Steps on the Path to Enlightenment by Lhundub Sopa (2 vols.)

Lhundub Sopa. Steps on the Path to Enlightenment: A Commentary on Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim Chenmo. Vol. 1: The Foundation Practices; vol. 2: Karma. Ed. by David Patt and Beth Newman. Foreword by H. H. the Dalai Lama. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2004 and 2005. Hardcover, xxiv + 582 and xvi + 494 pp.

The monumental Lamrim Chenmo authored by Je Tsonkhapa’s (1357–1419) is one of my favorite Tibetan Buddhist texts, both because of its ingenious grasp of the Dharma and because of its exceptional lucidity. Geshe Lhundub Sopa’s detailed five-volume commentary, in my opinion, shares both these qualities and therefore is an invaluable tool for those wishing to go deeper into Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings and also the practice of Vajrayana Buddhism.

In his Foreword, H. H. the Dalai Lama says of Geshe Sopa that he “is an exemplary heir of Atisa’s tradition conveying the pure Dharma to a new world in an authentic and useful way” and that he “has been a pioneer among those bringing Buddhism to the West” (p. ix). Indeed, Geshe Sopa has been untiringly dedicated to the teaching and preservation of the Dharma. Since 1967, he has been a faculty member of the University of Wisconsin where he is now an honored professor emeritus. Among his students are fine scholars like Jeffrey Hopkins, James Robinson, and David Patt (the senior editor of the present work).

Based on discourses given over twenty years, Geshe Sopa’s work has what could be called a highly “user-friendly” style, which allows the reader to assimilate and be captivated by even the more abstruse aspects of Tantric philosophy. Although Geshe-la modestly claims not to know very much and to attempt to convey what he recollects of his own teacher’s teaching, his vast learning and incredible recall are obvious from every single page of Steps on the Path to Enlightenment.

His presentation is far from abstract but includes numerous anecdotes about ancient and recent Dharma teachers. Above all, his commentary is full of the kind of practical detail that especially Western students of Buddhism find meaningful and more than helpful. If, in the words of Bhavaviveka quoted by Geshe Sopa, the Dharma is “like a lamp that clears away all darkness,” Geshe Sopa proves to be a trusted torchbearer for Westerners our present era.

These first two of a series of five projected volumes are an amazing resource and would make a wonderful addition to any library of essential Buddhist writings.

Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in any form requires prior permission from Traditional Yoga Studies.

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