A discussion site for Atisha's Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment
This verse explains the procedure for taking the bodhisattva vow. Vows play an important part in Buddhism, and it's considered important to formally promise to attain enlightenment for the sake of all beings. Normally one would take the vow in the presence of a monk or nun who already holds the vow. But here is described the procedure when no one is available to give the vow. The vow is taken in front of representations of the three jewels. The statue or painting represents the Buddha's body. The scriptures (excellent teaching) represents the dharma. And the reliquary represents the sangha, since it contains relics of holy beings. You first make offerings to the representations of the three jewels, the best you can afford.