Week 10

Week 10: Exoteric Scholasticism and the Cult of Reason


While the explosive rise of tantric practices, literature, communities and art in many ways define the Renaissance period, at the same time the basis was being laid for centuries of scholastic study and practice focused on Indian Buddhist exoteric traditions. Sūtra and tantra came to be a very strict point of differentiation in Tibet, and was used as a bibliographical category in the Tibetan Buddhist canon of the Kangyur and Tengyur as well as other literary compilations, was the explicit poles of comparison in doctrinal and practical works, and in general constituted one of the main challenges of reconciliation for Tibetans in terms of divergent paradigms for doctrine, practice, ethics, institutions and much else. This week takes a more systematic look at just what constituted those exoteric traditions and their historical development during the Renaissance. What are the dominant exoteric traditions for Tibet during this time period? What are their respective characteristics and profiles within Tibet?

In addition, we will look at the resurgence of scholasticism during this time period as supported by newly established monastic institutions all across the plateau. While scholasticism was a phenomena that applied to both sūtra-based and tantra-based traditions, it was particularly dominant among the former, and in general exoteric paradigms tended to govern scholastic writing even when applied to tantric literature. What is a scholastic category? What are its particular traits in Tibet? What are its community settings? Are there various distinctive forms of scholasticism in Tibet, and if there are, what are they?

Finally, and more broadly speaking, what is the social appeal or charisma of reason during this time period? How does it relate to other religious sources of charisma? Why did patrons and the populace find reason - its proponents, masters, practice, texts, and institutions - compelling?

Required Readings

Blue Annals Fragment #6: A Section on ?? together with their lineages – The Development of the Middle Way, Epistemology, Maitreya’s Doctrines and other (exoteric) traditions; Dum bu #6 (399-425): rngog lo pa tshab brgyud pa dang bcas pa dang, dbu tshad byams chos sogs ji ltar byung ba'i skabs

Kapstein, Matthew (2000). The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation and Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • external link: Chapter 6 - What is "Tibetan Scholasticism"? Three Ways of Thought (85-120)
  • Review "The Charisma of Reason (54-56) from external link: Chapter 4

Kevin Vose, external link: Chapter two of his dissertation in draft, “Tibetan Textual Communities and the Prāsaṅgika Movement”. About 40 pages.

Leonard W.J. Van der Kuijp. external link: A treatise on Buddhist Epistemology and Logic Attributed to Klong chen Rab 'byams pa (1308–1364) and its Place in Indo-Tibetan Intellectual History. Journal of Indian Philosophy, Volume 31, Number 4 (August 2003), pp. 381-437. This provides an excellent introduction to the different trends and figures in early tshad ma scholarship in Tibet. His investigation into the authorship of a recent epistemological book published and attributed to the 14th century Longchenpa becomes the context for discussing early tshad ma while he concludes the text is actually much earlier and prior to Sakya pandita.

Cabezón, José. Editor, external link: Scholasticism in Cross-Cultural and Comparative Perspective. Albany: SUNY Press, 1998. Editor's introduction. Pp. 1-17, but only 12 pages of text; Conclusion pp 237-250.

Also see Cabezon's Buddhism and language piece. external link: Download here.

Additional Bibliographical Resources

  1. Additional Bibliography - Tibetan/Buddhist studies Week 10
  2. Additional Bibliography - Theoretical Week 10

Weekly Student Generated Content

Discussion Questions