An Astounding Scene of Contemplation

The scholarly system of the Five Great Treatises was first established by Master Khedrup-Je (1385-1438 A.D.)and has been passed down through the lineage until today

The powerful debates that shook the Three Worlds.

The resonant sound of the Manjusri Bodhisattva mantra seed syllable, together with the sound of handclaps, broke through the tension in the examination hall. In that moment, the breath withholding silence and gaze, translated into intense focus of and attention on listening. The sitting defender, also the one who established the view for debate, four seniors from the topmost class who have completed the Five Great Treatises curriculum, the other remaining candidates, and sangha, all surrounded the hall. This day, was the debate examination for the Sangha at the GEBIS.

Recalling back then, when Shakyamuni Buddha exhibited supernatural power to subdue the six heretic leaders; when the great Master Atisha (980-1054 A.D.) seated on a golden throne refuting all the erroneous conceptions of the teachings; when Master Xuan Zang (602-664 A.D.) after giving a lecture at Kanyakubja, for 18 days he waited, and no one dared counter debate with him, thus his fame spread widely since; and when Je Rinpoche (1357-1419 A.D.), with a heart as vast as the ocean, visited many renowned temples, listened to discourses, engaging in debates, as such, the study through listening and contemplating the teachings were once again practised widely throughout “The Land of Snow”.   In the same way the Five Great Treatises education system was first established by Master Khedrup-je, it continued its tradition to this day. Among which, the debate final examination system in Sangha at the GEBIS Community has gradually become more and more well-developed and complete. 

 

Every year after the completion of the study, in accordance to the traditional practice, the final examination will be carried out starting with the most senior class, down to the most junior class sequentially. This year (2017), the Monastery in Taiwan has commenced half-month long examinations for the beginner and intermediate “Ornament of Clear Realisation” classes, and the “Dialectic Studies” Classes. Every practicing sangha member, in the presence of the entire class, a panel of four examiners, the witnessing audience, which came to about hundreds of people, had to continuously ask questions that were related to the content of their studies in that year for 15 minutes. Thereafter, they would enter into a 15-minute debate session with a classmate, who would then be the one to raise questions. 

 

Motivation varies amongst them.  Some find it a good way in mind-training to tackle such challenge.  Some intend to repay those kind efforts from the restless teachers who have imparted the teachings.  As they aspire to uphold the high standard of learning in the Monastery, many buddhist monks have taken this exam very seriously and started their preparation at least two to three months ahead.  The scriptures were memorized and reviewed repeatedly and thoroughly.  Every question was reflected thoroughly from different perspectives, holding frequent consultation and discussion with the seniors; having debate practices time and again to uncover one’s blind spots. Frequent references were made to the Sutras and Commentaries, to search amidst its vastness, for the treasures in the Sages’ words of wisdom, thus filling one’s mind with the beauty from conquering one pinnacle to the next. Like what the young Buddhist monk Venerable Xing Huan said, “Although pre-examination nerves are evident, I felt I have in fact learnt a great deal during the process of intense preparation.  The joy from this reward is indescribable!” 

 

As the debate session intensified, loud handclaps and feet-stamping filled the air.  In the fervent exchange of words of reasoning between both teams, it encapsulated the ultimate fruition of wisdom, possibly attained from years of many individuals’ hard work, thereby providing a collective vast offering to all Buddhas and Boddhisattvas.

 

The emphasis was not on the outcome, but on pushing one’s limits to overcome one’s very own weakness each time, in preparation for the very final battle with Lord of Death, crushing it with pride and dignity. While victory and loss are only momentary, it is hoped that the strong desire to continue our pursuits of true Dharma teaching will persevere joyously and ceaselessly through the course of the debate and recitation of the sutras by heart. May all lineage teachers be pleased, and be deeply mindful of this debate event.  May all sentient beings be free from sufferings and afflictions.