The great Indian Buddhist Master Atisha (982-1054 AD) was responsible for reintroducing pure Buddhism into Tibet.
Although Buddhism had been introduced into Tibet some two hundred years earlier by Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita, Buddhist practice in the country had largely been destroyed during the anti-Buddhist purges of the Tibetan king, Lang Darma (circa 836 AD), a follower of Bön, the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet.
Invited by Jangchub Ö, a ruler of Ngari in western Tibet, Atisha was asked to present a Dharma that everybody could follow and that would show how all the paths of Sutra and Tantra could be practiced together.
Read Advice from Atisha’s Heart
Friends, since you already have great knowledge and clear understanding, whereas I am of no importance and have little wisdom, it is not suitable for you to request advice from me. However because you dear friends, whom I cherish from my heart, have requested me, I shall give you this essential advice from my inferior and childish mind.
Friends, until you attain enlightenment the Spiritual Teacher is indispensable, therefore rely upon the holy Spiritual Guide.
Until you realize ultimate truth, listening is indispensable, therefore listen to the instructions of the Spiritual Guide.
Since you cannot become a Buddha merely by understanding Dharma, practise earnestly with understanding.
Avoid places that disturb your mind, and always remain where your virtues increase.
Until you attain stable realizations, worldly amusements are harmful, therefore abide in a place where there are no such distractions.
Avoid friends who cause you to increase delusions, and rely upon those who increase your virtue. This you should take to heart.
Since there is never a time when worldly activities come to an end, limit your activities.
Dedicate your virtues throughout the day and the night, and always watch your mind.
Because you have received advice, whenever you are not meditating always practise in accordance with what your Spiritual Guide says.
If you practise with great devotion, results will arise immediately, without your having to wait for a long time.
If from your heart you practise in accordance with Dharma, both food and resources will come naturally to hand.
Friends, the things you desire give no more satisfaction than drinking sea water, therefore practise contentment.
Avoid all haughty, conceited, proud, and arrogant minds, and remain peaceful and subdued.
Avoid activities that are said to be meritorious, but which in fact are obstacles to Dharma.
Profit and respect are nooses of the maras, so brush them aside like stones on the path.
Words of praise and fame serve only to beguile us, therefore blow them away as you would blow your nose.
Since the happiness, pleasure, and friends you gather in this life last only for a moment, put them all behind you.
Since future lives last for a very long time, gather up riches to provide for the future.
You will have to depart leaving everything behind, so do not be attached to anything.
Generate compassion for lowly beings, and especially avoid despising or humiliating them.
Have no hatred for enemies, and no attachment for friends.
Do not be jealous of others’ good qualities, but out of admiration adopt them yourself.
Do not look for faults in others, but look for faults in yourself, and purge them like bad blood.
Do not contemplate your own good qualities, but contemplate the good qualities of others, and respect everyone as a servant would.
See all living beings as your father or mother, and love them as if you were their child.
Always keep a smiling face and a loving mind, and speak truthfully without malice.
If you talk too much with little meaning you will make mistakes, therefore speak in moderation, only when necessary.
If you engage in many meaningless activities your virtuous activities will degenerate, therefore stop activities that are not spiritual.
It is completely meaningless to put effort into activities that have no essence.
If the things you desire do not come it is due to karma created long ago, therefore keep a happy and relaxed mind.
Beware, offending a holy being is worse than dying, therefore be honest and straightforward.
Since all the happiness and suffering of this life arise from previous actions, do not blame others.
All happiness comes from the blessings of your Spiritual Guide, therefore always repay his kindness.
Since you cannot tame the minds of others until you have tamed your own, begin by taming your own mind.
Since you will definitely have to depart without the wealth you have accumulated, do not accumulate negativity for the sake of wealth.
Distracting enjoyments have no essence, therefore sincerely practise giving.
Always keep pure moral discipline for it leads to beauty in this life and happiness hereafter.
Since hatred is rife in these impure times, don the armour of patience, free from anger.
You remain in samsara through the power of laziness, therefore ignite the fire of the effort of application.
Since this human life is wasted by indulging in distractions, now is the time to practise concentration.
Being under the influence of wrong views you do not realize the ultimate nature of things, therefore investigate correct meanings.
Friends, there is no happiness in this swamp of samsara, so move to the firm ground of liberation.
Meditate according to the advice of your Spiritual Guide and dry up the river of samsaric suffering.
You should consider this well because it is not just words from the mouth, but sincere advice from the heart.
If you practise like this you will delight me, and you will bring happiness to yourself and others.
I who am ignorant request you to take this advice to heart.
This is the advice that the holy being Venerable Atisha gave to Venerable Jang Chub Ö.
Translation © Geshe Kelsang Gyatso & New Kadampa Tradition
In response, Atisha wrote Lamp for the Path, the original Lamrim text that served as the basis for all subsequent Lamrim instructions. The revival of pure Buddhist practice in Tibet at this time was largely due to Atisha.
To learn more about Atisha, see Joyful Path of Good Fortune by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.