We believe that in order for us to achieve a complete understanding of Buddhism, we need to learn the Three Scriptures: Sutras are the words of the Buddha;
Vinaya represents the rules and regulations of monastic life;
Abhidharma is the interpretation of Buddhist doctrine.
Sutras are written records of Buddha’s words. An example is The Great Prajnaparamita Sutra (The Sutra on the Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom) that we read daily.
Vinaya represent the rules and regulations of monastic life. We study Nanshan Vinaya, a classical text that provides a comprehensive explanation of the upholding of Buddhist precepts.
Abhidharma are interpretations of Buddhist sutras by sages and highly learned scholars. GWBI’s core curriculum consists of The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (The Great Treatise) and The Five Great Treatises. The Great Treatise was composed by Master Tsong-Kha-Pa, and it contains the core essence of Buddha’s teachings, drawing upon many sutras and abhidharma. The Five Great Treatises is a sixteen-year curriculum comprising of five major abhidharma composed by great Buddhist masters. Each major abhidharma is accompanied by many abhidharma written by other great Buddhist masters, explaining the meaning of the major abhidharma.
Ornament for Clear Knowledge
Commentary on the Compendium of Valid Cognition
Commentary on the Middle Way
The five major abhidharma are: Ornament for Clear Knowledge, Commentary on the Compendium of Valid Cognition, Commentary on the Middle Way, Treasury of Knowledge, and Compendium of Discipline. Completion of The Five Great Treatises curriculum is comparable to receiving a PhD in Buddhist philosophy. The curriculum is taught in the form of recitation and dialectics.
Recitation, the ability to memorize texts word for word, not only improves one’s memory but also trains one’s mind to quiet down and concentrate. GWBI has twenty-year-old novice nuns who can memorize up to 400,000 words, which means they carry roughly 15 books in their heads wherever they go. Reciting aloud all that has been memorized requires three full days with no breaks in between. Dialectics is the skill of debate through logical reasoning. It develops the mind’s ability to reason logically and deepen one’s understanding of what has been learned. By strengthening our logical reasoning skills over time, we find ourselves less and less dictated by our emotions in stressful situations. Instead of simply reacting to the situation and succumbing to the negative emotions, we start to have a clearer mind and see the situation from different angles. This ability to step back and reason logically is a key factor in helping us remain positive despite a stressful situation.
Some people even feel happier when faced with tougher challenges. It all has to do with our wisdom.
— Master Zhen–Ru
There is a fine line between being happy and being upset—it all depends on how we view a situation. By improving our reasoning skills, we are better equipped to think positively in stressful situations. Rather than feeling hopeless or upset, we can quickly see multiple facets of the circumstance and find the best solution. We hope that through our studies of The Five Great Treatises, we can bring more positivity and hope to the world.
Apart from maintaining our living environment, chores play a big part in our practice of Buddhist teachings. Through chores, we learn teamwork, perseverance, attention to detail, compassion and many other important qualities required for Buddhist practice.
Concerning instructions, complete mastery does not mean gaining ascertainmentof a mere small volume that fits in the palm of one’s hand.
It means understanding all of the scriptures as instruction for practice.
— Rinchen Changchup, Lam Rim Chen Mo