Jewel Ornament of Liberation: The Wish-Fulfilling Gem of the Noble Teachings / Edition 1

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A masterwork of Tibetan Buddhism—providing the complete foundation for study and practice—from beginning to Buddhahood. Includes teachings on Buddha-nature, finding the spiritual master, impermanence, karma, cultivation of bodhicitta, development of the six perfections, the ten bodhisattva bhumis, Buddhahood, and the activities of the Buddha.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
 "Anyone who knows the Jewel Ornament well can say that they really understand Buddhism."—Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen

"Contains a wealth of useful material for anyone committed to the study and practice of the path and stages, or the Great Vehicle. The introduction is a fine overview of the text, given in a form accessible to the Western non-scholar practitioner. In fact, the introduction constitutes the contents of a single course on the Great Vehicle. . . . Provides a fine biography of Gampopa."—Tibet Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559390927
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 520
  • Sales rank: 321,048
  • Product dimensions: 6.01 (w) x 8.97 (h) x 1.35 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


We need to attain unsurpassable enlightenment by freeing ourselvesfrom the confused state of samsara. But, is it possible for inferior personslike ourselves to achieve enlightenment even if we make the effort?Why wouldn't we attain enlightenment if we made the effort!All sentient beings, including ourselves, already possess the primarycause for enlightenment, the Essence of the Well-gone One. As is statedin the King of Meditative Absorption Sutra:

The Essence of the Well-gone One pervades all migrators.

The Small Parinirvana Sutra says:

All sentient beings have the Essence of the Thus-gone One.

Also, the Sutra of the Great Parinirvana says:

For example, as butter permeates milk, likewise the Essence of the Thus-gone One pervades all sentient beings.

And in the Ornament of Mahayana Sutra:

Even though suchness is not different for any being, One is called "Thus-gone One" when it is fully purified. Therefore, all beings are of its essence.

    By what reasoning can it be shown that sentient beings have Buddha-nature?Because all sentient beings are pervaded by the emptiness ofDharmakaya, because there are no differentiations in the nature ofsuchness, and because all beings have a "family." For these three reasons,all sentient beings are of the Buddha-nature. The UnsurpassedTantra says:

Because the perfect form of theBuddha radiates,
Because there are no distinctions within suchness, and
Because all are in a "family,"
All sentient beings are always of the Essence of

    To explain the first reason: "all sentient beings are pervaded by theemptiness of Dharmakaya" means that the ultimate Buddhahood isDharmakaya, Dharmakaya is all-pervading emptiness, and emptinesspervades all sentient beings. Therefore, all sentient beings are of theBuddha-nature.

    Saying "there are no differentiations in the nature of suchness"means that the suchness of the Buddha is identical to the suchness ofsentient beings. None is better or worse; none is bigger or smaller;none is higher or lower. So, because of that, all sentient beings are ofthe Buddha-nature.

    "All beings have a 'family'" means that all sentient beings can becategorized into the five families of the Buddha. What are they? Thesummary:

The disconnected family, the indefinite family,
The Hearer family, the Solitary Realizer family, and
The Mahayana family—
These are the five families of the Buddha.

    I. Disconnected Family. First, what does "disconnected family"mean? It refers to those who have six traits such as no concern forwhat others think, no modesty, no compassion, and so forth. The greatAcharya Asanga said it this way:

Even if they see the suffering and faults of the vicious samsara,
    they are not moved.
Even when they hear of all the great qualities of the Buddha,
    they have no faith.
They have no modesty, no thought for what others may think,
    no compassion at all, and
Do not experience even a single regret when they repeatedly
    commit nonvirtuous actions.
Those who maintain these six attributes have no chance to
    work toward enlightenment

    This is also explained in the Ornament of Mahayana Sutra:

There are some who only commit nonvirtuous actions.
There are some who consistently destroy positive qualities.
There are some who lack the virtue which leads to liberation.
So, those who have no virtue do not possess the cause of

    Generally, it is said that those who have these attributes constitutethe disconnected family. They will wander in samsara for a long time,but this does not mean that they will never achieve enlightenment. Ifthey made the effort, eventually even they would achieve enlightenment.Buddha said in the White Lotus of Great Compassion Sutra:

Ananda! If a sentient being who otherwise had no chance to
achieve enlightenment would visualize the Buddha in space and
offer a flower up to that image, the result would bring that being
to nirvana. Eventually that person would achieve enlightenment,
so, for him, nirvana is attainable.

    II. Indefinite Family. The nature of the indefinite family dependson contributory conditions. If they attend a Hearer spiritual master,associate with Hearer friends, or study the different Hearer texts, thenthose persons will awaken in the Hearer family. They will study andfollow that path and become part of the Hearer family. Likewise, ifthose persons meet with a Solitary Realizer or a Mahayana master,then respectively they will become part of the Solitary Realizer orMahayana family.

    III. Hearer Family. The family of Hearers consists of those who fearsamsara and yearn to achieve nirvana, but who have little compassion.It has been said:

One who is afraid upon seeing the suffering of samsara
And yearns to achieve nirvana
But has little interest in benefitting sentient beings—
These three are the marks of the Hearer family.

    IV. Solitary Realizer Family. The Solitary Realizer family includesthose who possess the above three attributes and in addition are arrogant,keep their masters' identities secret, and prefer to stay in solitaryplaces. It has been said:

Fear at the thought of samsara, yearning for nirvana,
Little compassion, arrogance,
Secretive about their teachers, and enjoying solitude—
A wise one should understand that these are the marks of the
    Solitary Realizer family.

    So these two families, the Hearers and the Solitary Realizers, engagein their respective vehicles and even though they achieve theresults of their practices, these results are not the final nirvana. Howdo they abide when they achieve their fruits? They maintain unafflictedstates of meditative concentration, but those states are based on thepsychic imprint of ignorance. Since their meditative concentrationsare unafflicted, they believe that they have achieved nirvana and remainthat way.

    If their states are not the final nirvana, then one might argue thatthe Buddha should not have taught these two paths. Is there a reasonthe Buddha should teach such paths? Yes. For example, suppose greatmerchants from this Jambudvipa are traveling the ocean searching forjewels. After many months at sea, in some desolate place, they becomecompletely fired and exhausted and think, "There is no way toget the jewels now." When they feel discouraged and prepare to turnback, the merchant captain manifests a huge island through his miraclepower and lets all his followers rest there. After a few days, when theyare fully rested and relaxed, the captain says, "We have not achievedour goal. Now we should go farther to get our jewels."

    Similarly, sentient beings without courage are frightened when theyhear about the Buddha's wisdom. They believe attaining Buddhahoodis a great hardship, and think, "I have no ability to do this." There areother people who are not interested in entering the path, or who enterthe path but turn back. To counter these problems, Buddha presentedthese two paths, and allows them to rest in these states. As said in theWhite Lotus of Sublime Dharma Sutra:

Likewise, all the Hearers
Think that they achieved nirvana,
But they have not achieved the final nirvana
Revealed by the Buddha. They are only resting.

    When these Hearers and Solitary Realizers are well rested in thosestates, Buddha understands this and encourages them to attain Buddhahood.How does Buddha encourage them? He awakens themthrough his body, speech, and wisdom mind.

    "Through wisdom mind" means that light radiates through theBuddha's wisdom and touches the mental bodies of the Hearers andSolitary Realizers. As soon as the light reaches them, they arise fromtheir unafflicted meditations. Then the Buddha appears physically infront of them. With his speech he says:

O you monks! You have not finished your deeds; you have not
finished all that you are supposed to do. Your experience of nirvana
is not the final nirvana. Now all you monks have to work
toward enlightenment. You should attain the realization of the

From the White Lotus of Sublime Dharma Sutra, in verse form:

You, monks, today I declare:
You have not achieved the final nirvana.
In order to achieve the primordial wisdom of the
    Omniscient One,
You must cultivate great perseverance.
Through that, you will achieve the wisdom of the
    Omniscient One.

    Being motivated by the Buddha in this way, these Hearers and SolitaryRealizers cultivate bodhicitta. They practice the bodhisattva's pathfor many limitless kalpas and eventually achieve enlightenment. TheGone to Lanka Sutra relates the same thing. Also, the White Lotus ofSublime Dharma Sutra says:

These Hearers have not achieved nirvana.
By thoroughly practicing the bodhisattva's path,
They will achieve Buddhahood.

    V. Mahayana Family. What kind of family is the Mahayana? Thesummary:

Classification, definition, synonyms,
Reason it is superior to other families,
Causal characteristics, and marks—
These six comprise the Mahayana family.

    A. Classification. This family has two classifications: the naturallyabiding family and the perfectly workable family.

    B. Definition. Second is the explanation of the respective "essences"of these individuals. The naturally abiding family has, frombeginningless time, had the potential to develop all the Buddha's qualitiesthrough suchness. The perfectly workable family has the potentialto achieve all the Buddha's qualities through the power of habituatingthemselves in root virtue. Thus, both have the chance to achieveenlightenment.

    C. Synonyms. The synonyms of family are potential, seed, sphere-element,and natural mode of abiding.

    D. Superiority. The Hearer and Solitary Realizer families are inferiorby virtue of the fact that they fully purify their families by dispellingonly the obscuration of afflicting emotions. The Mahayana is superiorbecause it fully purifies its family by dispelling two obscurations—afflictingemotions and the subtle obscurations to enlightenment.Therefore, the Mahayana family is superior and unsurpassed.

    E. Causal Characteristics. The causal characteristics of the familyare described as "awakened" and "unawakened." The awakened familyhas achieved the fruit perfectly, and the signs are very obvious.The unawakened family has not achieved the fruit perfectly, and itsmark is not obvious. What would cause this family to awaken? Thisfamily can awaken through freedom from unfavorable contributorycauses and through the support of favorable conditions. If the oppositesoccur, then they cannot awaken.

    There are four unfavorable conditions: being born in unfavorablecircumstances, having no habitual tendency toward enlightenment,entering into wrong conditions, and being heavily shrouded by theobscurations. There are two favorable conditions: the outer conditionof a teacher, and the inner condition of a mind with the proper desirefor the precious Dharma and so forth.

    F. Marks. The marks of this family are the signs which indicate thebodhisattva family. The Ten Noble Bhumis Sutra says:

The family of wise bodhisattvas
Can be recognized by its signs
Just as fire is known by its smoke
And water is known by water birds.

    In that case, what kinds of marks are there? Their bodies and speechare naturally gentle without dependence on a remedy. Their mindsare less deceitful, and have loving-kindness and clarity toward sentientbeings. Thus, the Ten Noble Bhumis Sutra says:

No harshness or arrogance,
Avoiding all deceit and cunning,
Having a clear, loving attitude toward all sentient beings—
This is a bodhisattva.

    In other words, in whatever preparatory actions a bodhisattva undertakes,he always cultivates compassion for all sentient beings, hasa great inclination toward the Mahayana teachings, has no hesitationto endure hardships, and perfectly performs the root virtue of the perfections.Thus, the Ornament of Mahayana Sutra says:

Developing compassion at the preparation stage,
Devoted interest, patience,
Perfectly performing the virtues—
These are the signs of the Mahayana family.

    Thus, of these five families, those who are in the Mahayana familyare very close to the cause of enlightenment. The Hearer and SolitaryRealizer families will eventually lead to Buddhahood, but the cause isfarther away and it will take a long time. In the indefinite family, someare close and some will take a long time. The disconnected family isknown by Buddha to wander in samsara for a long time, but this doesnot mean that they absolutely will not attain Buddhahood. They canattain Buddhahood, but it will take a very long time. Therefore, sinceall sentient beings belong to one of these families, all sentient beingsare of the Buddha-nature.

    Thus, by the above three reasons, it has been demonstrated that allsentient beings have the Buddha-nature. Furthermore, consider theseexamples: silver abiding in its ore, oil abiding in a mustard seed, andbutter abiding in milk. From silver ore, we can produce silver; frommustard seed, we can produce oil; and from milk, we can producebutter. Likewise, sentient beings can become Buddhas.

This is the first chapter, dealing with
the primary cause, from
The Jewel Ornament of Liberation,
the Wish-fulfilling Gem of the Noble Teachings.


Excerpted from The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa. Copyright © 1998 by Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama 13
Acknowledgments 14
Translator's Introduction 15
Homage 44
Introduction 45
Chapter 1: Buddha-Nature 49
Chapter 2: The Precious Human Life 59
Chapter 3: The Spiritual Master 69
Introduction to Part 4 79
Antidote to Attachment to this Life 81
Chapter 4: Impermanence 83
Antidote to Attachment to Samsara's Pleasure 93
Chapter 5: The Suffering of Samsara 95
Chapter 6: Karma and its Result 111
Antidote to Attachment to the Pleasure of Peace 123
Chapter 7: Loving-Kindness and Compassion 125
Antidote to Not Knowing the Method of Practice for
Achieving Buddhahood 133
Introduction to the Antidote to Not Knowing the Method of
Practice 135
Chapter 8: Refuge and Precepts 137
Chapter 9: Cultivation of Bodhicitta 147
Chapter 10: Training in Aspiration Bodhicitta 173
Chapter 11: Training in Action Bodhicitta 179
Chapter 12: The Perfection of Generosity 183
Chapter 13: The Perfection of Moral Ethics 195
Chapter 14: The Perfection of Patience 205
Chapter 15: The Perfection of Perseverance 213
Chapter 16: The Perfection of Meditative Concentration 219
Chapter 17: The Perfection of Wisdom Awareness 233
Chapter 18: The Aspects of the Five Paths 257
Chapter 19: The Ten Bodhisattva Bhumis 263
Chapter 20: Perfect Buddhahood 281
Chapter 21: Activities of the Buddha 297
Appendix A: Dharma Lord Gampopa 305
Appendix B: Stories Referred to in the Text 333
Appendix C: Outline of the Text 397
Appendix D: A Brief Biography of the Translator 413
Titles of Works Quoted 417
Glossary 427
Notes 437
Bibliography 459
Index 467
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2007

    The Poetry Mentor says: Essential Text!

    I was introduced to this book 18 months ago as I began a four-year Marig Munsel class at Tashi Choling on Mount Ashland. It served as our introductory text, and I've read it cover to cover at least three times. It is most thorough and accessible. I appreciate how topics are introduced, defined, then illustrated with numerous clear examples. Glossary material and appendices are especially impressive. Often the text reads like religious or found poetry, which I find especially appealing and endearing. But my greatest compliment for this text is the simple acknowledgement that my personal spiritual practice took shape and deepened considerably as a result of reading and re-reading and referring to this text. I highly recommend it for any serious-minded spiritual student, not just those interested in Tibetan Buddhism. --Robert McDowell, author of the forthcoming Poetry In Spiritual Practice

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