The Ten Aspects of Knowledge and Buddhist Education

The Buddhist educational tradition of ancient India can be summarized as the study of the ten aspects, or ten major fields, of human knowledge. [These ten can be further reduced into five categories: valid cognition, language, healing, creative arts, and inner science of mind]. These studies formed the focus of the traditional study programs at the great Buddhist universities, such as Nalanda in India and the Samye and Dzogchen monasteries in Tibet. In the scriptures of Buddha Maitreya, it is said that without mastery of these aspects of knowledge, one cannot attain the omniscient wisdom of the Buddha.

While the ten aspects of knowledge are a great basic teaching in social cohesion and social science, at the same time, it is important to realize that the Buddhist view of social philosophy is based in the progression of individual development. This progression goes all the way up to liberating all sentient beings from their suffering and pain and developing these ten aspects of knowledge within them, rather than purely developing this in one’s own being or developing this only in certain institutions. But before we jump into that state, we have to know our own self, we have to recognize our own self. —Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

The ten Aspects of Knowledge provide the traditional framework for Buddhist education and form the basis of the present Nitartha curriculum, as well as its vision. They are comprised of two general groupings: ordinary and extraordinary (or advanced).

The Ordinary Aspects

1. Poetry—trains in the art of discovering one’s basic state of mind and cutting through blockages to express this state of mind in words or symbols.

2. Astrology—is the science of understanding one’s own character and the connection between that and the outer universe.

3. Terminology—or rhetoric science, is the science that works with the signs and methodology of language.

4. Dance and Theater—relates to understanding the relationship between states of mind and the movement of body and synchronizing them through mindfulness and awareness.

5. Name—is closely connected with the science of logic (below). Enables students to relate with reality as it is by clarifying the vagueness of conceptual imputation through precisely learning the various names
of things and their meaning.

The Extraordinary Aspects

6. Creative Arts—the science of sculpture, art, crafts, and the creation of physical things. In this science, prajna, or clear seeing, is honed to discipline the relationship and expand the communication between the inner and outer worlds.

7. Healing—based on the discipline and prajna of creativity, this science clarifies the interdependent link of body and mind and teaches how to synchronize them as an expression of health and healing.

8. Sound—the science of grammar and the philosophy of language. On a deeper level, this science seeks to understand and explore the subtleties of one’s relationship with the phenomenal world through the raw energy of sound and communication.

9. Logic—explores the depth of conceptual analysis as a remedy for confusion. Mastery of the science of logic—syllogism and the logical relations of concep- tual categories—brings mastery of clear thinking and clarification of doubt.

10. Inner Science—the science of insight or metaphysics. This science includes the insights and realizations of the buddha-dharma, in general, the practice of meditation, in particular, the recognition of selflessness, and the discovery of buddha nature.