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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.


IBA’s Post-Graduate Leadership Training Program March 1, 2008

Posted by Karen in Courses, IBA news, International Buddhist Academy, Studies.
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Beginning in late September of this year, the IBA will be expanding its educational role to offer a three-year Post-Graduate training program for a very dedicated group of young monks. Participants in the program will already have completed their monastic training and attained a high academic standing in Buddhist Philosophy. These young monks will also be highly motivated to serve others through their development of leadership skills.

monk-hitting-gong-net.jpgEach participating monk will choose to study either Mandarin Chinese or the English language. Training in oral and written Translation and courses in Computer Literacy and Accounting will also advance their capabilities in Communication and Administration. The skilled mentoring of their teachers will be both example and guide for the monks’ Leadership learning experiences.

This specialized training will take place for three consecutive years during the eight months in which International students are not in residence at the IBA for their program of Buddhist Philosophy and study of the Tibetan language. The IBA summer courses will continue to occupy the Academy’s focus during the months of June, July, August and half of September. During those months when students from around the world are in residence at the IBA, the monks in the three-year Post-Graduate training program will be visiting their families, friends, or their home monasteries.

Many of the student monks will be from Tibetan refugee families. Most of those entering this program will have no funding at all for their studies, and need to rely on sponsors for their tuition and their room and board expenses, which total approximately $40. US dollars per month. It is hoped that some sponsors will be able to make a full three-year commitment of support. Shorter commitments and group sponsorships are also important ways of accumulating the resources needed by the monks in order to complete this intensive program.

Supporters of the IBA can help to welcome the new Post-Graduate program by assisting in organizing sponsorships. Though these monks are without financial resources, their determination, focus, Dharma knowledge and personal qualities have earned them a place in this educational initiative.

It is extremely important for the bright and capable young monks of the next generation to receive opportunities such as this in order to enable them to make the fullest possible contribution to their communities.

Helping just one of these future leaders will result in bringing benefit to so many others!

Our web-site will be updated over the next few months to give some background information on individual monks requiring sponsorship, and more information on the Post-Graduate Leadership Training program. If you wish to donate now, please go to our “How To Help” section for information on bank transfers, and, eventually, other payment methods.

How to Learn Tibetan January 3, 2008

Posted by Rinchen in Studies, Tibetan.

Dear Friends,
“How do I learn Tibetan?” is one of the most common questions that I hear. So let me do my best to address it. I’m sure others will have useful points to add.

tibetan consonantsNevertheless, a few tips I can attest to:
1) Make an unshakable resolve to learn Tibetan. Don’t think about how long it will take or how fast you are progressing.
2) Start out in a structured program: a formal class is best. At the very least form a study group. I’ve only met one person (Tyler Dewar) who ever made much progress without structure -at least initially. The more peer pressure you get the better you’ll do. Immerse yourself (e.g. in India, Nepal or Tibet) if you can.
3) Spend at least six hours a week studying. I’ve never seen someone progress with less. More generally, the good news is that the more effort you put in, the better you get. The bad news is that you don’t get much better without effort. (Manjushri mantras do help though.)
4) Do your practices in Tibetan.
5) Learn spoken and written simultaneously. I didn’t follow this advice. Now, 30 years after I started Tibetan, I’m finally learning to speak a little.
6) Find something you absolutely HAVE to read that’s not translated, and consecrate your life to reading it.
7) If you find a Geshe/Khenpo/Lama who is willing to sit with you and read texts then serve them and utilize every opportunity to read with them; they are a scarce and invaluable resource.
8) If you can’t find such a Geshe/Khenpo/Lama then take texts (e.g. Buddhahood Without Meditation) that have the Tibetan and English side by side and go through them carefully until you understand how they were translated.

Of course to be really good at translation, you need to make this more than a hobby. It’s a lifetime of effort.
However, to read competently is something we can all achieve.

As for books for spoken Tibetan:
As for written Tibetan:
Here is some other useful stuff:

1) The “center Geshe” is one of America’s great untapped resources. So if you’ve got one in your area they almost certainly have time on their hands and will enjoy working with you. Tenzin Wangyal nearly always has a Geshe staying at Ligmincha now and I’m sure you can find some time with them.
2) As for material: Choose a text that you’re excited about, that you can likely comprehend, and IS appropriate to the teacher (e.g. NOT an enumeration of characteristics of a suitable consort).
3) Show respect for their time and their situation by offering money early and often. You may not have a lot of money but they are likely to have less. To offer something (rather than nothing) shows consideration.
4) I have never had success studying Tibetan grammar with Tibetans themselves. They learn grammar by memorizing legs shad ljon dbang or something similar and even if they learn English are reticent to use western grammatical terms.
5) One more thought – choose something that is natively written in Tibetan and not in verse. The grammar will be clearer then.

Good luck!

Kurt Keutzer