This book is a commentary by a contemporary master (1897–1975) on a portion of an ancient Tibetan Buddhist teaching. In the Tibetan tradition, it is common for a meditation master to offer explanations and interpretations in this way, in order to share his understanding with students and to shed light on centuries-old texts that may be difficult for contemporary practitioners to fully understand. Such a commentary is usually read at the end of a comprehensive course of study and is designed for seasoned students of Tibetan Buddhism. To make the work more accessible to Western Buddhists, the translators have added detailed notes and appendixes.
In this case, the well-known original text by Jigme Lingpa (1730–1798) presents in elegant verse the entire Buddhist path according to the Nyingma school. Because it is pithy and concise and makes use of elaborate poetic language, a commentary is indispensable.
The root text consists of two main sections devoted, respectively, to the Sutras and the Tantras. The Sutra section, which is the subject of the present volume, covers the ethical, psychological, and philosophical teachings shared by all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The essential thrust is toward the Mahayana, but the text also addresses questions associated with the Hinayana perspective, such as the fundamental issues of karma and ethics, the four noble truths, and the twelvefold chain of dependent arising.