The first time I began reading Mipham Rinpoche’s Beacon of Certainty, I despaired. Even though I had only been reading books on Buddhism for a couple of years, I thought I at least had a pretty good handle on the basics. But from the first line of the text I realized I didn’t have a clue what the Dharma was about at all. “The View”? Sure, Barbara Walters is great, but what does she have to do with Dzogchen?
Even after having the good fortune of attending Anyen Rinpoche’s teachings on the text over the next two years, I still have to admit that my grasp on the subject matter was slippery at best. Words like “shravakas” and pratyekabuddhas” rang in my ears but their meaning always alluded me. All I could do was try to follow Rinpoche’s advice to be patient and put in some more effort.
Now, with the release of Rinpoche and Allison Choying Zangmo’s excellent book, Journey to Certainty, I feel that I have so much more to hold on to. This wonderful book takes extremely difficult and hard to understand concepts and breaks them down into clear language. Rinpoche patiently guides the reader through subtler and subtler explanations of the view of emptiness until they actually start to make sense.
But this is more than just a philosophical treatise. Journey to Certainty lives up to Rinpoche’s promise that Mipham’s work is actually a “practice text”, one designed to give us an intellectual understanding of emptiness that we can gradually bring into our own meditation practice.
All in all, I think this is by far the best book on the very challenging topic of emptiness I have ever read. Although the topics are still difficult, and I know I’ll be reading this book again and again, I feel like there’s hope for me yet.