Lamrim: The Stages of the Buddhist Path
In general, any virtuous object can be used as an object of meditation. If we discover that by acquainting our mind with a particular object our mind becomes more peaceful and virtuous, this indicates that for us that object is virtuous. If the opposite happens, for us it is a non-virtuous object. Many objects are neutral and have no particular positive or negative effect on our mind.
There are many different virtuous objects of meditation. By relying upon a qualified Spiritual Guide we open the door to practising Dharma. Through the blessings of our Spiritual Guide we generate faith and confidence in our practice, and easily attain all the realizations of the stages of the path. For these reasons we need to meditate on relying upon a Spiritual Guide. We need to meditate on our precious human life to realize that we now have a special opportunity to practise Dharma. If we appreciate the great potential of this life we shall not waste it by engaging in meaningless activities.
We need to meditate on death and impermanence to overcome procrastination, and to ensure that our Dharma practice is pure by overcoming our preoccupation with worldly concerns. If we practise Dharma purely it is not very difficult to attain realizations. By meditating on the danger of lower rebirth, taking refuge sincerely, and avoiding non-virtue and practising virtue, we protect ourself from taking lower rebirth and ensure that life after life we shall obtain a precious human rebirth endowed with all the conditions conducive to the practice of Dharma.
We need to meditate on the sufferings of humans and gods so that we develop a spontaneous wish to attain permanent liberation, or nirvana. This wish, known as `renunciation’, strongly encourages us to complete the practice of the spiritual paths, which are the actual methods for attaining full liberation.
We need to meditate on love, compassion, and bodhichitta so that we can overcome our self-cherishing and develop and maintain a good heart towards all living beings. With this good heart we need to meditate on tranquil abiding and superior seeing so that we can eradicate our ignorance and finally become a Buddha by abandoning the two types of obstruction.
What is the goal of meditation?
Through analytical meditation we shall perceive our object clearly, then through placement meditation we shall gain deeper levels of experience or realization. The main purpose of all Lamrim meditations is to transform our mind into the path to enlightenment by bringing about the deepest levels of realization. The sign that we have gained perfect realization of any object is that none of our subsequent actions are incompatible with it and that all of them become more meaningful. For example, when we have gained a perfect realization of compassion we are never again capable of willingly inflicting harm upon any other living being and all our subsequent actions are influenced by compassion.