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The Eight Great Treasures of Brilliance

The short supplication to Mipham reads:

Through the blessings of ever-youthful Mañjushri , who is awareness-emptiness,


You released the eight treasures of confidence from the space of the wisdom mind.
Supreme master of the vast treasure of the dharma of scripture and realization,
I supplicate you, Mipham Namgyal.

Thus, these eight are intimately connected with the specific realization that Mipham attained
through his connection with Mañjushri.

1. Origins
In The Sound of the Victorious Battle Drum Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok gives the traditional scrip-
tural source for these categories and quotes the Sutra of the Vast Display1 , i.e. the Lalitavistara, as
follows:

“Not forgetting is the treasure of memory, and discriminating well is the treasure of in-
telligence. Internalizing the meaning of all the sutras is the treasure of realization, and
retaining everything one has heard is the treasure of perfect recall. Satisfying everyone
with valuable instructions is the treasure of confidence, and fully protecting the noble
dharma is the treasure of the dharma. Not letting the lineage of the three jewels be bro-
ken is the treasure of bodhichitta, and being able to remain in the unborn nature is the
treasure of accomplishment. These are the attainment of the eight great treasures.” 2
Cf John Pettit, p.25

The Sutra promises these eight great treasures along with the eight accumulations, the eight
great pure merits, the eight purities and more to those who propagate and venerate it. In the
translation of Tarthang Tulku:

"Friends, whoever puts this exposition of the Dharma, the Lalitavistara, into writing,
takes it up, reads it, honors it, venerates it, renders homage to it, and with thought free
from envy, repeats its praises to the four directions, saying: `Come! Take this aspect of
the Dharma, put it into writing, read it, recite it, meditate on it, study it,' this one will
obtain the eight great treasures. What are the eight great treasures? By being without
forgetfulness, one gains the treasure of mindfulness. By analyzing things well, one
gains the treasure of understanding. By understanding the meaning of all the Sutras,
one has the treasure of realization. By comprehending everything one hears, one has the
treasure of the Dharanis. By satisfying all beings with elegant sayings, one has the
treasure of eloquence. By guarding the Teachings, one has the treasure of the Dharma.
By preventing the interruption of the family of the Three jewels, one has the treasure of
the Thought of Enlightenment. By obtaining patience concerning the uncreated
Dharma, one has the treasure of achievement. These are the eight treasures.3

1 Gyacher Rölpa
2 Ann Helm, Lama Mipham’s Miracles, draft translation of July 1999, p.36.
3 The Voice of the Buddha, Volume II, p.669.

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2. The Ninth Bhumi: Good Intellect
The ninth bhumi is called sadhumati, legpa’i lodrö, Good Intellect, because it is at this point that
the bodhisattva reaches the epitome of prajña. When the bodhisattva achieves the paramita of
power, she knows all the languages of the world. Discriminating awareness (soso yangdagpar
rigpa) on this level is said to have four parts:
- chö: understanding the doctrines and customs of all the six realms
- dön: understanding the meaning, rather than the words
- ngetsig: understanding the purpose (or function) of the meaning
- poppa: confidence
Poppa is the confidence which manifested as Mañjushri. Mañjushri has the dual aspects of
knowledge and confidence. It is the latter that is the more important one. This is not just being
unafraid, but being able to communicate with your basic treasury, therefore, there is no poverty
whatsoever. There are eight types of treasure, a fundamental wealth that has never been ques-
tioned and doesn’t need any help or encouragement.4

3. Sources of Brilliance
Mipham himself refers to the eight treasures of confidence as the fruition of prajña in the root
verses of the Sword of Prajña of the Completely True Meaning:

Thus contemplating the way of the dharma of the two truths,


Using the skillful means of the four reliances,
The action of which is taught as the four correct reasonings;
From this undefiled cause, by the deep wisdom of fruition,
If the phenomena of experience blossom forth;
One is set free by the eight great treasures of confidence.
That bring about this expansion into the space of insight.

Traditions that were formerly heard and contemplated,


Not forgotten, then become the treasure of memory.
The meaning of these, as profound as it is extensive,
Is then completely revealed as the treasure of intellect.
All the meanings of the sutras and the tantras
Are entered into as the treasure of realization.
All the details of the teachings we have heard
Never forgotten become the treasure of retention.
Explaining things properly to all sentient beings
Is the satisfaction-producing treasure of confidence.
As for the precious treasury of holy dharma,
Completely guarded, this becomes the dharma treasure.
The continuous families comprising the three jewels
Not cut off, are the treasury of bodhicitta.
In the unborn equality of the nature itself,
Attaining patience manifests as the treasure of practice.

These are inseparable and inexhaustible.


Those who attain the eight-fold power of the treasures of confidence,
As praised by the victorious ones and all their sons,
Over the three worlds they are empowered as lords.5

4Summarized from the 1973 Hinayana-Mahayana Transcripts, pp.242-244.


5Translation by Khenpo Palden Sherab & Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal found at
www.turtlehillsangha.org/khen/blz0.html

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In the Mipham biography of Loppön Rechung, the list of the Eight Confident Great Treasures
reads as follows:

Stable treasure of mindfulness


Intelligent treasure of discrimination
Realization treasure of realizing the meaning of all buddhadharma
Holding treasure of remembering everything ever heard
Confident treasure of eloquently satisfying all sentient beings
Dharma treasure of completely protecting the Dharma
Bodhichitta treasure of the unbroken lineage of the Three Jewels
Accomplished treasure of the patience of the unborn Dharma of emptiness.6

Matthew Kapstein: Reason's Traces, p.331-332: the Eight Treasures of Brilliance:

“The realization of immediate insight into the nature of reality brings with it the emer-
gence of spiritual faculties that contribute to a profound ability to convey to others the
significance of the Buddha's message. These faculties are spoken of in the Lalitavistara-
sutra as "treasures of brilliance"(spobs pa'i gter), and are said to be eight in number: (i)
the treasure of mindfulness so that forgetfulness is overcome; (ii) the treasure of intel-
lect, whereby one remains critical; (iii) the treasure of realization, which is here specifi-
cally the comprehension of the entire corpus of Buddhist scripture; (iv) the treasure of
retention, which is distinguished from mindfulness in that retention has as its specific
objects the topics of formal study; (v) the treasure of means of eloquent speech; (vi) the
treasure of dharma, whereby one acts to preserve the doctrine; (vii) the treasure of an
enlightened spirit, so that one maintains a constant affinity with the Three Jewels of the
Buddhist religion; and (viii) the treasure of actual attainment, for one is now fully recep-
tive to unborn reality. Endowed with these treasures, one upholds the doctrine, reveals
to others what is to be undertaken and what is to be abandoned, and in the end comes
to realize for oneself the full enlightenment of a Buddha.”7

4. Summary
EIGHT GREAT TREASURES (OF BRILLIANCE (spobs pa'i) gter chen-po brgyad:
According to the Sutra of Extensive Play, these are the treasure of recollection which overcomes
forgetfulness (dran-pa'i gter), the treasure of intellect which develops the mind (blo-gros-kyi gter),
the treasure of realisation which completely grasps the meaning of all sutras (rtogs-pa'i gter), the
treasure of the retention of all that one has heard (gzungs-kyi gter), the treasure of brilliance
which delights all sentient beings with excellent exegeses (spobs-pa'i gter), the treasure of doc-
trine which well preserves the sacred teachings (chos-kyi gter), the treasure of enlightenment
which never breaks its relationship with the three precious jewels (byang-sems-kyi gter), and the
treasure of accomplishment which is receptive to the uncreated reality of emptiness (sgrub-pa'i
gter).8

Treasure Tibetan fruit


1 recollection dran-pa’i gter overcomes forgetfulness
2 intellect blo-gros kyi gter develops the mind
3 realization rtogs-pa’i gter completely grasps the meaning of all the sutras
4 retention gzungs kyi gter retention of all one has heard
5 brilliance spobs-pa’i gter delights all sentient beings with excellent exegesis

6 http://www.miphamshedra.org/bioJuMipham.html
7 Kapstein, Reason’s Traces, pp.331-332
8 This is a gloss from The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, Volume II, p.160

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6 dharma chos kyi gter preserves the sacred teachings
7 enlightenment byang-sems kyi gter never breaks relationship with the three jewels
8 accomplishment sgrub-pa’i gter receptive to the uncreated reality of emptiness

Sanskrit Tibetan translation


1 smriti dran pa memory / mindfulness
2 mati blo gros intellect
3 kalpana rtogs pa realization
4 dharani gzungs retention
5 pratibhana spobs pa brilliant confidence / eloquence
6 dharma chos dharma
7 bodhichitta byang sems mind of enlightenment
8 sadhana sgrub pa accomplishment

5. Analysis
1. The Treasure of Recollection
Traditions that were formerly heard and contemplated are not forgotten but repossessed and
become the treasure of memory. Due to close attention, mindfulness, things are not forgotten in
the first place, but properly registered. In both Sanskrit (smriti) and Tibetan (drenpa; dran pa) the
word used here means memory9, remembering as well as mindfulness. It is that mindfulness
which establishes the power of hearing. The English word recollection perhaps captures some
of this dual meaning. LR: the stable treasure of mindfulness.
Even as a young child Mipham spontaneously remembered the profound dharma he had heard
at previous times, exemplified by his dictating of the Torch of Certainty at the age of six10.
2. The Treasure of Intellect
The meaning of the teachings, profound and vast, is revealed as the treasure of intellect. Ana-
lytical intellect, the ability to discriminate and distinguish various aspects of the objects of
knowledge. LR: the intelligent treasure of discrimination
3. The Treasure of Realization
All the meanings of the sutras and the tantras are entered into as the treasure of realization. It is
through personal realization that the meaning of the sutras and tantras is decrypted. Thus reali-
zation is like a golden key to the meaning. At the same time, possessing the treasure of the
meaning of the dharma is in itself realization. Ability to internalize the meaning.
4. The Treasure of Retention
Spontaneous recall: all the details of the teachings we have heard never forgotten become the
treasure of retention. Able to recall on the spot whatever was memorized. The original word
here is dharani in Sanskrit (from dharani, that which holds) or zung (gzungs) in Tibetan. Zung
means retention, memory, memorization, recall, in a tantric context also mantra. “Dharani …
refers to grasping, or, for that matter, it refers to weaving oneself into the dharma.”11
“Sung refers to retentive memory and is an intellectual aspect of prajña. Sung is the ability held
by disciples of the Buddha and Padmakara12 to remember verbatim the words of their teachers
many years after hearing them.”13
Mipham memorized the entire Kangyur and Tengyur. He memorized the 225 volumes of the
Tengyur in 21 days and the 108 volumes of the Kangyur in only three days. He even gave a
lung for the Kangyur reciting the text by heart with four people checking against the text 14.

9 CTR: mindfulness is remembering the present (rather than the past).


10 Victorious Battle Drum, p.12.
11 CTR, Mañjushri lung of December 6, 1983. Sun of Prajña sadhana, p.9.

12 especially Ananda and Yeshe Tsogyal.

13 Sun of Prajña sadhana, commentary, p.14.

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5. The Treasure of Confidence or Brilliance
Confidence or brilliance, poppa, is on the one hand the ability to explain things properly and
eloquently to sentient beings of all capacities and backgrounds, and on the other the brilliance
that captures the mind of the listener. It naturally gives birth to great satisfaction in the hearer &
speaker. This includes the ability to know what topic to teach.
“Poppa means ‘confidence’ and is an intuitive aspect of prajña. It is the fearless confidence to
actually proclaim the dharma when teaching”15 At the first Vajradhatu seminary the Vidya-
dhara commented on the quality of treasure: Poppa is the particular kind of confidence which
created the essence of Mañjushri. Mañjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, or the enlightened
aspect of wisdom, has a knowledge aspect and a confidence aspect, and in fact the confidence
aspect is much more important. This kind of confidence is not just being unafraid of something
or other, or able to handle things in a confident way, like a good businessman. With this type of
confidence, you’re able to communicate with your own basic treasury and therefore you have
no notion of poverty at all.” 16
Thrangu Rinpoche, in his commentary on the Samadhiraja-Sutra, gives the following explana-
tion of poppa: “The word for this in Tibetan is pobpa, which refers to the mental state that gives
rise to such courageous eloquence. This quality is a self-assured sharpness of mind, an absence
of error. Through such ‘unmistakenness’ we can both comprehend clearly and without error the
meaning of phenomena and the definitive words, as well as be unimpeded in expounding these
to others. To fully comprehend without any defect, and to posses such courage, is what is meant
by the ‘correct discrimination of courageous eloquence’.” 17
6. The Treasure of Dharma
The satdharma is a treasure in itself and should be guarded like a treasure of gold & jewels.
7. The Treasure of Bodhichitta
The continuous families comprising the three jewels not cut off, are the treasury of bodhicitta.
By resting in the meaning of the dharma, the continuity of the dharma transmission is guarded,
the lineage of the three jewels remains unbroken. This is the greatest benefit for beings, thus it is
called the treasure of bodhichitta.
8. The Treasure of Practice or Accomplishment
Acquiring tolerance for the unborn nature of phenomena, equality is patience. This manifests as
the treasure of practice: the ability to remain in the unborn space18. This is connected with the
third category of the paramita of patience, the anutpattikadharmakshanti, the patience with the
unborn nature of the dharmas. See Aryasura’s Paramitasamasa.

1 Memory stable
2 Intellect vase intelligent
3 Realization knot of eternity realizing
4 Retention holding
5 Brilliance golden fish confident
6 Dharma right-turning conch protecting
7 Bodhichitta unbroken
8 Practice patient

6. Mipham’s Realization
All the various biographies of Mipham make reference to these eight treasures. Mipham seems
to have had a special connection with the auspicious number eight, considering how frequently

14 Victorious Battle Drum, p.12.


15 Sun of Prajña sadhana, p.14.
16 1973 Hinayana-Mahayana Seminary, p.243.

17 Thrangu Rinpoche: The King of Samadhi, p.98.

18 See commentary on the dignity of outrageous and the garuda’s relationship to space.

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he treats the eight buddhas, the eight great bodhisattvas, the eight auspicious symbols, the eight
great protectors and so on19.
Khenchen Kunzang Palden writes:

Because he gained mastery of the appearance of self-arisen gnosis that pervades space,
the eight great treasures of brilliance (spobs pa'i gter chen po brgyad) were released. Ac-
cording to the Lalitavistara, these are (i) the treasure of memory, which does not forget,
(ii) the treasure of analytical intellect, (iii) the treasure of realization, which understands
the meaning of all the Sutras, (iv) the treasure of incantation (dharani) which retains all
that has been learned, (v) the treasure of brilliance, which explains the teaching to the
satisfaction of all sentient beings, (vi) the treasure of Dharma, which means completely
protecting the sacred Dharma, (vii) the treasure of enlightened awareness, which means
not interrupting the lineage of the three Jewels, and (viii) the treasure of accomplish-
ment, which means acquiring tolerance for the non-arisen nature of things.20

The Victorious Battle Drum by Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok says that “having attained the eight
great treasures of confidence, [Mipham] realized that all phenomena have the nature of the king
of awareness”21 and connects many miraculous events in Mipham’s life with the eight treasures
as follows:

… by revealing the indestructible nature of his mind, lama Mipham became a


master of the eight great treasures of confidence. He then gave extensive teachings on
the dharma, which he distributed like an inheritance equally among those fortunate
enough to receive them.
When he was seven years old, all the essential points of the commentaries of the
sutras and tantras appeared in his mind as the true nature of the Mañjushri mantra, A
RA PA TSA NA DHIH. While he was playing, since he was too young to write, he dictated
his understanding to Ju Lama Rinchen Gönpo, who wrote down what Mipham said.
This treatise, free from the six faults and having the three fine qualities, is one of his
most famous texts, the Precious Torch of Certainty22.
When he was in the mountain hermitage of Gemang he memorized the entire
225 volumes of the Tengyur in only twenty-five days. When Ugyen Tendzin Norbu
asked Lama Mipham whether he had actually comprehended the meaning of those vast
teachings in such a short time, Mipham Rinpoche replied that since the translations
vary, he was not memorizing the texts word-for-word, but he understood their meaning
completely. He confidently proclaimed this amid a large gathering of his students.
During the time when Lama Mipham memorized the Tengyur, his attendant
was watching and saw that Mipham was reading only the titles of the texts. Other than
that, he was doing his regular practice during the six sessions of the day and night.
Later, when Mipham spoke with various scholars, it became clear that he had indeed
read the Tengyur, and this increased their confidence in his words.
One time at Junyung Monastery, he memorized the entire 108 volumes of the
Kangyur in only three days. Lama Rigchok was amazed and praised Mipham for this.
Mipham Rinpoche told him, "It is through the blessings of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
that I can remember what I had previously learned. In the past I memorized both the
words and meanings of these texts." Later, at Dzagyal Monastery, he gave a reading
transmission of the Kangyur and recited all the texts by heart. There were four people at
a time checking his words, and they verified that he did not add or leave out even one

19 See for example the Invocation of Auspiciousness.


20 In: John Pettit: Mipham’s Beacon of Certainty, p.25.
21 This is the “second part of the second set”, section IIb, Helm, pp. 11-14.

22 Ngeshe Rinpoche Drönme, translated by John Pettit as the Beacon of Certainty.

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word. He also retranslated passages where he thought the translation was not very
good. This magnificent display of his speech opened the hearts of many disciples, just
like the rays of the moon open night-blooming flowers.
Mipham Rinpoche himself said, "In this lifetime I received a seven-day teaching
on the Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life from Patrül Rinpoche, but other than that,
except for reading transmissions, I have not received any textual explanations of the su-
tras, tantras, or the ten branches of knowledge. However, for an immeasurable aeon in
the past I held the treasures of countless teachings of the buddhas, which is why I do
not need to learn these teachings anew."
When he was staying in Dzogchen Rinpoche's room named "Swirling Sunlight,"
during the amount of time it took to do one of the lama dances of that monastery, Mi-
pham composed a poem praising the three inner tantras. This poem was written in the
form of an intricate grid of the Kunzang Khorlo type, and its introduction and conclu-
sion were written in another pattern, called the Palang Chindro." Such a skillful ar-
rangement of words and meanings would take other scholars months or years to write,
yet Mipham accomplished this amazing work in a very short time.
On several occasions when Lama Mipham was composing his great commentary
on the Kalachakra, he wrote more than two hundred pages in one session. Mipham's at-
tendant Ösel witnessed this with his own eyes, and he thoroughly enjoyed telling vari-
ous scholars about it."
All the works that Mipham Rinpoche composed, whether large or small, showed
that the blessings of Mañjushri had merged into his heart, instantly opening the hun-
dred doors of the treasury of his enlightened nature, his perfect recall, and his confi-
dence. Like magic, Mipham Rinpoche was able to write his works in an extremely short
time. He never relied on analytical thinking and never needed to erase or edit what he
wrote. If you searched for an aeon, you could never find such signs of immature intelli-
gence in his works, any more than you could find flowers growing in the sky.

And again, the attainment in a praise of Mipham quoted by Khenpo Palden Sherab23, the eight
great treasures are connected with the eight auspicious symbols:

The three realms' dharma lord, Jamgön guru Mipham,


From a meadow by the lake of play of supreme learning
From the welcome single circle the wheel of the deepest sense,
With its day-producing power like the sun,
On the non-deceptive path of freedom and omniscience
May there gleam white parasol of pramana.

Within the circle of the two truths of the nine-fold vehicles,


May the retinue, the eighty-four thousand teachings,
Free from stain, amidst the great thousand petalled lotus
The explanation of teachings of the Victorious One,
Satisfy with the anthers of the four proper reasonings.

By interdependent arising, the essence of knowables,


Having the great vase of well-described analysis
Of the two pramanas, in the ocean of excellent teaching,
With the analysis of the two conventional pramanas,
Their insight flashing auspiciously like the golden fish,
The nine-fold lineage precepts, coiled to the right,
May the dharma conch of the four reliances pleasantly sound.

23 Quoted in the Blazing Lights of the Sun and the Moon. Source not given.

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From the pure and equal wisdom of the net of miracles,
Eight treasures of confidence gather into a knot of eternity,
The completely certain meaning of the sutras and tantras
May this victory banner the Sword of Prajña fly in samsara.

7. Attainment
Düdjom Rinpoche in his History of the Nyingma School speaks of three persons having liberated
the eight treasures. Of Yungtön Dorjepel [1284-1365], the heart son of Rangjung Dorje, he says:
“He obtained the eight great treasures of confidence that are described in the Sutra of Extensive
Play and thereby unlocked the vast treasure of brilliance, so that he satisfied living beings with
his eloquence.” Of Rongzom Chökyi Zangpo: “While composing [works concerning] the true
doctrine, Rongzompa did not have to hesitate in order to collect and study source-books or
make other such investigations, for the eight great treasures of brilliance were liberated [within
him], whereby he could penetrate the words and meanings of the doctrine without impedi-
ment.” And finally, speaking of Mipham: “he mastered the vision of naturally present pristine
cognition, which is extensive as the sky, and liberated the eight great treasures of brilliance.”24

8. Etymology
spobs pa'i gter chen po brgyad. variously translated as the eight great treasures of confidence,
brilliance, courage.
The root spobs means to criticize, to dare [to criticize]; self-confidence/ courage. The noun
poppa (spobs pa) is translated in the Rangjung Yeshe dictionary as: courage, eloquence, coura-
geous eloquence, ready speech, bravery, courage, confidence, brilliance. infallibility, quickwit-
tedness, inspiration, proud, to dare, to venture; self-confidence.
This is the same poppa that the Vidyadhara comments on in the tris for the Mañjushri sadhana.
spobs pa brgyad:the eight confidences.

Further Sources:
Matthew Kapstein: Reason's Traces, p.331, 332, 335: the Eight Treasures of Brilliance
Matthew Kapstein: Mi-pham’s Theory of Interpretation. In: Lopez (ed): Buddhist Hermeneutics,
149-174.
The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, Volume II, p.160. See also Volume I.

24 pp. 666, 705 & 871.