THE ONLY THING WORTH DOING
At present we have this rare and good human life of freedom and fortune, but it won’t last forever. We are certain to die and don’t know when. At death nothing at all but our spiritual practice will be of any use to us. That is the only thing worth doing—everything else is a futile waste of energy. We tire ourselves for the sake of reward and reputation and in our search for the kind of companions we prefer, but we can take none of these with us when we die. They must be left behind and only the imprints of negative actions we have performed in the process of trying to acquire them accompany us to our next rebirth. This is not hard to understand, but we must remember it and think about it till it affects the way we think and feel.
from the text Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment written by Atisha, 11th century
Atisha, the eleventh-century Indian Buddhist scholar and saint, came to Tibet at the invitation of the king of Western Tibet, Lha Lama Yeshe Wo, and his nephew, Jangchub Wo. His coming initiated the period of the second transmission of Buddhism to Tibet, formative for the Sakya Kagyu and Gelug traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Atisha’s most celebrated text, Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment,sets forth the entire Buddhist path within the framework of three levels of motivation on the part of the practitioner. Atisha’s text thus became the source of the lamrim tradition, or graduated stages of the path to enlightenment, an approach to spiritual practice incorporated within all schools of Tibetan Buddhism.