Tibetan Monastic Education
Georges Dreyfus was a monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition for many years, studying at some of the most important Tibetan monastic institutions in India, including Sera. He eventually became the first Westerner to obtain the degree of geshé lharampa, the highest rank of geshé offered in the Geluk academies. Georges Dreyfus currently teaches at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA.
In the following essays, Dreyfus provides us with a wonderful introduction to the Tibetan monastic educational system, discussing such topics as memorization, commentary, the educational curriculum, the theory and practice of debate, the schedule of monastic educational institutions, and finally the different geshé degrees awarded.1 Dreyfus’s years of experience as a scholastic monk in the Geluk tradition make his account detailed and accurate. At the same time, his first-hand familiarity with the tradition shines through in every section. His work is especially valuable in dispelling many of the myths surrounding life in Tibet’s great monastic academies.
The following essays are excerpted from Georges B. J. Dreyfus, The Sound of Two Hands Clapping: The Education of a Tibetan Buddhist Monk (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), reprinted here with the permission of the author and publisher. For Tibetan words that occur solely in phonetic form, we have added the Wylie transliteration.
 The passages in this section are taken from Georges B. J. Dreyfus, The Sound of Two Hands Clapping: The Education of a Tibetan Buddhist Monk (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), 85-93, 106-109, 112-18, 211-21, and 246-60.