Friday, July 30, 2010

Buddhist Logician: Art of Reason

I finished another Asian Classics Institute class. The latest one is Logic: Art of Reason. The class taken from Master Dharmakirti (650 AD) and his Commentary of Valid Perception, which is a commentary on Master Dignaga (440 AD) and his Compendium of Valid Perception. The Tibetan monastery book used for this course was The Key to the Logic Machine by Purbochok Jampa Gyaltso Tsultrim (1825-1901) who was the tutor to the 13th Dalai Lama. The lecture series was online and taught by Geshe Michael Roach and available at acidharma.org.

The Art of Reason was one of the most challenging classes I've ever taken. And yet, I'm aware that the text was just a brief overview of all the major points of Buddhist logic. This is possibly something I'm going to have to sit with for a while. Even though I've done the homework, could memorize the study questions and complete the quizzes and final exam next week, it wouldn't feel right. I think I'm going to have to re-listen to the major of the lectures if not the entire series. Logic requires so much concentration and energy on my part that it's easy for me to get distracted. There are points that I get and have memorized but I don't truly understand.

They say studying this course puts into close contact with understanding dependent origination and that eventually leads to deeper understandings of emptiness. I expected a dry, dull series of lectures of negation (which is, after all, the ultimate point of emptiness). By the end of the series when I was reading the scripture I started to cry. To believe that this knowledge was almost wiped out by invasion of Tibet in 1959 is profound. But what's more inspiring is that great masters like Khen Rinpoche helped keep logic and debate series alive when the monasteries were struggling in the early days of exile in India.

The Art of Reason will be the 14th full course I'm trying to complete with ACI. There are a total of 18 full course courses. If I'm fortunate to complete The Art of Reason I will have 4 more full courses in the open series. It would be nice to finish the last 4 courses this year but I can't rush it. It's better to actually understand these subjects than just to do the paperwork.

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