This is the translation of a text written by Zhanphen Chokyi Nangwa or Khenchen Zhan-ga as he is more commonly known, the greatest of all abbotts who presided over the Shri Singha monastic college at Dzogchen Monastery, Tibet.
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 ayatanas. You are to become expert in the dhatus. You are to become expert in pratityasa?utpada. 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, which contains a complete teaching on the six topics, 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 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 this text for students in the second year of his shedra rather than Mipham’s text. 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.