The Tibetan Institutionalisation of Disputation: Understanding a Medieval Monastic Practice

Jonathan Samuels
2020 Medieval Worlds  
Within Europe, there developed what has been described as a »medieval culture of disputation«. 1 This description seems equally apt with regard to certain societies in Asia that had strong Buddhist scholarly traditions. A formalised practice of disputation is one of the many correspondences that exists, for instance, between the scholarly cultures of medieval Europe and Tibet. In Europe, various intellectual and social movements contributed to the eventual decline of scholasticism, the system
more » ... which disputation was central. But in Tibet, disputation still holds pride of place in a style of learning that is essentially medieval in origin. The existence of this »living tradition« and the availability of plentiful sources hailing from the medieval scholastic tradition may well be seen as major assets when it comes to understanding the earlier Tibetan practice. But confusion about sources, domains, and claims of continuity appear to have discouraged efforts in this direction. The current article is the first to consider Tibetan monastic disputation in historical terms. Through the clarification of boundaries, the identification of relevant historical sources, and by means of comparison with contemporary practice, it takes the first steps to understanding the evolution of disputation, specifically within institutional contexts.
doi:10.1553/medievalworlds_no12_2020s96 fatcat:tqj3ve2usjh5dlhh2lx4hxe4r4