The Institute of Buddhist Dialectics (IBD) was founded in 1973 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who appointed Gen Lobsang Gyatso, as the director.
During the 1960s and 70s, Tibetan monk teachers in Tibetan refugee schools in India provided a good example in terms of wisdom and moral character to their students. Inspired by that example, a number of students from these schools decided to become monks, but because they had already received the foundations of a modern education they were not drawn to entering a traditional Tibetan monastery to pursue an education that was solely traditional and religious. Once they had graduated from school, these monks did not find opportunities to pursue the blend of religious and modern education they were inclined towards and many of them eventually left ordained life.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama Establishes the School with Gen Lobsang Gyatso
This unfortunate situation was reported to His Holiness the Dalai Lama by the late Gen Lobsang Gyatso, who was then a religious teacher at the Central School for Tibetans in Mussoorie in northern India. At this time there was also a great need to preserve and promote Tibet’s unique religion, culture and language, not only for the welfare of Tibetans inside and outside Tibet, but also for the cause of world peace. Accordingly, His Holiness the Dalai Lama founded the School of Buddhist Dialectics — now the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics — in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, on his birthday, July 6, 1973. His Holiness appointed Ven. Lobsang Gyatso as the director of the newly established school. Gen Lobsang Gyatso was a strong supporter of His Holiness, a profound and fearless writer and great thinker, as well as being a skilled teacher and practitioner of multiple aspects of Buddhism.
Challenges of the First Class
Twenty-three Tibetan monks, who had graduated from schools in different parts of northern India, and six foreigners, formed the first group of students. In the beginning, the Institute faced tremendous financial and housing problems; its prospects of survival were dim. However, as the first students achieved excellent academic results, new students began to be admitted every two or three years.
Building a Powerful Traditional Program
The first courses focused on Collected Topics (Dudra), Mind and Awareness (Lorig), Signs and Reasoning (Tarig), Tenets (Druptha), Perfection of Wisdom (Pranjnaparamita) and the first chapter of Valid Cognition (Pramanavartika) In 1981 classes in the Middle Way Path (Madyamika) and the second chapter of Valid Cognition(Pramanavartika) were added.
In 1979 the main housing block was added and another nineteen students were admitted to the program. Again in 1983 another batch of nineteen students were enrolled, and in 1986 twenty-four more.
Advancing from a School to an Institute
By 1986, the educational standard of the school had gone beyond that of a “school,” and it was decided to change the name from the “Buddhist School of Dialectics” (Tsenyi Lobtra) to the “Institute of Buddhist Dialectics” (Riglam Lobnyirkhang).
In that same year the Institute extended its program of higher Buddhist learning with classes on Higher Knowledge (Abidarma) and Discipline (Vinaya). In a non-sectarian departure from the previously mainly Gelugpa-oriented curriculum, the Institute implemented introductory courses on classic texts of the three other major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism: the Nyingma, Kagyud and Sakya Schools.
Developing a Unique Curriculum
In significant contrast to the traditional seats of learning mentioned above, which focus almost exclusively on Buddhist practice and scholarship, the students of IBD pursue broad educational goals, including the extensive study of Tibetan language and literature, foreign languages, rites and rituals, poetry, religious and political history, science, and other elements of a modern liberal education. The unique curriculum began to be instituted in the 1990s.
The first new development in the IBD’s educational activities occurred in 1991 when twelve students, mainly recent arrivals from Tibet, were admitted to the Institute’s first dedicated Tibetan language teacher training course. Following this successful diversification away from the core focus on advanced Buddhist Philosophy, both short intensive and full-length courses in Tibetan language and culture were instituted.
The demand for higher education in these subjects continued to grow, not least because of the steady arrival in India of large numbers of young people escaping the harsh restrictions in Tibet in quest of education. More and more prospective students from the Tibetan communities in Tibet and in exile, and from the West, sought admission, but unfortunately could not be admitted initially due to a lack of space.
Creating the College for Higher Tibetan Studies at Sarah
In order to resolve the problem His Holiness the Dalai Lama suggested that the Institute should look for some land in the local area suitable for use for expansion. By great good fortune, a four-acre plot was found for sale near the local village of Sarah. In 1992 the Institute bought the land, in a beautiful countryside location which was isolated from any busy town life and conducive to study and meditation. Over the years a major branch of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics has developed on this site, and now flourishes as The College for Higher Tibetan Studies at Sarah (CHTS). Click here to learn more about the CHTS.
Establishment of the IBD Charter
In view of the IBD and the CHTS’s increasingly complex activities, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave timely advice about the need for a charter to cover both institutes. The present charter was written and adopted in 2003. Amendments to the charter are adopted by a resolution of the Board of Governors. In addition to this charter, the IBD and the CHTS have their own separate constitutions according to their needs. The IBD Charter, as the governing document, is dominant over both constitutions. See more about IBD Leadership here.
Introducing more Advanced Studies: the Tantra Study Program
The Institute continues to advance and grow. In 2005, the Institute introduced a Tantra study program. This meant that students could not only appear for the Geshe degree, their studies having matched the philosophical and academic rigor of the three great Gelugpa monastic universities of Sera, Ganden and Drepung, but also that they were qualified at a level equal to graduates of the two noted Gelugpa tantric monasteries of Gyuto and Gyumey.
IBD Today: The Institute at a Glance
As we write this in August 2015, we have 130 regular students on track to take examinations and receive certifications. In addition there are fifteen day scholars who attend classes but will not sit for exams. Of the 130 regular students, about 35 are foreign students and the remaining 95 students are Tibetan or from other Himalayan regions. From 130 regular students, 95 are monks, 20 are nuns and 15 are lay students. These numbers change from year to year.