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Ornament to Beautify the Three Appearances

The Mahayana Preliminary Practices of the Sakya Lamdré Tradition

Translated by Cyrus Stearns
Published by Wisdom Publications
Distributed by Simon & Schuster
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The latest offering from a renowned translator in the Buddhist world of one of the most important texts in the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. This translation was made at the request of the head of the Sakya tradition.

Ornament to Beautify the Three Appearances is the first book 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.

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 guiding instructions on impure appearance are for the purpose of developing renunciation. The guiding instructions on the appearance of the experiences are for the purpose of producing the altruistic intent. The guiding instructions on pure appearance are for the purpose of producing enthusiasm for the ultimate result of complete awakening. The preliminary practices presented in Ornament to Beautify the Three Appearances may be practiced by anyone, without specific, required preparation.

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.

Ngorchen Könchok Lhundrup (1497–1557) — In 1429 the Sakya master Ngorchen Kunga Sangpo (1382–1456) founded the monastery of Ngor Ewam Chöden, which became a vibrant center for the ancient teachings of Sakya, especially the Lamdré and other tantric transmissions. In 1534, after many years of study and meditation, Ngorchen Könchok Lhundrup became the tenth abbot of Ngor Monastery. From then on, he bestowed the complete Lamdré teachings every year at Ngor, quickly becoming known as one of the greatest masters of the Sakya tradition, famous for the brilliance and clarity of his spoken teachings and the eloquence and authority of his written works. In 1543 he composed the Ornament to Beautify the Three Appearances, a masterful explication of the preliminary practices of the Lamdré, and in 1552 completed the Ornament to Beautify the Three Continua, a consummate work on the main practices of the Lamdré. Könchok Lhundrup’s writings on a vast range of subjects remain indispensable for understanding Buddhist practice and theory in the Sakya tradition today, nearly five hundred years after they were written.