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The Sound of Two Hands Clapping: The Education of a Tibetan Buddhist Monk [Kindle Edition]

Georges B.J. Dreyfus

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Book Description

A unique insider's account of day-to-day life inside a Tibetan monastery, The Sound of Two Hands Clapping reveals to Western audiences the fascinating details of monastic education. Georges B. J. Dreyfus, the first Westerner to complete the famous Ge-luk curriculum and achieve the distinguished title of geshe, weaves together eloquent and moving autobiographical reflections with a historical overview of Tibetan Buddhism and insights into its teachings.

Product Description


"Dreyfus provides an engaging and comprehensive study of Tibetan scholasticism as a living tradition among exile communities in India."--Buddhadharma

About the Author

Georges B. J. Dreyfus is Professor of Religion at Williams College. He is author of The Svatantrika-Prasangika Distinction: What Difference Does a Difference Make? (coedited with Sara McClintock, 2002), Recognizing Reality: Dharmakirti's Philosophy and Its Tibetan Interpretations (1997), and A Recent Rediscovery: rGyal tshap's Rigs gter rnam bshad (in collaboration with S. Onoda, 1994).

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 5052 KB
  • Print Length: 460 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (28 Jan. 2003)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #706,235 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Valuable Inside Look at Ge-luk Monasticism 30 April 2003
By Barnaby A Thieme - Published on
Georges Dreyfus is a scholar of truly prodigious learning. In this book he reflects on his unique experience studying in various Ge-luk-ba monastic education centers in the Tibetan exile community in India, particularly at Drepung Loseling and the Institute of Dialectics. Dreyfus displays his great erudition in a fashion that is illuminating and not pedantic.
Most of the book is occupied with a historical and philosophical analysis of the Ge-luk scholastic approach to Buddhism. In particular, he focuses on two tensions within Ge-luk-ba. The first is the tension between exegesis and debate. The second is the tension between doctrinal allegiance to canonical texts and free and open inquiry into ideas. The picture of Ge-luk-ba scholasticism that emerges from Dreyfus' careful analysis of these twin tensions is a conservative institution that produces brilliant, and sometimes daring, thinkers.
This work is extremely valuable to scholars and dedicated practitioners alike, because it provides a unique insider's view of Tibetan Buddhist monastic education. Dreyfus is not only well steeped in the tradition he analyzes; he also maintains his scholarly rigor and critical acumen.
Dreyfus explains many practical aspects of Tibetan Buddhism that are not frequently discussed in Western scholarship. For example, I found it very illuminating to learn that, for scholars, Lam Rim texts and the related "Grounds and Paths" Prajnaparamita literature are not typically treated as literal, programmatic instructions on meditation courses. Rather, they are regarded as presenting systematic, overarching depictions of the Buddhist philosophical universe. This book is filled with important observations of this type.
If there is a weakness to this book (other than its rather unfortunate title), it is admittedly one-sided in its sphere of interest. It struck me as highly significant that the word "compassion" scarcely appears in this book. I believe it can be read in part as an apology for a style of monastic engagement, which places an enormous emphasis on study and debate, while not formally encouraging meditative praxis. This book focuses on the development of prajna on the basis of study and reflection, but strongly underemphasizes the soteriological aspect of Buddhism.
Of course, it is the author's prerogative to focus on their area of interest, and Dreyfus has done so with a magisterial understanding of the issues in question, carefully honed by decades of research.
A wonderful book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incisive look at the Gelugpa monastic training 8 Jun. 2010
By P.J. Neastroem - Published on
Dreyfus is to be congratulated for having written a very readable and penetrating look into the training in the Gelugpa tradition. It portrays a fascinating journey deep into the worldview and mind of a very different culture, which unveils some interesting, fundamental assumptions of both his own Western culture as well as that of the Tibetan. It is an honest and balanced account, which sometimes identifies painfully troubling aspects, sometimes wonderful features of this most profound tradition. He also makes enlightening and relevant reflections, based on Western thinkers, which sheds refreshing perspectives on the monastic life. The book is of particular interest to those who have done some reading, and perhaps practice, in the Tibetan tradition and who are interested in getting a better look at, for instance, debate in practice.

Thank you Mr. Dreyfus!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous... 28 Aug. 2010
By book addict - Published on
Wonderful book providing factual insights into a seemingly mysterious world. I thought that I would look at just a few pages but now I don't want to miss any of it. The book makes it easier understand the rigorous scholastic training that enables the Dalai Lama to speak fluently and logically on any given topic to any audience - without written notes.

Minor details: the Western reader could use a map of Tibet's various regions and the locations of the major monasteries, Also useful for the non-Tibetan scholar would be notes reminding the non-Buddhist scholar of the meaning of terms such as Theravada, Hinayana, Mahayana and Vipassana.

Overall totally captivating.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clap! Clap! 20 Jan. 2013
By toronto - Published on
This is something more or less unique, I don't remember anything quite so detailed on the daily practice and world of a Tibetan student, mixed with a very substantial meditation on scholarship and debate in Tibetan Buddhism. There is also a lot of good information on what a traditional Gelugpa student is supposed to begin with, and know -- very helpful for someone trying to pierce the Tibetan complexity.

The book has some dull bits: we didn't really need a whole pile of pages on some of the debating issues, they could have been edited down.

The ironic aspect of the book, I suppose, is that after reading it, I can't imagine anyone being that interested in becoming a Tibetan monk -- ShangriLa appears to be indescribably boring and narrow-minded, with endless years of memorizing commentaries on Nagarjuna, etc. The fad for all things Tibetan would probably die out if everyone was given a copy of this book. Simply sitting and meditating and becoming enlightened under a spreading bo tree seems to be a long, long way away from all this vast medieval Vajrayana scholarship (the caves never looked so good!).
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 12 Sept. 2014
By Richard D Pearcy - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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