294: The Easy Path by Gyumed Khensur Lobsang Jampa

by Gerard


294.3444: Gyumed Khensur Lobsang Jampa. The Easy Path: Illuminating the First Panchen Lama’s Secret Instructions. Edited by Lorne Ladner. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2013. 264 pp. ISBN 978-0-86171-678-4.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 200: Religion
  • 290: Other and comparative religions
  • 294: Religions of Indic origin
  • 294.3: Buddhism
  • 294.34: Doctrines and practices
  • 294.344: Buddhist devotional theology
  • 294.3444: Conduct of life (personal religion)

This is one those rare books where I had to get a lot of background information before proceeding too far. While many people at least recognize the title of Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama is a bit more obscure. It turns out that the Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama function as sort of the Vice President and President of Tibetan Buddhism. Since each is the current reincarnation of the two original Lamas, each serves as the witness for the next incarnation of the other. If the current Panchen Lama dies, it is the duty of the current Dalai Lama to recognize the next one, and vice versa. (Side note: the sitting Panchen Lama has not been seen in public since 1995 as he is currently a Chinese political prisoner).

All that out of the way, this book is a detailed explanation of the teachings of the 1st Panchen Lama Khedrup Gelek Pelzang (better known as Khedrup Je) who lived from 1385 to 1438 CE. His treatise entitled The Easy Path was meant as a guide on how to attain spiritual enlightenment. This wasn’t meant as a quick route to nirvana, but a way to decrease the time from several lifetimes to a single one. When considered this way, it truly was the easy path. This rather dense guidebook teaches the Buddhist devotee how to frame and focus their meditations about the universe, death, freedom, knowledge, and even themselves.

This is definitely not the first book for anyone looking to learn about Tibetan Buddhism. Once you’ve gotten through the basic history and the original texts, then these commentaries will probably have more relevance. On the other hand, you will be completely immersed in Tibetan theology here. One of the more interesting aspects of this book is its references to all the different categorizations involved in meditation. There are the five different timelines to buddhahood, the five Mahayana paths, the ten boddhisattva grounds, the three scopes which cover the eight contemplations, the six perfections, the six faults, and so on and so forth. All this is a lot to take in, but makes for a very organized (and hyper-compartmentalized) way of looking at the universe. A tough but educational book.