With another school year comes another 15 pages of root text I have to memorize. A page means one two-sided Tibetan pecha page. If the root text is in stanzas, which it usually is, that means 8 to 10 stanzas per page.
Most teachers do not require us to give all 15 pages in one go. I usually give 4 or 5 pages at a time then start memorizing the next section. There is a deadline for providing proof of our memorization, the last day of the rainy season retreat (this year September 17th). If a student fails to complete the memorization test by that time, she has to give 25 pages before classes end two months later. For some people the deadline is no problem because they can somehow memorize hundreds of pages with ease. Anyone who memorizes over one hundred pages receives present.
Occasionally teachers insist that the student recites every stanza of the pages she is claiming to have memorized. More often the teacher will get the student to start at the beginning of the text, then after a few stanzas the teacher will read the first line of a stanza part way through the text. The student then continues reciting from that point until the teacher is satisfied. This may be repeated a few times depending on how many pages are being given.
I’m not a great memorizer, but for the last four years I’ve managed to get through the memorization tests. I remind myself that at other monasteries students must memorize every word of every root text on their curriculum. The truth is, the meaning always shines forth so much brighter when I am taught the commentary to text I have memorized. I’ve told myself that someday I will memorize the Way of the Bodhisattva in English. I think that would be a wonderful text to have written in my heart. For now I’ll have to start on Abhisamayalankara and the Seventy Points.