I guess it comes to the point of quality assurance. To look upon it as a mainstream buddhist, a person who held his monk vows without any major vices for more than 30 or 40 years would have more credibility then someone who has held less than 20 years of monastic vows. Furthermore, the gelugpa monastic curriculum is not as rigid to the extent that you must follow the structure without any exceptions. As i personally visited the three great seats and talked to the monks before, there are many tulkus or even normal monks who can actually advance a year or 2 in their studies if they are qualified. Hence there will be monks graduating from the tantric colleges at around an early age of 30+. Although personally i m not a monk (and hence in no right to give a detailed description of how this can happen, maybe Venerable JKhedrup would be in a better position to answer these questions), but the idea of having started studying tantra only at the age of around 50+ is not necessarily true.Malcolm wrote:Yes, and other Kagyu and Nyingma lineages, generally only tulkus are cultivated for lineage holder training, unless, in the case of Nyingma familiy lineages, you are trained in the terma ritual cycle specific to your family.theanarchist wrote:Sure. But in the Tibetan monastic tradition a lot of young monks join a monastery at under 10 years of age.Malcolm wrote:
To be a lineage holder in the Sakya lineage requires training from early childhood. .
In Gelug, however, you have to study for years and years, then you have to study some more in tantric college, then you have to study some more. By the time you are a qualified lineage holder you have spent 30+ years as a scholar/practitioner and are at least in your early forties if not fifties, having only started serious Vajrayāna training in your early thirties or forties.
Even in Sakya however, even if you belong to the Khon or one of the Ngor palaces, you are not automatically selected for such training, you have to show aptitude and interest from a very young age. For this reason, none of HH Dagchen Rinpoche sons were selected for/chose to undergo such training, but his grandson is being trained to succeed HE Ratnavajra at some point. In Ngor, the abbotship traditionally shifted every few years between Khenpos from that family. However, circumstances have lead to the Abbacy of Ngor being defacto in the hands of the Luding family at this point, the senior Luding Khenpo being the uncle of the junior Luding (who is the son of HE Jetsun Kusho). The Tshar lineage however has, as far as I know, been more of a meritocracy since it is based out of Nalendra Phenpo, which was the toughest academic school in Pre-modern Tibet. It still has family connections, but also some important Tullkus, like the Zimog Tulkus. In Derge, the Sakya school depends mostly on tulkus for succession, as that is the eastern Tibetan preference or so it seems. But they send them to Ngor for their education, for the most part.
Then, one might wonder, "Wouldn't it be a little too old for most of the monks to uphold the lineage only after they have completed the studies?" And there is what is an advantage of this system: it ensures quality. If you are unable to even grasp sutric concepts at the very fundamental level, then u are probably not suited to do tantra. I know Sakya has a unique POV of combining sutra and tantra and practicing them concurrently, we realise that even so, sakya is also setting up monastic colleges, which in some sense (i might be wrong again!) following the style of the gelugpas. Also, the idea of the five major subjects and all the monastic curriculum are not the innovations of Je Tsongkhapa; if we trace this, we will see that it traces to Sakya Pandita, and even the old Indian Nalanda university. This further emphasizes the importance of study.
Of course, i m not discrediting the sakya system of family lineage; in fact, i respect the lineage and have received teachings from this lineage. However, a concerning question in mind should not just be ensuring the survival of the lineage alone (I used the word alone to further emphasise that i concur that it is important to ensure the continuity of the teachings), but the quality of the teachings that are preserved. I m sure that for us who have read the history of Lam Dre lineage from "Taking Result As the Path" by Cyrus Stearns, we note that some did not continue (as in the case of Segom Jangye, the disciple of Se Kharchungwa, page 212-213 of the book) because of not being able to "sustain the practice, develop wisdom, and so forth". Hence, the idea becomes whether we have qualified masters to preserve these teachings. I am not sure about how the lineage holders are trained (perhaps Namdrol-la would be in the position to answer this questions) but up to cureent moment, i have faith in the lineage holders (HHST, HE Luding Khenpo, HE Ratna Vajra Rinpoche) as their teachings are really down-to-earth and amazing. However, what i think should be the concern is whether a succession of such qualified teachers will still continue within the tradition, and what are the structure implemented to ensure that (i would think Namdrol-la would be also in a better position to answer this than me). It would be a logical fallacy to assume that if the past and the present works, then the future will work as well.
In conclusion, we as buddhist practice buddhist teachings; these lineage teachings are buddhist teachings, and they are not outside of buddhist teachings. We should not view it as something more special than a Buddhist teaching (which should be the most sacred for us buddhists). Of course, what i m suggesting is not change, but rather to be informed, and to have healthy skepticism.