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The Sound of Two Hands ClappingThe Education of a Tibetan Buddhist Monk$
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Georges B.J. Dreyfus

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780520232594

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520232594.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 25 July 2021

Literacy and Memorization

Literacy and Memorization

(p.79) 4 Literacy and Memorization
The Sound of Two Hands Clapping

Georges B. J. Dreyfus

University of California Press

In this chapter, the author distinguishes three stages or aspects of Tibetan monastic education. It begins with memorization and the acquisition of basic literacy, followed by two central hermeneutic practices: commentary and dialectical debate. Committing a large amount of textual material to memory is a practice that Tibetan monks engage in extensively and that helps them store, organize, and retrieve the content of the whole curriculum. The author's own encounter with the intense training in memorization on which traditional scholarly training is founded took place at the Buddhist School of Dialectic, which he entered in 1973. He first examines the wide regional and even local differences in the literacy rate in Tibet, as well as the formal and informal channels through which literacy has spread. He then provides a short ethnography of Tibetan monastic practices of memorization, describing the methods used by monks and the types of texts memorized. Because Tibetan schools differ little in their approaches to memorization, the author focuses on the tradition with which he is most familiar, the Ge-luk.

Keywords:   Tibet, monastic education, memorization, literacy, commentary, dialectical debate, monks, monastic practices, Ge-luk, curriculum

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