Dharamshala — The spirittual leader of Tibet His Holiness the Dalai Lama, attended a traditional winter debate on Buddhist logic on October 31, 2015 during the 20th annual Jang Gonchoe debate session in Dharamshala, India.
Over 30 nuns from seven Tibetan nunneries, gathered at the main temple in Dharamshala and gave a special debate presentation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This year's annual inter-nunnery debates are hosted by Geden Choeling, the oldest Tibetan nunnery in Dharamshala.
His Holiness spoke at some length about the importance of reason and understanding in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
He mentioned that in Tibet, Buddhism spread throughout the country, but most people simply followed what had become customary on the basis of blind faith.
"This is the 21st century and we need to understand the Buddha's teachings in the light of reason. When we teach, we need to do so on the basis of reason. I've met followers of the Pali tradition, monks from Thailand who are scrupulous in their observance of Vinaya.
"I asked them whether they explain the Four Noble Truths according to reason or citing scriptural authority. They answered that they rely on the authority of scripture.
"All Buddhist schools of thought teach selflessness to some degree. For example it is explained in the Abhidharma, but the explanation is not very precise. On the other hand, the explanations found in the Madhyamaka texts following Nagarjuna are very thorough and clear.
Buddhist scholars in India such as Dharmakirti and Shantarakshita faced challenges from non-Buddhist scholars. The result was that their knowledge deepened and enriched."
"Nowadays, the Nalanda tradition of approaching the Buddha's teachings with logic and reason is only found amongst Tibetans. It's something precious we can be proud of and should strive to preserve."
His Holiness went on to say that in the course of his 30 year dialogue with scientists, they have come to appreciate Buddhism's logical approach and its rich understanding of psychology.
He pointed out that Tibetans do not need to learn Chinese, Hindi or English to discover this because it is available to them in the Kangyur and Tengyur that are already translated into Tibetan.
He spoke about encouraging monasteries, such as Namgyal Monastery, that formerly paid attention mostly to rituals to study philosophy. He mentioned urging nuns likewise to study and recalled teaching the 'Ornament for Clear Realizations' at Geden Choeling as a way of making a propitious start. Noting again that there are nuns on the verge of becoming Geshemas, he congratulated them.
In a brief teaching that followed, His Holiness first cited what he had written in the colophon of 'Illuminating the Threefold Faith: Invoking the Seventeen Great Wise Adepts of Glorious Nalanda'.
"At the present time, in the ordinary world there is great advancement in the fields of science and technology. However, since we are distracted by the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, it is extremely important that those of us who follow the Buddha should have faith based on an understanding of his teaching. Therefore, we should examine it with an unbiased and inquisitive mind, analyzing it closely."
He explained how, with this in mind, he had added nine masters of Nalanda to the eight traditionally referred to as the Six Ornaments and Two Supremes. Each of them had composed works that wished to encourage others to read.
He said that what distinguished the Nalanda masters was not only that they employed reason and logic, but that they also applied what they learned to understanding their own minds.
He then read through the verses praising masters from Nagarjuna to Atisha, adding remarks on the way. He reserved particular appreciation for Shantarakshita who established the Nalanda tradition in Tibet.
His Holiness advised those present to visualize the Buddha before them surrounded by the masters of Nalanda and others.
He then led a short ceremony for generating the awakening mind based on the well-known four line verse for taking refuge in the Three Jewels and generating the awakening mind. He concluded saying:
"Since we have Buddha nature we can achieve the Dharma Jewel within ourselves and so become a Sangha Jewel. And if we can help others, we should do so."
The Jang Gonchoe debate that began in 1995 and became an annual month-long inter-nunnery debating session— dedicated specifically to higher education for Tibetan Buddhist nuns in different nunneries in India and Nepal.