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Study and exams…

Classes ended a few weeks ago and now it is study time. We get 24 days to study what we have learned this year, then we will write five comprehensive exams. This study period is one of my favorite times of year. I feel like I really get into the texts. During the school year, going to classes and debate, I feel a bit busy. But now I have nothing to do but study. The texts my class studied this year are:

1. Madyamakavatara
Entering the Middle Way by Chandrakirti and the commentary by Chandrakirti himself, translated from the Sanskrit. This text explains the view of Madyamaka in the context of the ten bodhisattva levels. It was not easy to read, as Tibetan translated from Sanskrit can be tough compared to the language used in original Tibetan compositions. I also read Mipham
Rinpoche’s commentary in both English and Tibetan to help clarify the meaning. My teacher was Lopon Sonam Tobden.

2. Mulamadyamakakarika
Root Stanzas on the Middle Way called “Wisdom” by Nagarjuna and the commentary by Mipham Rinpoche. This is the text which instigated the Madyamaka tradition and other texts such as Madyamakavatara and Catu Sataka Sastra Karika are commenting and elaborating on the philosophy which it sets forth. I found it poetic and profound. It primarily sets forth the ultimate view of the Middle Way by negating the ultimate existence what we usually take to be established phenomena, such as coming and going. My teacher was Ani Lopon Sangye Drolma.

3. Catu Sataka Sastra Karika
Four Hundred Verses on the Middle Way by Aryadeva and commentary by Botrul Tenpai Nyima. Aryadeva was a disciple of Nagarjuna. This text primarily sets forth the meditation of the Middle Way. It includes relative mind training and ultimate meditation on the view of the Middle Way. My teacher was Ani Lopon Yeshe Lhamo.

4. Pramana Nyaya Pravesha
Door to Logic by Dignaga. This is a very short text by an Indian master. It deals with dialectics and logic. My teacher was Lopon Migmar Dorje.

5. Don rNam Nges Shes Shes Rab Ral Gri
Sword of Wisdom by Mipham Rinpoche. A very clear text on the two truths, the logic by which they are established, and the result of logic. My teacher was Lopon Migmar Dorje.

6. Kabyadarsha by Dandi with commentary by Bokhey. This is a text on poetry. We only studied part of the text and we will continue next year. It was not easy, as I met a lot of unfamiliar words in this text. We wrote examples during the year to familiarize ourselves with over sixty types of simile and poetic devices. My teacher was Lopon Kharpo.

7. Chos ‘Byung
History of the Dharma by Dudjom Rinpoche Part Five. We study this text from first year until sixth year. This year we covered the period of the propagation of the three inner tantras in Tibet during the time of Guru Rinpoche. My teacher was Ani Lopon Yeshe Lhamo.

8. rGyal Rabs
Tibetan Political History by Dudjom Rinpoche Part Two. We study this text from second year to fourth year. This year we covered the period from the reign of King Trisong Deusten up to the reign of Lang Darma and the subsequent period when Tibet was in pieces. My teacher was Ani Lopon Yeshe Lhamo.

How, you might ask, will we write five exams on eight subjects? The three Madyamaka texts will have separate exams. The two history texts will be combined on one exam. And the other three will be combined on one exam. Our first exam will be on December 17th.

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4 thoughts on “Study and exams…

  1. Oh…my…goodness. This would be difficult enough in English, but to do it in Tibetan…I can’t imagine. Do you write in uchen script or umey (that’s the cursive kind of script, right?). I assume you have to sit down with no notes and write long hand. Do you have time for retreat?

  2. I write in kyu yig, literally ‘ordinary writing’ which is a small version of u-mey. We get a question paper with eight or nine essay questions and we must answer five or six in three hours.We don’t have clases from January to April, so there is time for retreat then.

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