Buddhist Philosophy Class I

Teacher: Geshe Monlam Sangpo
Time: MON - SAT : 9:00 am to 10:00 am
Translator: Acharya Sonam Gyatso, Tsering Norbu and Phurbu Dolma

Buddhist Philosophy Class I

Date: March 19—April 29
Text: His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s Opening the Eye of New Awareness (Legs bshad blo gsar mig ‘byed)

An Overview of Buddhist Theory and Practice

With an intention to benefit those individuals who do not have the time to study the great texts, His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama wrote Opening the Eye of New Awareness four years after his arrival in India as a political refugee. The text is truly the most appropriate for students who desire to gain an overview of Buddhism in general and Tibetan Buddhism in particular. The text contains ten chapters, all with relevant and important messages concerning our daily life and prospects of spiritual endeavor. Through this text, His Holiness explains the need for spiritual practice in our modern time, the ultimate and conventional truths, how the teachings of Buddha are included in the Three Scriptural Collections, training in special ethics, training in meditative stabilization, training in special insight, the manner in which one should proceed on the path of the Greater and Lesser vehicles in dependence upon the Three Higher Trainings, an introduction to the Secret Mantra Great Vehicle and the nature of buddhahood. His Holiness concludes the text with a brief introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, with a clear explanation of the link between Indian Mahayana Buddhism and the Buddhism of Tibet.

Date: April 30—May 20
Text: Yeshe Tsondu's The Essence of Nectar (Lam rim bdud rtzi snying po)

The Essence of Nectar, an extensive prayer written by an incarnate lama of the Gelug tradition, is a poetic supplement to Je Tsongkhapa's Great Exposition of the Graded Path to Enlightenment. Such teachings were promulgated by the Buddha Shakyamuni in the 5th century BC and subsequently transmitted through a succession of realized Indian and Tibetan masters. In this work, Yeshe Tsondu eloquently synthesizes all the cogent points of the progressive meditations leading to the awakening of a buddha: the complete eradication of suffering and the attainment of all wholesome spiritual qualities. In the process, he draws examples from various facets of life in order that one may enrich one’s meditations on the graded path and easily apply the practices to the development of one’s thought and conduct.

Date: May 21—July 15
Text: Gen Lamrimpa’s Blaze of Quotations and Logic: A Lamp Illuminating the Significance of the Four Seals of the Buddha’s Teachings (lTa ba bka' rtags kyi phyag rgya bzhi'i gnad don gsal ba'i sgron me lung rigs 'od 'bar)

Buddhist philosophy is distinguished by four characteristics, or “seals”. These four characteristics are called “the Four Seals of Dharma”. They are: all compounded things are impermanent, all contaminated phenomena are suffering, all phenomena are empty of inherent existence and nirvana is peace. They are taught in great detail using scriptural quotations and logic in this text.

Date: July 16—August 26
Text: Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend (Suhrllekha, bShes pa’i springs yig)

Existing in the form of an epistle to his friend, variously known as Gautamiputra or Surabhibhadra, who was a monarch of the Satavahana dynasty that ruled over the Andhra country between the first century BC and the second century AD, this text explains the means of integrating spiritual teaching into our daily life. Although Nagarjuna specifically taught how to skillfully conduct kingly affairs in 123 verses, the text serves as a general advice to all lay practitioners. In simple and succinct language, the text inspires lay practitioners, even those at the initial stage of practice, to assimilate the profound views and transcendental practices of the buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Date: August 27—September 30
Text: Geshe Chekhawa’s Seven-point Mind Training (Blo sbyong don bdun ma)

Lojong is the mind training instructions of the Kadampa masters. The practice mainly concerns the training of the mind to overcome the two afflicted attitudes of self-grasping and self-cherishing. Lojong also guides us in the two-fold practice of equalizing and exchanging oneself with others. It also teaches us how to give our happiness to others and take others’ suffering. The teaching shall be based on Seven-point Mind Training composed by the revered Geshe Chekhawa during the twelfth century.

Date: October 1—November 4
Text:   Kamalashila’s Middling Stages of Meditation (Bhavanakrama, Part ll, sGom rim bar pa)

This famous work on the Buddhist practice of meditation results from the historic debate between the author Kamalashila and Hvashang Mahayana held at Samye Monastery during the reign of King Trisong Deutsen. When the former defeated the latter through his insightful presentation of the steps to enlightenment, the king decreed that his views be published and followed by all ordained and lay practitioners alike. Based on the second part of the text, the course will highlight various points on meditations such as calm abiding (shamatha) and special insight (vipashyana).

Date: November 5—December 31
Text: Zatrul Ngawang Tenzin Norbu's The Excellent Vase of Ambrosia: A Commentary on the Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas Integrating Source Texts and Instruction(rGyal sras lag len so bdun gyi 'grel pa gzhung dang gdams ngag zung 'jug bdud rti'i bum bzang)

This text highlights thirty-seven effective ways of engaging in the bodhisattva practice of positively conditioning one’s own mind and benefiting other sentient beings through actualizing Buddhahood. It presents the noblest of paths, which all buddhas of the three times have travelled to reach the state of perfect peace and happiness. In simple and straightforward language, the teaching aims at eradicating all obstacles and defilements for the accomplishment of the two-fold accumulations of merit and wisdom, while engaging in various bodhisattva practices.


Sonam GyatsoAcharya Sonam Gyatso holds an Acharya degree in Tibetan studies and Buddhist philosophy from the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. He joined the LTWA in 2005.
Tsering Norbu
Tsering Norbu holds an Uma Rabjampa degree (equivalent to MA degree) in Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan studies from the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, Dharamsala. He joined the LTWA in 2010.
Phurbu Dolma
Phurbu Dolma holds a Bachelor’s degree in Tibetan studies from the College for Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarah and a Bachelor’s degree from Delhi University. She joined the Research and Translation Department of the LTWA in the summer of 2012.