The Common Path

The Common path is the name for standard Mahayana teachings and meditations that lead to buddhahood for the benefit of all beings. We enter the Mahayana by taking the bodhisattva vow.

The Buddha gave many mahayana teachings to reveal the path by which others could achieve the same state of realization that he achieved.

When we first meet Buddhist teachings we can become familiar with the introductory teachings through classes and teachings by lamas.  These mix with our meditation experience and if we develop confidence in the teachings we can become a Buddhist through taking refuge.  How far we take our meditation practice and study will depend on our personal aspirations.

Introductory Buddhist Teachings

The introductory teachings on Buddhism can be summarized under the following topics:

  • The life of the Buddha and the lineage
  • Taking refuge
  • The four thoughts that turn the mind to dharma
  • The four noble truths and eight-fold noble path
  • Loving kindness and compassion
  • The thought of enlightenment (Bodhichitta)
  • The six perfections

We can learn about these topics through classes, courses, discussions with experienced Buddhist practitioners and through attending formal teachings given by visiting lamas.


The principal forms of meditation at this level are:

  • Calm abiding
  • Loving kindness and compassion

Once we have learnt the rudiments of calm abiding meditation we can establish a daily practice at home.  This will commence with the stabilizing technique of the twenty-one breaths, then moving on to the observation of the out-flow and in-flow of breath at the nostrils and finally letting go of even this object of meditation.  This process of training may take a number of months.

Having become established in calm abiding meditation and having gained some familiarity with the introductory textual teachings we may feel a strong connection with Buddhism.  At that point we may decide to become a Buddhist through taking refuge.

Alongside the practice of calm abiding we can practice meditations on loving kindness and compassion.  These support the development of bodhichitta, the mind of enlightenment, through which we may decide to enter the mahayana through taking the bodhisattva vow.

Key Mahayana Teachings

We can deepen our understanding by receiving traditional texts that present the mahayana path in a detailed manner.  Most importantly these texts show us how to bring together understanding and practice.

In Dechen Sakya centers and groups the principal texts taught and studied are:

  • The Thirty-Seven Practices – Thokme Zangpo
  • The Cycle of Parting From the Four Attachments – Sachen Kunga Nyingpo
  • Jewel Rosary of a Bodhisattva – Atisha
  • The Eight Verses of Mind Training – Langri Thangpa
  • Letter to a Friend – Nagarjuna

The textual transmission and explanation of these texts are given from time to time by visiting lamas.  They are then discussed in study groups led by experienced practitioners.