Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Background for Fall 2012 Term

A SUGGESTED READING LIST that can provide further background support for students and links to previous terms' text Handouts is HERE.

Course Background

In the first and second classes of Spring 2012, Geshe Kelsang Wangmo reviewed the Perfection of Wisdom course material presented to that date.  You can read a brief synopsis of each class, download MP3's of the classes, Handouts (text) and rough draft class Transcripts here:  2012 Spring Class 1 and 2012 Spring Class 2.

The Perfection of Wisdom Course studies the many topics raised in Maitreya's Ornament for Clear Realizations (Abhisamayalamkara).  The Ornament is the first of five great Indian canonical texts that make up the core curriculum of Geshe studies at Tibetan monastic colleges such as Drepung Loseling Monastery and the Institute for Buddhist Dialectical Studies.  

The Ornament expounds the hidden meaning (detailing the Method of the Path to Enlightenment) of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras (whose explicit meaning is the Wisdom of Emptiness).

Before studying the
Ornament, students take courses that introduce them to: 
  • Fundamentals of Buddhist philosophy (the Collected Topics, Due-dra); 
  • Logical argument (Ta-rig); 
  • Awareness and Knowledge (Lo-rig); and 
  • Philosophical systems of Tenets (Drub-tha). 
Geshe Kelsang Wangmo concluded teaching these subjects for English language students in 2006.  She began teaching this Perfection of Wisdom Course in 2007 (with a hiatus in 2009).  The Perfection of Wisdom course usually takes six years in Tibetan residential institutions.  Since the English course is not part of a matriculating, residential program, the course will take as long as necessary to provide understanding for most of the students who attend.  

Course MethodologyThe classes are based on the Tibetan curricula of the great monastic universities.  Geshe Kelsang Wangmo prepares Handouts for each class serve as the 'text'.  The Handouts include her translations of relevant excerpts from the two works by Panchen Sonam Drakpa that serve as the text and debate manual for this course at Drepung Loseling Monastery and IBD.  In class, Geshe Kelsang Wangmo provides extensive explanation of the topics and related debates that are presented in the Handouts and the students have the opportunity to participate in discussions of the material. 


While a few students have been attending IBD's Advanced Buddhist Philosophy program in English since before the program officially began in 2004, most students are unable to be in India for the entire Ornament course, nor have they attended the preliminary courses. Many students attend the course for less than an entire term.  

Although Geshe Kelsang Wangmo is skilled in presenting challenging material to those who do not have the usual background for tackling these subjects, most people are going to need a good foundation in Buddhist teachings to enjoy the material.

Topics of the Ornament Course

You can DOWNLOAD Audio MP3s of classes along with course handouts and some partial class transcripts from this BLOG's POSTED entries.

Prior terms of the Course have covered:
  • Subjects raised by the Ornament's Introduction.
  • Subject (raised in the Ornament's Introduction) of Differentiating Interpretable from Definitive Sutras combined with study of the Mind Only (Cittamatrin) system's presentation of Wisdom tenets [text:  Jeffrey Hopkins' translation of relevant section of Je Tsong-Khapa's Essence of Eloquence in Emptiness in the Mind Only School of Buddhism).
  • Subjects raised in Chapter 1 of the Ornament which presents Ten major Topics in order to elucidate the Omniscient Mind.
Of Chapter 1's Ten Topics that illustrate the Omniscient Mind, so far classes have addressed:
  • Topic 1 - Bodhicitta
  • Begun Topic 2 - Ten Mahayana Practice Instructions, i.e.
    • The Two Truths - the 1st Mayahana Practice Instruction (Spring 2011).
    • The Four Noble Truths - the 2nd Mahayana Practice Instruction (Fall 2011).
    • Refuge - the 3rd Mahayana Practice Instruction (Spring 2012).  

Topics of FALL 2012 Term

FALL 2012 will continue with No. 4-8 of the Ten Mahayana Practice Instructions.

The major topic of Fall 2012 course is stages of Meditation and its achievements:  Concentrations, corresponding Realms, and special abilities.

Mahayana Practice Instructions 4-8 are named in the Ornament as: 

       (4) - (6)  Three Types of Diligence (a/k/a Enthusiastic Effort or Perseverance) ["Non-Involvement" (non-attachment), "Tirelessness" & "Thoroughly Upholding the Path" (thoroughly applying oneself to the path of practice)].
       (7)   "The Five Visions"
       (8)   "Six Clairvoyances".

For your information, the last two Mahayana Practice Instructions are (9) Path of Seeing and (10) Path of Meditation.

TEXTS.  In addition to Geshe Wangmo's Handouts that serve as the course's text, Meditative States in Tibetan Buddhism** includes an oral commentary by Demna Lochoe Rinpoche on the section from Panchen Sonam Drakpa's General Meaning textbook on the Ornament (used at IBD for this course) as well as a general commentary on this subject matter by Lati Rinpoche.

** Available often at the Buddhist Bookstore and Namgyal Bookstore in McLeod Ganj.  Meditative States in Tibetan Buddhism.  Translations by Leah Zahler & Jeffrey Hopkins.  Wisdom Publications - Boston.

No comments: