My teacher had recommended memorizing it, and reciting it everyday. I didn’t really get an explanation on why, but I trusted him enough to do it immediately without thinking twice, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
The Foundation of All Good Qualties was a text composed by Lama Tsongkhapa, which goes through the entire path to enlightenment and condenses it into a few short phrases, and going through it daily allows someone to get a glance of the whole path.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche says that everytime someone reads or recites the Foundation of All Good Qualties, that person creates a cause for enlightenment.
Providing a Compass
I’ve found that memorizing and reciting this text provides a walking stick. During my daily life, when something happens and I need some dharma advice, one of the phrases from the Foundation of All Good Qualties tends to appear in my head and gives me instruction on what to do next or what would be the best way to react to the situation.
Memorizing Is Not Old Fashioned or Outdated
Some people might think that memorizing is old fashioned. The argument was that it was expensive and impractical for everyone to have texts several hundred years ago, so people had to memorize them instead. This maybe true, but memorizing texts provides a certain richness to practice.
I’ve noticed that as my understanding of the stages of the path to enlightenment deepens through study and meditation, every phrase from the Foundation of All Good Qualities becomes so rich in meaning.
Like if a person had a dream vacation in Hawaii, mearly hearing the word Hawaii would draw up thousands of associations. In the same way, merely reading or reciting a stanza from this text draws up so many rich associations. I’m amazed that such an amazing text can condense the entire path into such few words.
You can view a commentary on the Foundation of all Good Qualities here.
The Foundation of All Good Qualties
By Lama Tsongkhapa
The foundation of all good qualities is the kind and perfect, pure guru;
Correct devotion to him is the root of the path.
By clearly seeing this and applying great effort,
Please bless me to rely upon him with great respect.
Understanding that the precious freedom of this rebirth is found only once,
Is greatly meaningful and difficult to find again,
Please bless me to generate the mind that unceasingly,
Day and night, takes its essence.
This life is as impermanent as a water bubble;
Remember how quickly it decays and death comes.
After death, just like a shadow follows the body,
The results of black and white karma follow.
Finding firm and definite conviction in this,
Please bless me always to be careful
To abandon even the slightest of negativities
And accomplish all virtuous deeds.
Seeking samsaric pleasures is the door to all suffering;
They are uncertain and cannot be relied upon.
Recognizing these shortcomings,
Please bless me to generate the strong wish for the bliss of liberation.
Led by this pure thought,
Mindfulness, alertness and great caution arise.
The root of the teachings is keeping the pratimoksha vows;
Please bless me to accomplish this essential practice.
Just as I have fallen into the sea of samsara,
So have all mother migratory beings.
Bless me to see this, train in supreme bodhicitta,
And bear the responsibility of freeing migratory beings.
Even if I develop only bodhicitta, without practicing the three types of morality
I will not achieve enlightenment.
With my clear recognition of this,
Please bless me to practice the bodhisattva vows with great energy.
Once I have pacified distractions to wrong objects
And correctly analyzing the meaning of reality,
Please bless me to generate quickly within my mind-stream
The unified path of calm abiding and special insight.
Having become a pure vessel by training in the general path,
Please bless me to enter
The holy gateway of the fortunate ones:
The supreme vajra vehicle.
At that time, the basis of accomplishing the two attainments
Is keeping pure vows and samaya.
As I have become firmly convinced of this,
Please bless me to protect these vows and pledges like my life.
Then, having realized the importance of the two stages,
The essence of the Vajrayana,
By practicing with great energy, never giving up the four sessions,
Please bless me to realize the teachings of the holy guru.
Like that, may the gurus who show the noble path
And the spiritual friends who practice it have long lives.
Please bless me to pacify completely
All outer and inner hindrances.
In all my lives, never separated from perfect gurus,
May I enjoy the magnificent Dharma.
By completing the qualities of the stages and paths,
May I quickly attain the state of Vajradhara.