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Abhidharmakosa : 1st Two Chapters November 27, 2008

Posted by Karen in Courses, International Buddhist Academy, Personal Perspectives, Studies.
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IBA’s two-month course for 2008 brought a dedicated group of students into a concentrated study of the first two chapters of Vasubandhu’s fourth century classic, the Abhidharmakosa-bhasya, his autocommentary on the Abhidharmakosa, an exhaustive analysis of phenomena. The autocommentary critiques and refines the reasoning central to Vasubandhu’s own earlier studies in the light of his later realizations. Vasubandhu’s conversion by his brother Asanga ( who also wrote a valuable study of the Abhidharma ) brought him into the centre of the budding Yogachara-Mahayana school, whose influence eventually spread widely throughout the Buddhist world.


As Khenpo Jorden explained, the traditional monastic college method of transmitting an in-depth understanding of Buddhist philosophy is accomplished through presenting the views of successive Buddhist schools in the order that each arose. This method increases comprehension of the more subtle and profound later schools through studying each school’s set of tenets sequentially. It also allows the development of an informed appreciation of the earlier schools’ foundational contribution to Buddhist philosophical exploration.

Khenpo Jorden’s clarity and his ability to assist us in tackling the Sanskrit terminology which appeared in almost every line of Vasubandhu’s work, was comforting to those of us who were baffled by the subject matter (and even more baffled to see it expressed in unfamiliar words). Eventually we students were able to let go of trying to find English equivalents for the Sanskrit terms and accepted them as new words with new meanings.

In addition to having the steady leadership and guidance of Khenpo Jorden in each day’s teaching, we had other valuable resources. Firstly, the review class was conducted with admirable skill and intensity by one of IBA’s senior students, Inge Riebe, who translates texts for His Holiness Sakya Trizin.  Review class preparation was very thorough and students’ questions were handled in depth and detail.  Secondly, IBA was fortunate to be hosting Khenpo Akkar, visiting from Samye monastery, Tibet. Khenpo Akkar accepted Khenpo Jorden’s invitation to answer some students’ questions on Abhidharma topics, at several of our open air question sessions in the garden, with Khenpo Jorden translating.

All of us who completed this course were in awe of our teachers, who have studied the entire eight chapters of this challenging book. Many of us will welcome an opportunity to study more of it, and to gain more familiarity with the refined language of Sanskrit, an ancient doorway into many treasures.



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