The Kadamthorbu: Precepts Collected from Here and There

The precept of the Lama is more important than scriptures and commentaries.


In the early days of the Order, Sangharakshita held a seminar on a book called The Door of Liberation, which consisted of seven Tibetan texts, translated under the auspices of Geshe Wangyal. The Kadamthorbu was one of those.

It’s a really wonderful text, consisting of dialogues between Atiśa and his closest disciples, especially with his principal disciple, the layman Dromtönpa, who later founded the Kadam school. It’s an informal exposition of how to live as a bodhisattva, and its main topics are compassion, emptiness, renunciation, the importance of practice, and Bodhicitta. Whenever I (Ratnaguna) read the text I feel that I’m listening in on a real spiritual community, talking about the fundamental aspects of the Dharma, and Atiśa comes across as not only wise, but very approachable, human, and friendly.

The ‘precept’ of the title is not a kind of rule, but a specific teaching chosen by a teacher for a disciple’s specific needs. It is, as Bhante puts it “more like a clarification and a throwing light on rather than telling someone just to go off and do this and do that.”

In the transcription of the seminar, we can see Bhante doing just that for those present. For instance, when explaining what Sunyata really means, he said

… you can’t really say what life is. This is the sort of thing that the teaching of Sunyata is getting at. Life is bigger than your ideas about life. Life cannot be reduced to your ideas or to any system of your ideas. This is what sunyata really means, about higher and higher levels of the experience of life. That life is unique and indefinable, unconceptualizable.

Recently a new translation of the text has been published in The Book of Kadam, translated by Thupten Jinpa. We’ll use the one from The Door of Liberation, as that’s the one Bhante used in the seminar, but we’ll also refer at times to Thupten Jinpa’s, as I believe it is more accurate.

The Kadamthorbu: Precepts Collected from Here and There

Led by Ratnaguna and Prajnaketu

Following the government's current roadmap, this residential retreat will happen under social distancing guidelines.

This retreat is for members of the Triratna Buddhist Order

Start Date: 21st May 2021
End Date: 28th May 2021
Event Type: Residential
Deposit: £78
Price: £273 (Waged/Supported (including deposit)) / £196 (Unwaged/Unsupported (including deposit))

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