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 condensed 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 one cannot attain the omniscient wisdom of the Buddha without mastery of these aspects of knowledge.

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 on the progression of individual development. This progression goes all the way up to liberating all sentient beings from their suffering and pain. But before we jump into liberating other beings, we have to know our own self, to recognize our own self.

The ten aspects of knowledge provide the traditional framework for Buddhist education and form the basis of the Nitartha curriculum and its vision. They are grouped into two general categories: the ordinary and extraordinary (or advanced) aspects.

The Ordinary Aspects

  1. Poetry trains in the art of discovering one’s basic state of mind and cutting through blockages to expressing 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 (described below). This 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

  1. Creative Arts is the science of sculpture, art, crafts, and the creation of physical things. In this science, prajna (clear seeing) is honed to discipline the relationship between the inner and outer worlds and expand the communication between them.
  2. Healing is based on the discipline and prajna of creativity. This science clarifies the interdependent connection between body and mind and teaches how to synchronize them as an expression of health and healing.
  3. Sound is 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.
  4. Logic explores the depth of conceptual analysis as a remedy for confusion. Clear thinking is accomplished and doubt is clarified by mastering the science of logic—syllogism and the logical relations among conceptual categories.
  5. Inner Science refers to the science of insight, or metaphysics. This includes the insights and realizations of the buddhadharma in general, the practice of meditation in particular, the recognition of selflessness, and the discovery of buddha nature.