Debating Monk, Sera Monastery

(order ID # CT35-03356)

This photo is from Sera Monastery on the outskirts of Lhasa. The monastery is almost 600 years old and once housed 5,000 monks. There is a religious education exercise that I am told is used in many monasteries that consists of debates on points of scripture between the newer and the more experienced monks. Sera Monastery is unusual in that it makes these debates open to the public. It's great theater and packs in the paying tourists. The debating takes on an unusual and highly stylized format. The monks pair off, with one standing and one sitting. The standing monk speaks, or rather yells, his point and then rears back, smacks his hands together, and lunges toward his partner aggressively pointing. The seated partner makes a more sedate response, and the process continues for two hours. I've no doubt that learning is taking place, but with all those tourists around I think the monks take delight in showing off by being as dramatic as they can be.

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