Reading Mipham Rinpoche’s Gateway to Knowledge

-Paolo Poggioni Singer, MAPREP student from United States

This semester I am taking a course on the “Gateway to Knowledge,” written by Mipham Rinpoche. It is an introductory text that summarizes basic elements of the Buddha’s teachings in a gradual and systematic way. The class is taught daily by Khenpo Tsondru Sangpo with translator Inka Wolf.

The Gateway to Knowledge is organized into three sections: ten topics of a learned one, the four seals of Dharma, and the four correct discriminations. Currently, we are learning the ten topics. Among these, we completed the presentation of the first three—aggregates, elements, and sense sources—and are currently studying the fourth—dependent origination.

Each of the ten topics serves as an antidote to a different aspect of habitual clinging to self. The first topic is the aggregates, which basically means collections or heaps. The aggregates taught are form, sensation, perception, formation, and consciousness. Each aggregate is not singular, and the various aggregates depend on one another. Contemplating the aggregates counteracts the habit of believing one’s self to be a singular continuum. For example, we might think, “I am my body,” but studying the aggregate of form challenges the notion that the body is one. Instead, it is many different things grouped together. In addition, each aspect is constantly changing. Similarly, we might think, “I am my mind,” but studying the aggregates of sensation, perception, formation and consciousness challenge the notion that the mind is singular.

The second topic we covered was the elements. An element can also be understood as something with the ability to give rise to something else. The eighteen elements are the six sense faculties, six mental consciousnesses, and six sense objects. Contemplating the elements counteracts the habit of clinging to a self that causes experience to arise.

Mipham Rinpoche’s concise presentation of Abhidharma presents some of the basic Buddhist teachings in a gradual manner, and Khenpo Tsondru Sangpo teaches the text in a clear and precise way.

Photo: Stairs lead to Asura cave in Pharping, near Kathmandu.  

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