Beacon of Certainty

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The Beacon of Certainty (Tib. ངེས་ཤེས་སྒྲོན་མེ་, Ngeshé Drönmé; Wyl. nges shes sgron me) — is a commentary composed by the 19th century scholar Mipham Rinpoche at a very young age [1]. It is structured around seven questions including such practical issues of everyday practice as "Should one meditate analytically or in resting meditation?" Because of its thoroughness in addressing the foundations of the Nyingma-pa tradition, from Madhyamika philosophy to the view of Dzogchen, it is a key text studied in virtually all Nyingma-pa shedras. The title, "The Beacon of Certainty", refers to the fact that unwavering certainty in the view of the indivisible union of appearance and emptiness is a shining beacon that illuminates the spiritual path.

While giving insight into the key points of view and meditation on the level of madhyamaka and tantra, the main purpose of this text is to elucidate the teachings of Dzogchen[2], and the introduction to Khenpo Kunpal's commentary reads:

This Precious Beacon of Certainty is like an eye that brings all the difficult points of sutra and tantra into focus. Externally, it accords with Prasangika; internally, it accords with the Sutra that Gathers all Intentions (Tib. དགོངས་པ་འདུས་པའི་མདོ་, Gongpa Düpé Do ; Wyl. dgongs pa ’dus pa’i mdo) and the Guhyagarbha Tantra; secretly, it accords with the Great Perfection[3].

In his own introduction to the text, Khenpo Jamyang Drubpé Lodrö writes:

This sacred work, The Precious Beacon of Certainty, sheds its light of definitive understanding on important points from our own and other tenet systems.
It is a dragon’s roar to wake us from the sleep of foolish meditation,
And a sword to cut through error and wrong view.
With crucial points drawn from sutras and tantras of definitive meaning,
Showing the progressive stages on the Great Vehicle’s general path of sutra and mantra,
For the Ancient Translation School, the unique tradition of the Lake-born Buddha.

Structure of the Text

The text is structured as answers to the following seven questions:

  1. According to which of the two negations do you explain the view?
  2. Do arhats realize both types of selflessness?
  3. Does meditation involve grasping at an object?
  4. Should we do analytical meditation or settling meditation?
  5. Which of the two truths is most important?
  6. What is the common object of disparate perceptions?
  7. Does Madhyamaka have a position or not?

Translations

  • John W. Pettit, Mipham's Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, Wisdom Publications, 1999

Commentaries

  • Khenpo Kunpal, ངེས་ཤེས་རིན་པོ་ཆེའི་སྒྲོན་མེའི་ཚིག་དོན་གསལ་བའི་འགྲེལ་ཆུང་བློ་གྲོས་སྣང་བའི་སྒོ་འབྱེད་, nges shes rin po che'i sgron me'i tshig gi don gsal ba'i 'grel chung blo gros snang ba'i sgo 'byed
  • Khenpo Nüden
  • Troshul Jamdor, རྣམ་བཤད་འོད་ཟེར་དྲི་མེད་, rnam bshad 'od zer dri med
  • Khenpo Jamyang Drubpé Lodrö, ངེས་ཤེས་རིན་པོ་ཆེའི་སྒྲོན་མེའི་རྣམ་པར་བཤད་པ་ངེས་དོན་སྤྲིན་དཀར་གླལ་བའི་གྲ་དབྱངས་, nges shes rin po che'i sgron me'i rnam par bshad pa nges don sprin dkar glal ba'i sgra dbyangs

It is also said that Pöpa Tulku's Distinguishing Views and Tenets is a 'meaning commentary' on Beacon of Certainty. A commentary by the contemporary teacher Khangsar Tenpé Wangchuk is awaiting publication.

Teachings given to the Rigpa Sangha

Notes

  1. According to Khenpo Jikmé Phuntsok and Troshul Jamdor Mipham Rinpoche composed The Beacon of Certainty at the age of six.
  2. John W. Pettit, Mipham's Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1999), page 5.
  3. Ibid. page 128

Further Reading

  • Anyen Rinpoche, Journey to Certainty: The Quintessence of the Dzogchen View: An Exploration of Ju Mipham's Beacon of Certainty, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2012