Buddhism is a wisdom tradition. It asserts that we are liberated by the power of our own understanding. The three purposes of Buddhist debate are to defeat your own and others’ misconceptions, to establish your own correct view, and to clear away objections to your view. It is like the approach of a physician—to remove what does not belong and to strengthen what does. Thus, for Buddhists, reasoning and debate are not ends in themselves or idle intellectual speculation. Rather, they are used as one path to spiritual wellness, taking practitioners closer to the health of liberation through these efforts to remove mistaken views and to understand and strengthen correct ones.
Reading and memorization are not enough. Students must be able to verbalize their understanding and defend it under the pressure of cross-examination. This book teaches the basic analytical skills and procedures used in Buddhist debate. It is based on the author’s own practice and experiences gained in the debating courtyards of Tibetan monasteries in India and matured through years of leading popular university courses on the subject. Sample debate exchanges show readers how to get started with the Buddhist style of analytical thinking to challenge and defend assertions.
Learning is supported by guided reflections, practical advice, and verbal exercises to be completed in practice with a partner. By the end of the course, readers will be able to engage in unscripted, full-fledged debates with a qualified partner about Buddhist characterizations and classifications of phenomena using the format and procedures of Buddhist debate. Moreover, these skills, once mastered, can then be applied to investigating the truth and falsity of views in any other subject.
About the author
Daniel Perdue (1950–2013) was a 1983 graduate of the University of Virginia’s prestigious PhD program in Buddhist Studies, where he studied basic debate procedures under Lati Rinpoche, Denma Lochö Rinpoche, and Kensur Yeshi Thupten. Perdue followed up on his study of Buddhist debate in America with travel to Geshe Rabten’s Tharpa Choeling Monastery in Switzerland and the four main Ge-luk-ba monasteries reestablished in India. Subsequently, he wrote a dissertation on Tibetan Buddhist debate with thesis director Professor Jeffrey Hopkins. After graduating, he furthered his understanding of Buddhist debate with nearly three years of additional research with Tibetan scholars exiled in India. Perdue has taught the procedures and topics of Buddhist debate at numerous colleges, including Antioch University’s program in Buddhist Studies in Bodh Gaya, India; Virginia Tech; North Carolina State University; Sweet Briar College; Washington and Lee University; the College of William and Mary; James Madison University; and Virginia Commonwealth University; as well as at Buddhist centers in America and Europe. He is the author of Debate in Tibetan Buddhism and was a board member of the UMA Institute for Tibetan Studies.
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