The engagement of twice-monthly confession, the rainy season retreat ( Tib. yarne), and the closing of the retreat by a monastic community is the basis and foundation for the Buddha-Dharma existing in its pure form. Basically, the continuation of pure Buddha-Dharma solely depends on the monks’ communities which engage in the aforesaid retreats. Nowadays people have their own definition of the pure dharma according to their own capacities and dispositions, but in general the respect of the Vinaya’s precepts and good maintenance is unarguably mandatory!
During Yarne, all monastic communities, especially of the Geluk sect, here in South India, are busy engaging in numerous events. These include annual protector puja days, debate presentation of selected candidates during the assembly on their subjects, the Ven Abbot’s and Ven Disciplinarian’s speeches on monastic discipline in the traditional manner, recitation day of Ornament for Clear Realisation (Abhisamayalankara) and Treatise on the Middle Way (Madhyamakakarika) and so on. Apart from all that, the display of an oral test of major treatises by a monk who has razor-sharp memorisation skills is considered the most attractive of all. This unique presentation takes place during the monks’ assembly, followed by the debate presentation (two selected candidates debate each other). A monk who voluntarily comes forward to tackle such a monumental task is quite a rare case in the monasteries. This is because of the regular sessions that limit memorising opportunities and the necessity of extraordinary skill. Additionally, these days, the presence of modern education in the school makes it even harder, but a few have managed to do it so far who are endowed with the necessary skills in abundance. An oral test volunteer will be presented with an upper yellow robe and a set of general robes by the administration if he successfully passes the oral test without making mistakes.
In a session, three presentation events follow each other: 1) oral test presentation; 2) uma she rig geshe’s rite recitation and tantric debate test; and 3) debate presentation by the selected monks. A session’s period is well allocated as per necessity to all these three events, but the schedule is tight. Therefore, the oral test could not be done in a single session and thus is held each day of Yarne. The assembly oral test is mostly based on these treatises; The Essence of Eloquence on the Interpretive and Definitive Teachings, Root Treatise of Pramana-varttika, Root Treatise of Abhidharma-kośa, Root Treatise of Boddhisattva’s Way of Life, etc are the most common.
This year, Lobsang Namgyal, a 20 year old monk who was born in Nepal, accomplished this amazing feat of memorization by reciting the entire Root Treatise of Pramana-varttika (Commentary on Valid Perception), a 208 page text on Buddhist logic and reasoning. This classic text was written by Master Dharmakirti in the 7th century and is used as the foundation for the study of logic and epistemology in the Gelug tradition. This recitation is the culmination of months of rigorous training and preparation. Lobsang Namgyal has been a monk and students at Shar Gaden for four years and is currently studying in the second year of his philosophy and debate class.
We congratulate him on his achievement and applaud his noble efforts.
Last year, Thupten Gyatso and Dakpa Tsering, who both came from a poor backgrounds in Nepal and joined Shar Gaden in 2006, achieved this milestone that very few could achieve. Thupten recited The Essence of Eloquence on the Interpretive and Definitive Teachings, that has 232 pages and 20 long phrases per page, composed by the great master Je Tsonglhapa in Tibet, while Dakpa recited Root Treatise of Pramana-varttika, which has 208 pages, 28 phrases per page, composed by the great Indian philosopher Dharmakirti in 7th century. May the noble deeds of these astounding monks bring peace to the world.
Photos: 1) Lobsang Namgyal 2) Thupten Gyatso 3) Dakpa Sherab
Also during this retreat, our venerable abbot, Jetsun Lobsang Phende, is presenting the Annual Rainy Season Retreat Dharma Teachings. This year he is bestowing Teachings on the famous Dharma text, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, written by Kyabje Pabongkha Dorje Chang. He is also granting teachings on the practices of Yamantaka Solitary Hero, Vajrayogini, Chittamani Tara, as well as commentary on the philosophical text named Clear Explanation of the Middle Way by Je Tsongkhapa.