Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Pramanavarttika - 1st Term - FALL 2014 Class 1

The 1st class of Fall 2014 term was held on Wednesday, the 1st day of October. This is the first class of the first term of a new Course in the IBD's program of English Classes in Advanced Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy:  Chapter 2 of Dharmakirti's Pramāņavarttika.

For several years, the ongoing course, in Spring and Fall terms, has been on the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras as illuminated in Maitreya's Ornament for Clear Realizations [Abhisamayalamkara]. 

In accordance with the suggestion of H.H. Dalai Lama to our teacher, Geshe Kelsang Wangmo, several months ago, that course is in a temporary hiatus and will resume upon completion of this course.

Following His Holiness' advice, Geshe Wangmo is translating the Second Chapter of Dharmakirti's Commentary on [Dignaga's] Compendium of Valid Cognition along with the other commentarial materials that are used in Tibetan Monastic institutions to present this very important text and its deep meaning to students.

DOWNLOAD PDF files for this CLASS

INTRODUCTION to Pramanavarttika course.


DRAFT Transcript of Class 1 (Oct. 1, 2014) - Text PDF material appears in body of transcript when Geshe-la reads it out loud and, otherwise, in footnotes.

DOWNLOAD Recorded MP3 Tracks of Class 1:

Track 1 - Introduction to Text materials compiled and translated by Geshe Wangmo for the Course

At the beginning of this class, students were given a copy of an Introduction to the Pramanavarttika, along with a document containing Charts and Illustrations  depicting concepts to addressed in the first term of this multi-term course.

Two Major Texts will be studied in this course: 
  • Second Chapter of Dharmakirti's Commentary on [Dignaga's] Compendium of Valid Cognition [Skt. - Pramāņavarttika; tshad ma ram 'gel - ཚད་མ་རྣམ་འགྲེལ་].
  • Gyaltsab Je's Elucidation of the Path to Liberation, a Detailed Explanation of the Verses of the Pramāņavarttika [tshad ma rnam 'grel gyi tshig le'ur byes pa rnam bshad thar lam gsal byed - ཚད་མ་རྣམ་འགྲེལ་གྱི་ཚིག་ལེའུར་བྱེས་པ་རྣམ་བཤད་ཐར་ལམ་གསལ་བྱེད།], commonly known as, Elucidation of the Path to Liberation [ཐར་ལམ་གསལ་བྱེད་].  The verses of the Pramāņavarttika are embedded into Gyaltsab Je's commentary.  They are distinguished in the course text by different formatting and fonts.
  • Geshe-la has translated relevant recordings and notes of oral teachings by prominent contemporary Geluk scholars and inserted those into the text to provide explanation of difficult points.  Some of those masters are:  Geshe Yeshe Thabgyal, Geshe Palden Drakpa, Geshe Wangchen, Geshe Gyatso, Geshe Tsering Norbu.
The translation of these materials that serves as the Fall 2014 course text will be distributed to students attending class on Friday, October 10, and posted here afterwards. 

Study Questions:  At the end of the Introduction (p. 10) and at the end of each section of the main course text, Study Questions are given.  Students are encouraged to read the text and the Questions before class.

Introduction to the Pramāņavarttika 

What is Pramana:    
  • Pramana is one of the Five Fields of Tibetan Monastic Study.
  • Pramana is often translated  as logic or epistemology, but its literal meaning is valid cognition or valid cognizer, i.e., an awareness that understands/realizes its object.
  • We "know" many things that later turn out not to be true.  You can only "realize" -- actually "know" -- something that actually exists.
  • A Valid Cognizer "incontrovertibly knows" its object.  So how does it do that?  These are some questions raised in the study of pramana.
Track 2 - Life Story of Dignaga

Track 3 - Life Story of Dharmakirti

The interesting stories of these great scholars' lives are presented.  Academic controversy began with regard to Dharmakirti and the Pramāņavarttika in his own time, and his verses of response may be misinterpreted by scholars today.  These controversies and interpretations are presented extensively in the class.

Some of Dharmakirti's colleagues tied this text to the tail of a dog and sent it forth to the villages.  He reputedly responded, ‘Oh, this is great.  The dog runs through the different villages and spreads my teachings.’

The verse that, in response to such negative reception, Dharmakirti inserted before the homage reads:
Most living beings are attached to the mundane and not endowed with the dexterity of wisdom.
Not only are they not interested in excellent teachings, they are hateful owing to the defilement of envy. 
This is why I do not think that this
[treatise] will be beneficial to others.
However, since I have generated great effort familiarizing
[my] mind with excellent teachings, I am happy [to compose the treatise].
The verse added after composition, when he realized that his disciple did not understand the implicit meanings of his text is:
Just as a river into the ocean, [the meaning of this treatise] will dissolve into my body and disappear.
Dignaga & Dharmakirti had a great impact on the course of Buddhist philosophy and Indian philosophy. "Their expositions on language, negation, direct perception, etc., were highly influential among both Buddhist and non-Buddhist philosophers, but their greatest impact derived from their analysis of inferential reasoning.

The debate format that is still very popular among Tibetan Buddhists is based largely on Dignaga and Dharmakirti’s works.  Dharmakirti’s Pramāņavarttika, in particular, provides Tibetan Buddhist philosophers with a standard vocabulary that is used as a framework for analysis of the various Buddhist scriptures.  It also represents the epistemological foundation of the curriculum in many Tibetan monastic institutions.

Study Questions (p. 10 of Introduction) related to Class 1:
  • Who composed the Compendium of Pramana and how many chapters does it have?
  • Who composed the Pramāņavarttika and how many chapters does it have?
  • Who composed the Elucidation of the Path of Liberation?
  • Which of these three commentaries are written in verse and which are written in prose?
  • On which text does the Pramāņavarttika primarily comment?
  • On which text does the Elucidation of the Path of Liberation primarily comment?
  • Which philosophical tenet school does Dignaga follow?
  • Which philosophical tenet school does Dharmakirti follow?
  • Which philosophical tenet school does Gyaltsab Je follow?
If any of the LINKS don't work, please leave a COMMENT or notify us by E-Mail.

This is the 1st class of the Fall 2014 term of
the Pramanavarttika course - which examines the
Second Chapter of Dharmakirti's Commentary's on 
[Dignaga's] Compendium of Valid Cognition



Anonymous said...


Nordron said...

Thank you Anda Zar for the heads up. It is fixed now, guess I messed it up when I was posting Class 2 yesterday.