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Prayoga-mārga (T. sbyor lam སྦྱོར་ལམ་, C. wuwei) is translated as "path of preparation," "path of application," "path of joining," etc. It is the second of the five paths in the Sanskrit tradition.

Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions states:

The path of preparation (prayogamārga) is a clear realization of the meaning of the truth—emptiness, the ultimate nature. This path is a union of serenity and insight on emptiness. This realization is inferential: emptiness is known conceptually via a conceptual appearance. On this path practitioners prepare for direct perception of emptiness.[1]

Four stages

The path of preparation/joining is divided into four stages:

  • warmth,
  • summit,
  • acceptance and
  • supreme attribute.

Patrul Rinpoche says:

The path of joining is so called because it provides the connection to the direct insight of non-conceptual wisdom on the path of seeing. It consists of the stages of warmth and summit on which it is uncertain when one will reach the path of seeing, and the stages of acceptance and supreme attribute, on which one is sure to reach the path of seeing in the very same life.
The non-conceptual wisdom of the path of seeing is likened to a fire that incinerates the emotional obscurations.
  • The stage of warmth: just as two sticks will produce heat when they are rubbed together, before they catch fire, when certain indications or signs of ‘warmth’ develop in one’s being, as the coarser kleshas subside, this is known as the stage of warmth on the path of joining.
  • The stage of summit is so named because it is the pinnacle of all sources of mundane virtue.
  • The stage of acceptance is so called because one can fearlessly accept the reality of emptiness as the nature of things.
  • The stage of supreme attribute is so called because it is the best quality that can arise from mundane meditation.[2]

The Khenjuk states:

At the path of joining, by endeavoring to further enhance the points explained as the path of accumulation one acquires the virtuous roots for the 'four factors conducive to insight', that is heat, summit, acceptance, and supreme attribute.
Regarding the first two, heat and summit:
  • Heat means to attain the warmth of the flame-like wisdom of the path of seeing by possessing the concentration concurrent with a discriminating knowledge that individually sheds light on the four truths.
  • Summit means to possess the concentration concurrent with discriminating knowledge that expands the light on the four truths. Thus, it is the pinnacle amid virtuous roots that can vacillate due to discordant factors.
During the stages of heat and summit, the five ruling faculties of faith and so forth, that govern perfection, will occur.
Regarding the last two, acceptance and supreme attribute:
  • Acceptance that conforms to the truths means to possess the concentration concurrent with discriminating knowledge which engages uniformly in the four truths and is in conformity with them. Although one is still an ordinary person, one fully comprehends the nature of things in the form of a mental image.
  • Supreme attribute is to possess, through individual cognizance, the concentration concurrent with discriminating knowledge that immediately precedes the four truths. It verges on the threshold of the path of seeing since it immediately precedes it. This is supreme among the mundane attributes because the noble stage, the path of seeing, occurs after it.
During acceptance and supreme attribute, the five ruling faculties become the five powers unassailable by discordant factors.
For someone who has attained the summit, henceforth wrong views that cut the roots of virtue will never occur. Having attained acceptance, one will never go to the lower realms.[3]

Distinctions between different vehicles

On the path of joining, those following the two lower vehicles (sravakayana and pratyekabuddhayana):

  • are striving toward the limited realization of the sravaka: realization of the emptiness of self (pudgalanairātmya)

Those following the bodhisattvayana: