You can participate in person or via Zoom (see below). Registration not required.
Geshe Tenley will lead us in an exploration of Tenets which explains the philosophical systems of the four main schools of Buddhist thought. These schools represent an increasingly subtle understanding of the Buddhist view of emptiness. He will teach this topic for sixteen weeks, four weeks for each of the schools, although not covering the text word by word.
We might ask, why do we need to study emptiness? Isn’t it enough to simply focus on developing love and compassion? According to Buddhism, this is a good beginning, but it is not enough. We cannot completely remove mental afflictions and all the problems they bring unless we uproot their source which is ignorance about the true nature of the mind and the world around us.
How do we recognize this ignorance and how do we remove it? We begin this process by learning basic explanations of the nature of reality as presented in Tenets. We start with the lowest school of thought as it is easiest to understand. Then step by step, we study increasingly accurate and subtle descriptions of how things really exist.
Moving through the four schools of Buddhist tenets, each one more profound than the previous one, we come closer to a correct perception of the nature of things. And we may see that our view of reality can be biased and incorrect, keeping us stuck in a cycle of dissatisfaction and suffering.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama advises that Buddhists should engage in three levels of practice – study, contemplation, and meditation. The study of tenets provides a strong foundation in study so that we can progress to a more direct understanding of emptiness gained through contemplation and meditation. This direct experience is what leads to profound changes in our life, especially when concern for others is kept close to our hearts.
The schools in order of complexity are:
1. Great Exposition School (Vaibashika)
2. Sutra School (Sautrantika)
3. Mind –Only School (Cittamatra)
4. Middle Way School (Madhyamika)
This week Geshe-la continues his commentary on the Middle Way or Madhyamaka School. The first several weeks will cover the Svatrantika Madhyamika (Middle Way Autonomy School), one of the two Middle Way sub-schools. The final weeks will explore the Prasangika Madhyamika (Middle Way Consequentialist School), considered the most accurate description of reality. There will also be opportunities for students to debate various points in the text as a way to explore nuances of various assertions and consolidate one's understanding of the differences between the schools' philosophical stances.
Without an explanation by a skilled teacher of what the Middle Way School represents, it is easy to fall into an extreme of nihilism or eternalism in exploration of this very subtle and nuanced world view. We are fortunate resident teacher Geshe Tenley will guide us through the Tenets text and answer our questions. Geshe-la advises that to prepare for the class “…read through the relevant section two or three times ahead of class and bring questions to class.” The Middle Way School is covered in pages 17 - 24 of the root text.
To aid in our studies of Tenets, attached is a chart summarizing the main points of each of the four schools. Tenets-At-A-Glance was created by class member Jennifer by extracting information from the root text.
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