Sangye Yeshe Shedra
The unsurpassed teacher, Lord Buddha,
His supreme truth, the sacred Dharma,
The bountiful field, the noble assembly –
May the incomparable three-jewels bear auspiciousness.
Monks who successfully complete their primary and secondary education most frequently elect to join the Sangye Yeshe Shedra, which is the monastery’s college for the study of the great classics of Buddhist scripture and philosophy.
The Sangye Yeshe Shedra proudly inherits the prestigious and unbroken tradition of Buddhist scholastic inquiry stretching from the earliest students of Shakyamuni Buddha, through the great monastic centers of India such as Nalanda and Vikramashila, and preserved and developed throughout Tibet. The college offers nine years of intensive training aimed at developing, as it is phrased in the traditional terminology, “the qualities of listening, reflection, and meditation for oneself, alongside exposition, debate and composition for the service of others.”
Monks engaged in the shedra spend eight months of the year in nearly constant study. Each year, a number of classic Indian texts are studied along with their Tibetan commentaries. In the morning, monks attend classes in which khenpos (monastic professors) unravel the difficult points of these texts passage by passage. Afternoons are spent in private study, memorizing key passages and contemplating their meaning. In the evening, monks debate and discuss what they have learned that day in order to sharpen the intellect and develop an understanding rooted in rational certainty.
The curriculum of the shedra is divided into seven years of studying sutra or foundational Mahayana Buddhism and two years of studying tantra. Although there are a number of ways to classify the various subjects of the former, a common way of breaking them down is into five areas of study: abhidharma, or texts focused on basic Buddhist ontological and cosmological categories; vinaya, the code of conduct for monks and nuns; the prajñāpāramitā, which largely involves an analysis of the stages of the path; madhyamaka, or the study of emptiness; and pramāṇa, the study of logic. The subjects of tantra focus on the essentials scriptures of the Nyingma traditions, particularly the Chokling Tersar. Throughout these areas of study, the views of Longchen Rabjam and Mipham Rinpoche are emphasized.
There are presently around 50 students studying at various levels in the Shedra. There are five active khenpos and a number of other lopöns who have taken up the responsibilities of teaching and administrating the school. In addition to yearly oral and written exams, oration, composition, and discussion play a large part in the educational activities. Students of the shedra also receive advice, meditation instruction, empowerments, and reading transmission from the monastery’s gurus, with the aim of producing highly trained scholar-practitioners.
The monastery did not initially have a formal ‘shedra’ or monastic college. Nevertheless, soon after its inauguration, Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling became an active centre for study under the auspices of many great resident and visiting masters. Notably, Khenchen Trangu Rinpoche, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Khenpo Rinchen and other renowned scholar-practitioners helped lay the foundation for the continuation of the Buddhist scholastic tradition. These masters gave regular instruction to fortunate students on all the major topics related to Buddhist sutras and tantras, along with more general subjects such as grammar. At this time, students mainly studied texts such as Mipham Rinpoche’s Gateway to Knowledge, The Three Vows, Gampopa’s Ornament of Liberation, and Shantideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra. Also around this time, the learned Kunga Kelsang, a relative of Rinpoche and a former Tibetan civil servant, went to great pains to serve as the monastery’s bursar while also teaching handwriting and grammar to monks, both young and old. It was is this way that the various levels of study were first established in Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling.
Eventually in 1997, the Rangjung Yeshe Shedra was founded to offer courses to both local and international lay students, representing the fulfillment of the aspirations of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche and a growing number of diverse students interested in study. One year later, on the day marking the second anniversary of the passing of Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche on Feb 22, 1998, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche founded the official monastic college, the Sangye Yeshe Shedra, in an assembly that included Chokling Rinpoche, Phakchok Rinpoche, the monastery’s manager Namdrol and the then acting headmaster, Khenpo Pema Gyaltsen. Thus began the realization of a dream that had slowly emerged from much discussion and planning by the monastery’s students and administrators. That year, the Shedra commenced under a proposed six year curriculum and had 33 students, auspiciously equal in number to the excellent marks on a Buddha’s body.
Headmaster Khenpo Pema Gyaltsen and other khenpos and lopöns conducted classes starting with Shantideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra and continued to develop a program of primary and secondary classes covering the breadth of Buddhist sutra, tantra, and related arts and sciences. Through expositions, composition and debate, the students like bumble-bees began to feast in the garden of the Buddhist textual tradition, striving diligently day and night to extract the nectar of the five sciences. The program thus matured through the kindness of the gurus and dedication of the teachers, and eventually an extra three years were added to the curriculum. The nine year program, covering the famous ‘Thirteen Great Treaties,’ upper and lower tantras, and other related arts and sciences, was finalized on March 5th, 2003, by Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, along with Chokling Rinpoche, Khenpo Pema Gyaltsen, and Khenpo Jampa Donden. Once more in the company of Khenpo Sherab Dorje, the curriculum was slightly revised and ﬁnalized on Friday August 5th, 2003.
Through the blessings of the Buddhas—and not the least of those of the Rinpoches—the teachers and administrators of Sangye Yeshe Shedra have been striving tirelessly to improve the quality of the monastic students’ discipline and learning. In 2007, the ﬁrst class of five and then, in 2008, the second class of twelve students graduated, all receiving the honored distinction of lopön. In 2013, five graduates were also honored with the title of khenpo. Since then, younger classes have continued to graduate, producing more and more highly trained Buddhist scholars. These khenpos and lopöns are now opening the vast gate of the dharma to countless local and foreign students, as well as to the younger monks of Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling and its affiliated branches. In thus working for the preservation of the Buddhist teachings, the Sangye Yeshe Shedra very much represents the core of the sacred activity at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling .
- After the completion of a nine year course, the graduating student will attain the degree of “Ka-Rabjam” Acharya or Lopön.
- Classes begin each year on the 1st of the third Tibetan month and continue until the 5th of the tenth month.
- A study period from the 6th until the 20th will be followed by exams from the 22nd until the 26th of the tenth month.
5:00 – 6:00 Recitation of Namasangiti and root texts
8:00 – 9:30 Main class
10:00 – 11:30 Secondary class
1:00 – 2:30 Private Study
2:30 – 4:00 Review Class
4:00 – 5:30 Evening Puja
5:30 – 7:00 Debate
8:00 – 10:00 Private Study
A Brief Outline of the Curriculum of The Sangye Yeshe Shedra
First year: 1) Word Commentary to the Bodhicaryāvatāra, by Śāntideva and Khenpo Shanga; 2) Gateway to Knowledge, by Mipham Rinpoche; 3) Types of Reasoning, Khenpo Tsondru; 4) Commentary to the Thirty-Verses, Thonmi Sambhota and Karma Situ;
Second Year: 1) Commentary to Distinguishing the Three Vows, by Ngari Pandita and Lochen Dharma Shri; 2) Commentary to the Madhyamākalaṃkāra, by Śāntarakṣita and Mipham Rinpoche; 3) Types of Consciousness, by Khenpo Tsondru; 4) Commentary to the Use of Inﬂections, by Thonmi Sambhota and Karma Situ
Third year: 1) Madhyamakāvatārabhāṣya, by Chandrakīrti; 2) Commentary to the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, by Nāgārjuna; 3) Commentary to the Catuśataka, by Āryadeva and Bopa Trulku
Fourth Year: 1) A Treasury of Logic, by Sakya Pandita; 2) Commentary to the Mahāyānasūtrālamkārakārikā, by Maitreya and Mipham Rinpoche; 3) Commentary to the second chapter of the Kāvyādarśa, by Daṇḍin and Bokhepa; 4) Commentary to the Pramāṇasiddhi chapter of the Pramāṇavārttika, by Mipham Rinpoche and Dharmakīrti
Fifth Year: 1) Word Commentary to the Abhidharmakośa, by Vasubandhu and Mipham Rinpoche; 2) Distinguishing Views and Practices, by Bopa Trulku; 3) Religious History, Kongttul Yontan Gyatsho
Sixth Year: 1) Commentary to the Abhisamayālaṅkāra, by Maitreya and Bopa Trulku; 2) Commentary to The Light of Precious Certainty, by Mipham Rinpoche and Khenpo Kunpel; 3) Commentary to the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga, by Mipham Rinpoche and Maitreya; 4) Commentary to the Madhyāntavibhāga, by Mipham Rinpoche and Maitreya;
Seventh Year: 1) Commentary to the Vinayasūtra, by Guṇaprabha and Khenpo
Shanga; 2) Commentary to the Pratimokṣasūtra, by Mipham Rinpoche
Eighth Year: 1) Commentary to the Ratnagotravibhāga, by Maitreya and Kontruo Yontan Gyatsho; 2) Commentary to the Treasury of Qualities, by Jigme Lingpa and Khenpo Yontan Gyatsho; 3) General Commentary to the Guhyagarbhatantra, by Dodrub Tenpai Nyima; OR The Profound Inner Meaning, by Karmapa Rangjung Dorje
Ninth Year: 1) General Commentary to the Guhyagarbha Tantra, by Mipham Rinpoche; 2) Commentary to The Heart of Wisdom: Stages of the Path, by Padmasambhava; OR Comfort in the Essence of Mind, by Longchenpa; 3) Notes to the Development Stage, by Khacho Tenpai Nyima; OR General Presentation of the Development Stage, by Shechen Gyaltshab; 4) Commentary to the Hevajra Tantra, by Kontruo Yontan Gyatsho