters is that we internalize the main idea. It is better to gain deep experience of the essential than endless intellectual knowledge of every subject.
True wealth is knowing you lack nothing. You have no need for anything else, you have everything you need. When we understand the Lamrim we become truly spiritually wealthy. We feel as if we lack nothing, all that remains is putting it into practice. We feel like our search is over, we have found home.
The Lamrim directly or indirectly opposes all delusions. Every delusion has an opponent, but since we have countless different delusions, if we oppose them one by one, we need countless different opponents. But a systematic practice of the 21 Lamrim meditations weaves within our mind an inter-connected system of Dharma minds that functions to protect our mind against any and all delusions. When the we train in the Lamrim, our meditation on any one single meditation functions to strengthen and reinforce all of the other meditations. It builds a spiritual synergy where every experience we have, every new instruction we hear, makes everything else is made stronger. With the Lamrim, we understand not just individual pieces of Dharma wisdom, but more importantly how everything fits together. With the Lamrim, we build within our mind a storehouse for the instructions we receive that functions to have nothing be wasted and everything easily retained. There comes a point in our training in concentration where we reach the “concentration of the Dharma continuum.” When we reach that stage, we spontaneously remember all of the Dharma instructions we have previously received and likely forgotten. But with the Lamrim, it can almost be as if we have a similitude of the concentration of the Dharma continuum right now. In fact, I would go so far as to say the concentration of the Dharma continuum is the full ripening of all of our previous lamrim practice, at least at the level of “listening” to Dharma.
The Lamrim, though, is not just an intellectual framework, it is a deep personal experience of Dharma. It naturally leads to a transformation of our deepest desires from selfishly wanting samsara’s pleasures in this life to altruistically wanting eternal happiness for all living beings in all of their lives. It is said the quintessential butter that comes from churning the milk of Dharma is the mind of bodhichitta. The first 19 meditations of the Lamrim are like rivers which fill the ocean of our bodhichitta. Once we have bodhichitta, we then actualize it by improving our concentration and realizing directly ultimate truth emptiness. With this mind, we reconstruct our karmic dream from a world of suffering into a pure world; and we do this not only for ourself, but for all living beings.
In short, there can be nothing more important to do with our life than transform it with the Lamrim.