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The Six Topics That All Buddhists Learn

Text by the Great Khenpo Zhan-ga of Dzogchen Monastery, explanations by Tony Duff

TitleThe Six Topics That All Buddhists Learn
Sub-TitleA Text by the Great Khenpo Zhan-ga of Dzogchen Shri Singha College
AuthorTony Duff
OtherZhanphen Chokyi Nangwa
Details222 pages, 1 colour plate, 6" X 9" (large format), US$25, available in paper format
ISBNpaper book 978-9937-572-13-2, e-book 978-9937-572-12-5
TextsTibetan text in Tibetan script included

The Buddha himself said in a Lesser Vehicle sutra:
“Son of the family!  You are to become expert in the skandhas.  You are to become expert in the āyatanas.  You are to become expert in the dhātus.  You are to become expert in pratītyasaṃutpāda.  You are to become expert in topics.  You are to become expert in non-topics.”
With these words, the Buddha indicated that there are six topics which must be learned, at least to some extent, by every one of his followers.  Although the Buddha gave these teachings in the Lesser Vehicle, they are a necessary foundation for practitioners of all levels, from those studying the Lesser Vehicle to those practising Mahamudra and Great Completion.

This book gives a thorough explanation of the six topics using a text written by Zhanphen Chokyi Nangwa, or Khenchen Zhan-ga as he is more commonly known, the greatest of all abbots to have presided over the famous Shri Singha monastic college at Dzogchen Monastery, Tibet.  The author of the book, the well-known teacher and translator Tony Duff, supplements the explanations in the text with many clarifications in an extensive introduction.

The text is very similar to Mipham Namgyal’s famous “mkhas ’jug” or Gateway to Knowledge as it has been called.  Unfortunately, Mipham’s text is difficult for beginners.  Zhan-ga’s text is quite different; it was not written merely as a piece of scholarship, but was carefully composed so as not to exclude beginners with excessively difficult explanations and moreover to be helpful to practitioners of all levels.  For these reasons, Gangteng Tulku has selected our book rather than Mipham’s Gateway of Knowledge in order to teach this topic to students in the second year of his shedra.

The book begins with an explanation of all six topics that everyone should learn, then proceeds to explain the details of the Great Vehicle according to Mind Only, then according to the Middle Way, and finally according to Great Completion.

The text itself is a product of a very glorious period in East Tibet when Jigmey Lingpa and his main disciples were transmitting the innermost, unsurpassed Quintessence Great Completion teachings received in visions of Longchen Rabjam.  Following that, there was a period of scholars of astounding levels of knowledge who also attained very high realization through the Longchen Nyingthig system of teachings that was being freshly transmitted.  Thus, this text is not just another text on scholarly matters but is fully connected with the flourishing of the exceptionally profound Great Completion or Dzogchen teachings at Dzogchen and other nearby monasteries.  The connection of the text to that period is clearly explained, with short biographies of the main people involved—Zhanphen Thaye, Orgyan Tenzin Norbu, and Zhanphen Chokyi Nangwa—included.

Extensive explanations of the meaning of the six topics are provided by the author from his own knowledge gathered during forty years of studying with the Gelug, Kagyu, and Nyingma traditions, not to mention his extensive stays at Dzogchen Monastery where he learned the approach of Zhan-ga directly from Zhan-ga’s successors.  Ample footnotes, an extensive glossary, and a carefully corrected edition of the Tibetan text are also provided.  An effort has been made to make the book amenable to those who would like to study the English translation and the Tibetan text together.

The book contains a translation of the following text:
“A Mirror Revealing Knowables”, A Teaching on the Six Topics in which One is to Become Expert by Khenchen Zhanphen Chokyi Nangwa

Download Tibetan text in TibetD format: not available yet.

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