This text, by considering Mipham's renowned "Beacon of Uncertainty," purports to provide a bridge between Buddhist sutra and tantra. To this end, the text explores Mipham's analysis of the philosophical views of the four lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as those of the shreavaka and pratyeka arhats.
Mipham's "Beacon of Uncertainty" is considered a canonical Tibetan text, and Mipham himself is revered by Tibetan Buddhists as a polymathic genius and brilliant spiritual scholar - but not by me. And as unimpressed as I am by Mipham, I'm even less impressed by Anyen Rinpoche. He has next to zero real understanding of Dzogchen - and his writing, in a word, is awful.
First off, "sutra" means Nagarjuna's Madhyamika, and I have little regard for Nagarjuna (see my two-star reviews of Jay Garfield's "The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way" and David Ross Komito's "Nagarjuna's Seventy Stanzas"). I have consummate understanding of Dzogchen, and in no way do I see any need to provide a bridge between Nagarjuna's illogic (see my five- star review of "Buddhist Illogic" by Avi Sion) and Dzogchen teachings. From my perspective, the doctrine of emptiness is entirely superfluous to Dzogchen.
I could write a thick text deconstructing all the illogic displayed by Mipham and the schools of Tibetan Buddhism he analyzes - and I will gladly do so if someone offers me a sizeable grant. But since this is just a book review and not a book, and since this book purports to be a Dzogchen text - its subtitle is "The Quintessence of the Dzogchen View" - I will instead focus on Anyen Rinpoche's limited understanding, and awful presentation, of Dzogchen.
Here are some examples of his writing, followed by my analysis:
"Bodhichitta means conventional bodhichitta and also ultimate bodhichitta, which is the nature of mind itself."
Ultimate Bodhichitta is the union of of one's consciousness (chitta) with Light (Bodhi, the Sambhogakaya), and this union "produces," or unveils Conscious Light, or Mind. To call ultimate Bodhicitta the nature of mind itself is wrong. The nature of the mind is cognition. If Anyen Rinpoche and his fellow foggy Buddhist authors could grasp Buddhadharma and write clearly, they'd, properly, define Bodhicitta as En-Light-ened Consciousness, as the True Nature of one's consciousness.
"For example, the "semde" is the series of mind transmissions in which all phenomena are recognized as the union of the conventional and ultimate truths, or synonymously, the union of method and wisdom."
What wordy nonsense! "Semde" is simply the first series of Ati Yoga, or Dzogchen teachings, which focuses on direct abiding in, and as, Mind, or Awareness itself. Phenomena are not the union of conventional and ultimate truths; they are simply ephemeral manifestations, or modifications, of Mind itself.
"Mipham Rinpoche defines the perfectly pure path for us. All teachings in the sutra and tantra can be condensed into the ground, the path, and the result. The ground is defined as the indivisibility of the two truths, or the two eyes of valid cognition. The path is defined as the two accumulations, or methods and wisdom. The result is defined as the manifestation of the two kayas (Skt.; enlightened body). It is important that we see that all of these contain a piece of the others. We can never separate the ground, the path, and the result."
Again, this is wordy nonsense. Compare this to contemporary Dzogchen master Namkhai Norbu's description of the ground, the path, and the result (or fruit): "Although unrecocognized, the Trikaya is already, from the very beginning, fully manifest as the Essence, Nature, and Energy of the mind. Thus we can say of Dzogchen that the Foundation is the Trikaya, the Path is the Trikaya, and the Fruit is the Trikaya."
Anyen Rinpoche writes, "Inseparable rigpa and emptiness is realized through resting in the view of trekchod in union with todgyal. In order to abide in the essence of primordial great emptiness, we need to know the view of trekchod. In order to completely realize the aspect of clarity, one needs to abide in todgyal."
This is a very poor description of trekchod and todgyal. One doesn't rest in the views of or abide in trekchod and todgyal. Trekchod is simply the practice of direct, immediate awareness, which enables one to "cut through spiritual materialism" and connect with Clear-Light Energy, the Sambhogakaya. Todgyal is simply the practice of channeling Clear-Light Energy.
If you want to know if a Tibetan Buddhist teacher truly groks Dzogchen, check out his definitions of the kayas (or bodies). According to Anyen Rinpoche, "The unobstructed, uncontrived empty aspect is the Dharmakaya. The aspect of clarity is the Sambogakaya. The all-pervasive or omnipresent compassion is the Nirmanakaya."
It'd hard for me to imagine worse definitions of the kayas. The Dharmakaya is not the "empty aspect"; it is timeless Awareness. The Sambhogakaya is not the "aspect of clarity"; it is Clear-Light Blessing/Blissing Energy, the radiant, dynamic expression of the Dharmakaya. The Nirmankaya is not "omnipresent compassion"; it is the incarnational body in which the Dharmakaya and the Sambhogakaya are unobstructedly united in and expressed through.
In summary, this book is bad, but because those interested in Mipham's views on the metaphysics and epistemology of the four lineages of Tibetan Buddhism may find this text useful, I have decided to give it two stars rather than one.