How the Institute is Academically Unique
In significant contrast to the traditional seats of learning mentioned above, which focus almost exclusively on Buddhist practice and scholarship, the students of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics (IBD) have always pursued wider educational goals. While following the Buddhist philosophy courses, students also take courses in Tibetan language, Tibetan grammar, Tibetan literature, Tibetan poetry and Tibetan religious and political history. Interested students can also study English and Chinese.
Tradition of Debate
The traditional practice of debate is the principal method for the study and analysis of philosophical subjects at the IBD. Dialectics is indispensable for refuting mistaken notions, for negating the challenge of others’ false reasons and for presenting the correct view. In this way it helps us establish the essential meaning of the text under consideration.
PROGRAMS OF STUDY
The full course of study at the Institute progresses through 16 years of Buddhist Philosophy courses that, if completed successfully to their fullest degree, result in a Geshe degree, which is the equivalent of a Ph.D. in Tantric Studies. At the IBD, students can undertake the following programs, in order:
Prajnaparamita Seven-Year Program: B.A. Level
When students enter the full-time program, they undertake courses that lay out basic Buddhist concepts and provide training in basic debate techniques. Courses include the study of Collected Topics (Dudra), Mind and Awareness (Lorig), Buddhist Logic (Tarig), and Tenets (Druptha). Students study for 1 to 2 years according to their capabilities. After mastering the basic concepts, students pursue an extensive study of two texts, the Prajnaparamita (Perfection of Wisdom) and the first chapter of Pramanavartika (Valid Cognition). After passing the final year written and debate examinations, students receive the certificate of Master of Prajnaparamita Buddhist Philosophy, which is equivalent to a B.A. degree.
Madyamika Three-Year Program: M.A. Level
Those students who have mastered Prajnaparamita Buddhist Philosopy are then eligible to join a three-year course studying Madhyamaka, and the second chapter of Pramanavartika. Upon successful completion of this course of study, students are awarded a Madyamika Buddhism degree, equivalent to the M.A.
Rime Lopon Four-Year Program: M.Phil. Level
Next is the four-year program comprising courses in Abhidharma (Higher Knowledge), Uttaratantra (Gyudlama) and Vinaya (Monastic Discipline), together with intensive study of important texts of the Nyingma, Sakya, and Kagyud traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, leading to a Master of Buddhist Philosophy degree, equivalent to an M. Phil. Students are required to present a thesis of at least 50 pages on a Buddhist topic, which is checked and marked by a minimum of three external scholarly examiners.
View the texts studied in the Rime Lopon course >>
Tantra Two-Year Program: Ph.D Level
The senior students who wish to pursue advanced subjects beyond the Rime Lopon program can be admitted to the final two-year intensive and extensive program of Tantric studies. These studies match the philosophical and academic rigor of the three great Gelugpa monastic universities of Sera, Ganden and Drepung, as well as those of the two noted Gelugpa tantric monasteries of Gyuto and Gyumey. After successfully passing the final examination in the Tantra Program a student is awarded the title of Geshe (for men) or Geshema (for women), which is the equivalent to a Ph.D. degree.
View the texts studied in the Tantra course >>
Degree Certification on Completion of the Programs
Graduates of these programs receive credentials in the form of certificates for degrees signed by the Principle Secretary to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Chairman of the Institute’s Examination Board, and the Director of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. The degrees are for the following:
- Master of Prajnaparamita Buddhist Philosophy (equivalent to B.A.)
- Master of Madhyamika Buddhist Philosophy (equivalent to M.A.)
- Great Master of Buddhist Philosophy (equivalent to M.Phil.)
- Rime Geshe (equivalent to Ph.D.)
- For proper admission to the Institute, a student either needs to have passed at least a class 10 examination, or to pass the entrance test.
- The age limit for Tibetans and students from Himalayan regions for getting admission to the Institute should be between 15 to 25 years of age while the age for foreigners is somewhat flexible.
- As all the philosophical subjects are taught only in Tibetan language, a student must have fluent is speaking, reading and writing Tibetan language for getting admission.
Due to a shortage of classrooms, accommodations, and funds, the Institute is only able to open a new class in Buddhist philosophy every two or three years. For each new class the Institute admits 30 to 40 students, including a maximum of 10 foreigners, and with a preference for more monks and nuns to lay people.
Further Academic Requirements
As part of their study and training program, full-time students at the Institute are expected to receive teachings, initiations, empowerments, and oral transmissions, to hold the original lineage from generation to generation. The students must also attend lectures from visiting scholars, religious practitioners, experienced meditators, scientists, environmentalists, social workers, medical doctors, historians, political leaders, administrators, principals and teachers of universities, colleges and famous schools.
Degrees issued by the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics are recognized by reputed universities in the United States and Europe and of course in Tibetan society in exile. They have also been the basis for enrolling in various academic courses and for obtaining jobs in governmental and non-governmental institutions.
Buddhist Philosophy Courses in English
The Institute offers Buddhist philosophy courses in English for non-Tibetan speakers, taught by Geshema Kelsang Wangmo (a Western nun), who is the first female in the history of Tibetan Buddhism to receive the Geshema degree equivalent to a Ph.D. The courses are held three months in the Spring and for one to two months in the Autumn.
If a student is unable to attend course in person, he/she can follow the classes online. See more about these courses here >>
Buddhist Courses for the Public
Since about 2007, the IBD has also offered Buddhist courses for the Tibetan general public at the IBD Prayer Hall, on Saturdays and Sundays every week, except during the three-month winter break.
Debate Classes for Tibetan Children’s Village Students
Upon the request of the Office of the Tibetan Children’s Village at Dharamsala, senior monk students of the Institute go to teach traditional Buddhist debate to senior students of the TCV school.
Opportunities for B.A. and M.A. Degrees
In addition to the IBD programs, students have the opportunity to undertake B.A. and M.A. degrees through correspondence courses with Indian universities.