Day 13 The Trouble Daily Getting Life of New Tibetan Tibetan Monks Monks 15 Days of Prayer for Tibetans during the Tibetan New Year few years back, I was in the A Tibetan town of “X” where there were many Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. I mostly was spending time with local Tibetan friends. One old lady who is a mother of one of my Tibetan friends said, “I wouldn’t send my male grandchild to be a monk in the monastery.” I was a bit shocked because I presumed that old Tibetan ladies especially would be very devoted to Buddhism and easily would send their children to the monastery. It seems that Tibetan society is changing now. The Chinese government bans monastic education before the age of 18. The government justifies this policy by arguing that monasteries only teach religion and the Tibetan language and students need a complete education with sciences, the Chinese language and math. Senior monks have said that after attending regular schools for nine years many young Tibetans don’t want to become monks. Daily life in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery There is a basic pattern to everyday life for a Tibetan monk. However, there are also different levels of status among them. People went to monasteries to get educated, to earn merit for their families and to pursue religious fulfilment. Pray that: • The influence of monks and lamas on society will continue to decrease. • The monks and lamas can explore and learn more new knowledge including that of the Christian faith and Jesus. • Jesus’ power will be revealed as being much greater than that of the various Buddhist deities and masters that the monks and lamas are committed to. Normally a Tibetan monk’s daily life starts in the early morning and ends late at night. The whole day is occupied with communal or individual religious services and the management of the monastery. Older monks, learned lamas, hold greater responsibilities such as maintaining discipline and leading the group prayers. Younger monks help by running the kitchen, shopping and serving food and tea. Religious study and services are the main theme of the monastic life. The newly ordained monks start with basic Tibetan language, grammar, literature, sutra chanting and prayers. Only a few talented monks can enter a scholarly religious life and advance to a high religious qualification. The life of a monk is not all just quiet meditation and study. New arrivals and junior monks especially perform chores like doing the laundry, sweeping floors and fetching water. Many others work at more secular jobs doing the work of craftsmen, builders, artists and cooks. Normally monks do 5-10 years of study although it depends on the individual’s situation. After that they do what they are assigned, such as management of the monastery, business etc... Nuns live a life similar to that of monks, in a more invisible manner. Their religious practice mainly focuses on meditation and prayer rather than advanced philosophical studies in less structured nunneries. The above description is a general picture of life in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. However, there are many exceptions or distinct practices in different areas and monasteries. For instance, some monks can have 6 months’ holiday or leave whereas some monasteries are very strict about that.
Day 14 The New Generation 15 Days of Prayer for Tibetans during the Tibetan New Year Kelsang Lhamo was resting in her bed; she wasn’t asleep yet but she could tell by the sounds of breathing that the others in the room were already sleeping. The New Year celebration was almost over. In a few days’ time she would be making her way back to the big city where she was a third-year university student. Kelsang Lhamo was already used to life in the big city. It was very different from life here in her hometown, a small nomad town in the middle of the grasslands. After having studied in the big city for several years she felt that somehow both of these places had become part of who she was. It was a very cold night, Kelsang Lhamo was chilled to the bone. The fireplace of course was a great source of warmth but now it felt like the coldness was even more powerful than the little fireplace, no matter how hard it tried. Fortunately she had a warm blanket. Kelsang Lhamo thought about the weather in the big city. It was much warmer in the city but sometimes she really missed the comforting warmth of the fireplace. Kelsang Lhamo thought about the past few weeks. First the trip home. She had travelled by bus together with two of her classmates who were also from the same hometown. Sometimes the trip only took about ten hours but this time it had taken sixteen and a half hours. It wasn’t very pleasant either as she had been carsick most of the time. But it was good that they could travel together and of course sixteen and a half hours was still not much compared to some of their classmates who had to travel more than 24 hours to get to their hometowns. On the way she and her classmates had talked about one of their friends who got accepted to a special English program around New Year’s time and so decided to stay in the city for the Losar. They had all felt a bit sorry for her although they understood her decision as it was a good program and becoming fluent in English was very desirable. But to miss the Losar at home was somehow sad, without the joy of being together, eating and visiting. And now when it was almost time to go back to the city, Kelsang Lhamo thought that once again it had been a happy time. She had probably eaten too much but what else could she do, with so many people to visit and always so much food around. It was good to spend time with the family and home town friends. But while lying on the grassland awake in the cold winter night Kelsang Lhamo knew that she was also happy to go back to the city. Sure it would be nice to take some tsampa and other food stuff from home but there were many joys of the city life too. And most importantly it was her life now. As a student in a big city she was constantly introduced to new things, new ideas, and even new clothes. She smiled when she thought about some of the clothes she was quite happy to wear in the city - like short skirts - but would never ever wear here in her hometown where she preferred to have both her legs and arms covered. There were of course confusing things, like in the city there were people who believed very differently and some of the things they spoke about just sounded so right, yet Pray that: • The students can adjust between the different lifestyles in the city and their hometowns. • The students will follow Jesus, as they have more opportunities to hear the good news. • The students will be better informed, so that they can share the good news to their families and friends. confusing at the same time. Back home religion had never been a topic of confusion. Kelsang Lhamo didn’t quite know what to do with the confusion. But confused or not she had to admit that she was happy to go back.