Debate in the courtyard at Sera Je Monastic University, 2009, India. Photo courtesy of Ryan Matsumoto.

In the twenty-minute video below, Sera Je International Mahayana Institute (IMI) monks Vens. Tenzin Gache and Tenzin Legtsok give a demonstration of monastic debate in English, introduced and explained by Ven. Gyalten Lekden.

As the monks and nuns in geshe studies programs in Tibetan monastic institutions normally debate in Tibetan only, no matter what their first language, debate in English is rarely seen, and this video has been made by Claudio Curciotti and the Western monks to show English-speakers how debate works.

Ven. Tenzin Gache (standing) debates with Geshe Thupten Zopa on the grounds of the ancient university of Nalanda, near Bodhgaya, India, January 2017. Photo by Zarina Osmonalieva.

Debate is a crucial part of monastic education. In a Mandala online article published in 2016, geshe studies student Ven. Tenzin Namjong explained, “By far the main avenue of learning at Sera is debate. Some people are surprised to hear that we have only two or three hours of classes per week. But we debate several hours a day. As we advance, there is even less class time. Once you know how to study, you read a text and then settle your doubts on the debate courtyard … Debate is analytic meditation in action. It isn’t primarily about defeating an external opponent. Rather, we need to recognize and refute our mistaken ways of thinking using reasoning. The answer in and of itself is not that helpful if you haven’t arrived at it through first identifying and then refuting the wrong view … the debate process definitely helps.”

Watch a brief explanation of debate and two short debates on YouTube here:

To learn more about debate and other aspects of geshe studies, and watch a short video of debate in Tibetan, see “Dhi! Ven. Tenzin Namjong on Debate, Study, and Life at Sera Je,” a Mandala online feature.

Watch a video, including some samples of debate in Tibetan, showing FPMT registered teacher and native of the Netherlands Ven. Tenzin Namdak graduating from geshe studies here:

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