Beacon of Certainty
The Beacon of Certainty (Tib. ངེས་ཤེས་སྒྲོན་མེ་, Ngeshé Drönmé; Wyl. nges shes sgron me) — a commentary composed by the 19th century scholar Mipham Rinpoche at a very young age. It is structured around seven questions including such practical issues of everyday practice as "Should we do analytical meditation or settling meditation?" Because of its thoroughness in addressing the foundations of the Nyingma tradition, from Madhyamika philosophy to the view of Dzogchen, it is a key text studied in virtually all Nyingma 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, and the anonymous introduction to a particular edition of 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 and the Guhyagarbha Tantra; secretly, it accords with the Great Perfection.
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.
The text can be considered as a bridge between sutra and tantra. In no way is any empowerment required for the study of this text. However, since the views of both tantra and Dzogchen are discussed and Dzogchen terminology is used, some say that you need a reading transmission in order to study the text. Yet others say that since the practice and meditation of Vajrayana and Dzogchen is not discussed and there are no explanations of how to do those practices, it is suitable to be studied by everyone.
Structure of the Text
The text is structured as answers to the following seven questions:
- According to which of the two negations do you explain the view?
- Do arhats realize both types of selflessness?
- Does meditation involve grasping at an object?
- Should we do analytical meditation or settling meditation?
- Which of the two truths is most important?
- What is the common object of disparate perceptions?
- Does Madhyamaka have a position or not?
- 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)
- 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, ངེས་ཤེས་རིན་པོ་ཆེའི་སྒྲོན་མེའི་འགྲེལ་ཆུང་ཟབ་དོན་སྣང་བའི་འཆར་སྒོ་ཡིད་དཔྱོད་ཚིག་གི་མེ་ལོང་, nges shes rin po che'i sgron me'i 'grel chung zab don snang ba'i 'char sgo yid dpyod tshig gi me long
- 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
- Khenchen Pema Sherab, Rigpa Shedra West 2010, Teachings on the first, second and third of the seven questions. Lerab Ling, 26 May-5 June 2010.
- Khenchen Pema Sherab, Rigpa Shedra West 2011, Teachings on the fourth, fifth, and sixth of the seven questions. Lerab Ling, 23 May to 2 June, 2011.
- Khenchen Pema Sherab, Rigpa Shedra West 2012, Teachings on the seventh question. Lerab Ling, September 2012.
- Khenpo Tashi Tseten, Rigpa Shedra East 2019.
- According to Khenpo Jikmé Phuntsok and Troshul Jamdor Mipham Rinpoche composed The Beacon of Certainty at the age of six.
- 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.
- Ibid. page 128
- Anyen Rinpoche, Journey to Certainty: The Quintessence of the Dzogchen View: An Exploration of Ju Mipham's Beacon of Certainty, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2012