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Ornament to Beautify the Three Appearances

The Mahayana Preliminary Practices of the Sakya Lamdré Tradition

Translated by Cyrus Stearns

The latest offering from a renowned translator in the Buddhist world, of one of the most important texts in one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the Sakya school. This translation was made at the request of the head of the Sakya school.

Ornament to Beautify the Three Appearances is the first volume of a two-volume set of works written by the Sakya master Ngorchen Könchok Lhundrup (1497–1557) to explain the Lamdré teachings, the most precious system of tantric theory and practice in the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. These translations have been made at the personal request of His Holiness the Sakya Trichen, who is certain that they will benefit everyone striving for liberation, and now offered by Wisdom Publications as a two-volume box set. 

The extensive practices of the Lamdré, or Path with the Result, are based on the Vajra Lines, a small text of the great Indian adept Virupa (ca. seventh–eighth centuries). The Vajra Lines represents the distilled essence of the Hevajra Tantra and its two explanatory tantras, and is almost entirely concerned with esoteric tantric practice. The first topic, however, is the fundamental teachings of Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism, which are the essential basis for the main tantric practices of Vajrayana. In the Lamdré system, this first topic of preliminary instructions is known as the Three Appearances. The preliminary practices presented in Ornament to Beautify the Three Appearances may be practiced by anyone, without specific, required preparation.

The guiding instructions on impure appearance are for the purpose of developing renunciation. This first section focuses on three main topics: the defects of samsara, in order to produce renunciation; the rarity, benefit, and transience of life as a human being, in order to arouse diligence; and the nature of positive and negative actions and results, in order to understand what types of behavior to accept and reject. The guiding instructions on the appearance of the experiences are for the purpose of producing the altruistic intent. This section concerns two main topics: meditation until the common experiences have arisen, which focuses on developing love, compassion, and bodhicitta; and cultivating joy now about the uncommon experiences that will arise later when practicing the Vajrayana teachings. The guiding instructions on pure appearance are for the purpose of producing enthusiasm for the ultimate result of complete awakening. This section briefly describes the inconceivable nature of a buddha’s enlightened body, speech, and mind.

Having absorbed these preliminary instructions, the practitioner may go on to the second volume of Ngorchen’s works, a restricted text that explains the main tantric practices of the Three Continua, intended for students who have at least received the great initiation of Hevajra.