Our Master used the example of cooking rice and cooking vegetables to let us understand the importance of following the proper sequence.
When cooking rice, we all know that we need rice, water, and heat. The rice needs to be washed. We cannot say that heat and water are required and then just mix them together. There must be sequential stages. You must wash the rice first, then add water and heat it up. You cannot say that it needs water and heat either way; I can heat it up and then wash it afterwards. That method is useless; it is of no use.
Thus, with regard to “stages”, for now, we say that in order to achieve such a goal, we should take the proper path. On this path, there are certainly proper sequential “stages”.
Our Teacher gave an example of learning the Lamrim Chenmo, which encompasses the Three Principal Aspects of the Path. So in other words, we must attain (1) renunciation first, followed by (2) bodhicitta and then (3) the wisdom of emptiness.
If we do not follow this path, for example, we straight away jump to attaining the wisdom of emptiness after renunciation, then we will go into the Hinayana path, we will not remain in cyclic existence to help living beings.Then again, if we generate Bodhicitta without renunciation, we will not be able to have the freedom in cyclic existence. We will still be bound by karma. So that’s why it is called the Three Principal Aspects of the Path, the main stages to achieving Buddhahood.
In Master Tsongkhapa’s teaching, Relying on the Teacher is very important, that’s why it is called the root of the path, meaning that we should start by working hard on this.
If we do this stage very well, then the other stages behind, the other two aspects of the Path, Bodhicitta and Emptiness, will follow naturally, it will be as easy as taking things out of our pockets.