Mind and Its World I–IV
These four classes can be described in terms of three mutually supportive disciplines in the Tibetan tradition: Collected Topics (Tib. düdra), Classification of Mind (Tib. lorik), and the Tenet Systems. Broadly speaking, in Western terminology, these correspond to:
- Phenomenology, which is a description of the world as we experience it, primarily refers to the objective side of experience. This aspect of the curriculum involves the study of “Collected Topics,” which is based on the Abhidharma (“Higher Teachings”) of India.
- Epistemology, which is an analysis of how we know, is a systematic investigation of the types of mind that arise through knowing and experiencing ourselves and the world. This primarily refers to the subjective side of experience. This aspect of the curriculum primarily involves the study of the “Classifications of Mind” (Lorik in Tibetan), as well as “Classifications of Reasons” (Tarik in Tibetan). It is based on the Pramana, or “Valid Cognition,” tradition of India.
- Ontology presents systematic assertions with regard to what is real within the subjective and objective sides of our experience, both ultimately and conventionally, as well as with regard to what is completely unreal and non-existent, such as a permanent self. This aspect of the Foundation curriculum involves the study of the Philosophical Systems (Thrumtha) literature from the Vaibhashika and Sautrantika schools. (In addition to ontology, texts on the philosophical systems generally include a range of teachings, such as virtuous conduct, the stages of realization on the path, the fruition of the path, and so on.)
As you can see from the descriptions above, these three disciplines — Collected Topics, Classifications of Mind, and the Tenet Systems — are closely related. Collected Topics describes experience, particularly of the external world. Classifications of Mind describe the types of mind that have that experience. And Tenet Systems clarifies which of our experiences are true.
BUD 502 Clear Thinking (Introduction to Debate)
This course focuses on teaching students the basic forms of Tibetan-style logic and debate, (conducted in English). The intent of this from of debate is to sharpen and deepen one’s understanding in a dialogue style for the mutual benefit of both debate partners. Learning basic debate lays a useful foundation that can be helpful throughout one’s Buddhist journey. Logical reasonings often show up in a wide range of texts, even in tantric texts, so it is extremely beneficial for students to learn the debate format.
Clear Thinking is closely related to the Mind and Its World courses, and especially draws from Collected Topics, the subject that one traditionally begins with in debate. However, we find that students develop greater understanding when they are also studying the Classifications of Mind and Philosophical Systems texts at this stage.
Two forms of debate are used at Nitartha:
- formal Tibetan-style debate and
- what we refer to as Indian-style debate, which is less formal.
We ask students to learn and use both forms of debate through the first two sessions of the curriculum. After that, students can choose to work with one or the other, or with both forms. Whatever the case may be, students will continue to use these forms to probe the course material throughout the Foundation and Advanced courses. Open-ended discussion groups are also used to help students explore the material.
BUD 502 Clear Thinking is a foundational course for progressing through the Nitartha curriculum and is a pre-requisite for higher level debate courses (BUD 540, BUD 553, …).