This fourteenth-century Tibetan classic serves as an excellent introduction to basic Buddhism as practiced throughout India and Tibet and describes the process of entering the Buddhist path through study and reflection.
It begins with setting forth the structure of Buddhist education and the range of its subjects, and we’re treated to a rousing litany of the merits of such instruction. We’re then introduced to the buddhas of our world and eon—three of whom have already lived, taught, and passed into transcendence—before examining in detail the fourth, our own Buddha Shakyamuni. Butön tells the story of Shakyamuni’s past lives and then presents the path the Buddha followed (the same that all buddhas must follow). After the Buddha’s story, Butön recounts three compilations of Buddhist scriptures and then quotes from sacred texts that foretell the lives and contributions of great Indian Buddhist masters, which he then relates, concluding with the tale of the eventual demise and disappearance of the Buddhist doctrine. The text ends with an account of the inception and spread of Buddhism in Tibet, focused mainly on the country’s kings and early adopters of the foreign faith. An afterword by Ngawang Zangpo, one of the translators, discusses and contextualizes Butön’s exemplary life, his turbulent times, and his prolific works.
Definitive in its scope, the ten-volume Treasury of Knowledge stands alone as an encyclopedic masterpiece encompassing the entire range of Tibetan Buddhist teachings. Written by Jamgon Kongtrul, whose writings have been embraced by the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the set is a vast and inclusive treasure trove of material. This volume, Journey and Goal, focuses on the spiritual path the journey and the resultant state of enlightenment where it leads the goal. Extensively varied perspectives are offered, not only from the different schools of Buddhism, but also from the varying levels of practice and attainments. In fact, this is the most comprehensive treatment of these themes to appear in the English language, and as with all of the books in The Treasury of Knowledge, is the first translation into a Western language.
Jamgön Kongtrul the Great (1813–1899) is a giant in Tibetan history, renowned for his scholarly and meditative achievements, but also for his energetic yet evenhanded work to unify and strengthen the different lineages of Buddhism. The Ri-me movement, led by Kongtrul and several other leading scholars of the time, was a unifying effort to cut through interscholastic divisions and disputes that were occurring between the different lineages. These leaders sought appreciation of the differences and acknowledgment of the importance of variety in benefiting practitioners with different needs. The Ri-me teachers also took great care that the teachings and practices of the different schools and lineages, and their unique styles, did not become confused with one another. This lucid survey of the Ri-me movement will be of interest to serious scholars and practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism.