Education in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition

In the first post in a series on current and past masters who speak from within the Indian tradition, I thought of starting with Samdhong Rinpocheji. The small reason is that I was listening to a YouTube lecture by him today and the more substantial reason is that Pawanji (who I consider one of my Gurus) considers him one of his Gurus. I thought that the format for these posts could be:

  1. A link to a video or text by the master.
  2. A summary or interesting extract from the video or text to start a conversation.
  3. A few words about the master.
  4. Links for further viewing or reading.

So here goes…

A (longish) summary of the main ideas in the talk is given below:

  • Objective of shiksha is to dispel ignorance and awaken wisdom
  • Learning, teaching, arguments, debates, reading etc are all tools towards above
  • The guru word is not used and Kalyanmitra is used in the Buddhist tradition. It assumes a peer relationship and approachability

Three types of purush:
adam, madhyam and uttam purush – need different levels of shiksha

Kalyanmitra’s requirements/ tasks:

  1. Dispel fear from the student. Remove ‘i cannot do this’ from the student.
  2. Imparting teaching.
  3. Remove difficulties of student.

Students qualifications/ requirements:

  1. Non-biased mind
  2. Intelligence
  3. Willingness to learn, Inquisitiveness

Kalyanmitra-vidyarthi relationship is very important and very secret. Based on a common agreement/ determination to work towards the awakening of wisdom in the student.

Kalyanmitra wisdom cannot be transferred directly to the student. No shaktipath possible. The metaphor used is a lit candle lighting an unlit one (no transfer of material from lit). So the awakened Kalyanmitra through dialogue, teaching etc. inspires manifestation of awakening in student.

Shiksha process. Threefold:

  1. Sheel
  2. Samadhi
  3. Pragya
    The above required to various degrees from learning the simplest tasks to achieving Buddhahood. At lowest level we need discipline, concentration and knowledge to even learn to write the letter ‘ka’.

How to do the process. Three ways:

  1. Shrutpragya – hearing and reading (knowledge)
  2. Chintan-pragya – thinking, analysis, examination (verification)
  3. Bhavanamayi pragya – 2 types contemplative/ concentration (experience)

Four skillful methods adopted by the Kalyanmitra:

  1. Take care of all needs of student (food, cloth, book, teaching etc.).
  2. Skillful conversation.
  3. Observe his or her own behavior. Live the teaching. Be an example.
  4. Wisdom to understand likes/ dislikes of student and to tailor the teaching accordingly.

About Rinpocheji (written by Pawanji):

Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, who makes a sharp distinction between shiksha and education, is a very senior buddhist monk, extremely erudite, a scholar, but more than that a person with deep wisdom, insights and endowed with an original mind. He has a very deep understanding of tradition and modernity and is able to live in the modern world with all its contradictions and strife without letting it affect him. He single handedly built the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath. He was its founding Director and later retired from there as the Vice Chancellor. He was chairman of Association of Indian Universities, perhaps the only person ever to head this body who did not come from a formal educational background. He later became the speaker of the parliament of the Tibetan Government in Exile and later its first elected Prime minister.

Links for further study:
Rinpocheji’s website: https://samdhongrinpoche.com/en/

Pawanji talking about Rinpocheji on YouTube

SIDH-Asli Shiksha Vision

Namaste, friends! Recently, we were forced to review what initiatives are going on at SIDH and Asli Shiksha. With an online course that participants have liked, a monthly Charcha with Udhbhavaha school, book publishing and all the other ideas that are in the pipeline, it looked like a confusing mix of things. It was only when we started looking a little more closely that the patterns began to reveal themselves. Now, to us, it seems like we are doing many things and they fit together rather well. Take a look and see for yourselves…

What is our goal:

To work towards restoring the swatantrata and sahajta of our people by:
– Drawing their attention to our civilizational groundings
– Correcting the narrative about the sense of our past
– Countering the challenges posed by modernity in this work

Our target audience:
All Indians of age 15 and above.

Our strategy to move towards the goal: (some of it already happening and some to happen when we have the money for it)

Courses and workshops:
There are 3 levels of courses envisaged:
Level 1: Mass market online courses in local languages.
Level 2: Intermediate level online courses of around 1 month duration.
Level 3: Advanced level online courses of 2 months duration and 5-7 day meetings (At the SIDH campus at Kempty or other suitable location)

Alternative learning spaces and teacher orientation:
Pawanji and I already mentor the alternative learning space, Udhbhavaha, in Bangalore. Other initiatives like Udhbhava will be started. The teachers from these learning spaces will work on teacher orientation for new learning spaces.

Research:
Includes 2 broad themes:
a. Challenging the false narratives about us.
b. Building the narratives that strengthen us.
… through primary field research, re-purposing existing material and dissemination of research results.

Publications:

Distribution of existing publications:
– 40 books in Hindi and English.
– Quarterly journal Raibar.
Publishing and distributing new (or out of print) publications:
– Asli Shiksha series of books.
– Series from new research.

Community building:
The people who read our books, join the courses and workshops etc. are our main community. We are planning to hold them together by weekly blog posts, monthly zoom calls, physical meetings in different cities and retreats at SIDH, Kempty etc.

Add your comments and let us know what you think…