Tenets: The Four Schools of Buddhist Philosophy

with Geshe Kelsang Wangmo

The four schools of tenets is an extremely important topic of Buddhist study. It is particularly vital for developing a correct understanding of the concept of selflessness, and refers to examining the delineations of the four Buddhist philosophical tenet schools.

The four tenet schools are:
1. The Great Exposition School (Sanskrit: Vaibashika, Tib.: bye brag sma ba’i sgrub mtha’)
2. The Sutra School (Sanskrit: Sautantrika, Tib.: mdo sde ba’i sgrub mtha’)
3. The Mind –Only School (Sanskrit: Cittamatra, Tib.: sems tsam pa’i sgrub mtha’)
4. The Middle Way School (Sanskrit: Madhyamika, Tib.: dbu ma’i sgrub mtha’)

The study of the four tenets is considered to be extremely beneficial since it enables us to identify the innate misapprehensions we hold consciously and unconsciously, so that they can be subjected to analysis. It allows us to gain an understanding of the fact that many of the perspectives basic to our every-day life are devoid of a valid foundation and mere constructions of the mind. In this way we are able to replace invalid assent to deceptive appearances with well-founded views. This is achieved through first learning about the various tenets, then reflecting on their meaning until valid cognition is attained, and finally meditating on the same by enhancing one’s meditation through the force of concentration.

Furthermore, systematic study, starting with the study of the so-called lower tenets, enables us to develop the capacity to appreciate the profound views of the so-called highest tenet, since the understanding of less subtle concepts of the lower tenets is described as an effective stepping stone to gaining insight into the subtlest concepts of the highest tenet. This is evidenced by the considerable amount of time that was traditionally spent in India and Tibet probing particularly into the perspectives of the lower tenet schools.

Thus, the study of tenets provides practitioners with an inner force that is able to distinguish between correct and incorrect perspectives so as to penetrate reality. It further provides a comprehensive worldview that forms the framework for those who want to delve further into the study of Buddhist philosophy, such as the study of the ‘Five Great Canonical Texts’.

The course material (2014 version – to be edited) you can find here.


Tenets: The Four Schools of Buddhist Philosophy

Geshe Kelsang WangmoJune 16 – 28, 2014

Tenets: 1.1 Introduction to the 4 schools of Tenets(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 2.1 The 2 Hinayana Tenet schools (pp. 5-9)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 3.1 Vaibashika (pp. 9-12)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 3.2 The Vaibashika (Great Exposition School) (pp. 10-11)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 3.3 Simultaneaus Existence of Cause and Effect (pp. 11-12)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 4.1 Vaibashika Sautrantika (pp. 12-16)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 4.2 Karma - Mode of Existence - Sense Power (pp. 13-14)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 4.3 Sense Consciousnesses (p. 14) - The Non-Existence of Self Knowers(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 4.4 The 3 Final Vehicles (p. 15) - Arhats Regressing (p. 15) - Saurtantika School (Sutra school) (pp. 15-16)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 5.1 Sautrantika Following Scripture and Sautrantika Following Reason (pp. 16-19)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 5.3 One and Different (pp. 17-18, cont.) - The Sautrantika School Following Scripture (pp. 18-19)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 5.4 The Sautrantika School Following Reason (p. 19)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 6.1 The 2 Mahayana Tenet Schools - Chittamatra (pp. 19-24) - The Sautrantika Following Reason (p. 19)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 6.4 The 2 Mahayana Tenet Schools (pp. 22-23) Chittamatra (Mind Only School)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 7.1 Chittamatra (pp. 24-27) - The Lack of External Existence(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 7.4 GKW Teaching (pp. 25-27)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 8.1-2 Chittamatra Following Scripture - Chittamatra Following Reasoning (pp. 27-31)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 8.3-4 Chittamatra Following Scripture (p. 29) - Chittamatra Following Reasoning (p. 30)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 9.1-2 Madhyamika - Svatantrika Madhyamika (pp. 31-35)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 11.1-2 Prasangika Madhyamika (pp. 40-41)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 11.3-4 Prasangika Madhyamika (pp. 40-41)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 12.1-2 Prasangika Mahdyamika (pp. 41-46)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download
Tenets: 13.1 Prasangika Madhyamika (pp. 47-48)(Geshe Kelsang Wangmo)Download