The Debate

Shedra is a Tibetan word meaning "place of learning" but specifically refers to the educational program in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries. It is usually attended by monks and nuns between their early teen years and early twenties. Not all young monastics enter a shedra; some study ritual practices instead. Shedra is variously described as a university, monastic college, or philosophy school. The age range, however, corresponds to both secondary school and college. After completing a shedra, some monks continue with further scholastic training toward a Khenpo or Geshe degree, and other monks instead pursue training in ritual practices.

The curriculum varies with the lineage and monastery but most cover the main foundational texts in the Tibetan Buddhist canon such as the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (The Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way) by Nagarjuna and the Madhyamakavatara (Entering the Middle Way) by Candrakīrti. Some non-Buddhist courses like grammar, poetry, history, and arts may be included. The initial years focus on the Buddhist sutras and the remaining years on tantras. Care is taken to introduce foundational topics first, building key concepts and vocabulary for later study.

Compared to western educational systems, the shedra places much greater emphasis on memorization. Some traditions require monks memorize complete texts before studying them. They may be required to recite in class the new sections they've memorized each day. In some cases, debate becomes a major focus and practice for refining one's understanding, students may spend a major portion of the day in debate with each other. The main foundational texts in the Tibetan Buddhist canon such as the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (The Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way) by Nagarjuna and the Madhyamakavatara (Entering the Middle Way) by Candrakīrti. Some non-Buddhist courses like grammar, poetry, history, and arts may be included. The initial years focus on the Buddhist sutras and the remaining years on tantras. Care is taken to introduce foundational topics first, building key concepts and vocabulary for later study. Five Topics
Main article: Five traditional topics of study
Paramitas - study of mahayana
Madhyamaka - philosophy
Pramana - logic and epistemology
Abhidharma - psychology
Vinaya - monastic rules The following texts were recommended by the 16th Karmapa as the basis for study in the shedra at Rumtek Monastery:
 »Vinaya, Abhidharma and Epistemology
•Vinayamula Sutra by Gunaprabha with a commentary by Mikyö Drone (8th Karmapa)
•Abhidharmakosha by Vasubandhu with a commentary by Mikyö Dorje
•Pramanavarttika by Dharmakirti with a commentary by Chödrak Gyatso (7th Karmapa)
»Madhyamaka
•Madhyamakavatara by Chandrakirti with a commentary by Mikyö Dorje and another by Wangchuk Dorje (9th Karmapa)
•Abhisamayalankara by Maitreya-Asanga with a commentary by Mikyö Dorje which includes commentary by Indian scholar Haribhadra.
»Tantra
•Uttaratantra Shastra by Maitreya-Asanga with commentaries by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye and another by Gölo Shönu Pal as a basis for studying buddha nature
•Zabmo Nangdön by Rangjung Dorje (3rd Karmapa) with commentaries by Rangjung Dorje and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye as a basis for tantra
•Hevajra Tantra with commentaries by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye and Dakpo Tashi Namgyal.