Main Course of Education
The main course of education covers the above subjects. Slight differences occur in each of the Gelug monastic colleges concerning, for instance, when the Chittamatra section of interpretable and definitive meanings is studied. There are also differences concerning when students must present formal debates (dam-bca’) before their assembled college to mark completion of certain portions of the study. Here, we shall present the form followed by Ganden Jangtse College.
Since the reforms of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama in exile in India, all monastics must complete eight years of primary school education in common with lay children. They need to study Tibetan, English, Hindi, mathematics, social studies, and science. Each college has its own primary school for this purpose.
As part of the curriculum of the fourth through eighth grades, the children cover the three preliminary subjects required for the formal monastic education. During the fifth grade, they study collected topics (bsdus-grva, dura), which deals with set theory and logical pervasions. They learn the fundamentals for debate. During the fifth grade, they study ways of knowing (blo-rig, lorig), which deals with valid and invalid ways of cognizing something. From the sixth through the eight grades, they study lines of reasoning (rtags-rig, tarig), which deals with valid and invalid logical syllogisms. Those who enter Jangtse College after having completed their primary school education study these three subjects during their first three years at the monastery, one year for each subject.
Once they have completed these preliminary subjects, the monks spend the next eleven years studying the five major texts. First, they study prajnaparamita for five years. They spend the first two years on chapter one of A Filigree of Realizations, the third year on chapter two (which includes the third chapter), the fourth year on chapter four, and the fifth year on chapter eight (which includes the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters). During their sixth year, they study the Chittamatra section of interpretable and definitive meanings. They spend the next three years (the seventh through ninth) on madhyamaka, during which they also cover the madhyamaka section of interpretable and definitive meanings. The tenth year is on abhidharma, and the eleventh on vinaya. Since the students are novice monks (dge-tshul, Skt. shramanera) during most of their studies and may only take full monk (dge-slong, Skt. bhikshu) vows at the age of twenty-one, this study comes at the end. Starting with the study of lines of reasoning (tarig), up to completion of vinaya, they spend one month each year on pramana.