Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sera And Deprung Monasteries

The Sera Monastery is located just outside of Lhasa. This college is famous as a place to watch the "monk debates", which, for the monks, is a fundamental part of the process of learning Buddhism. The debates are held in an open courtyard where visitors can stand along the sides to watch.

Sets of two monks, with one being the questioner and the other being the defender, debate a variety of topics. There are many rules and traditions that are observed during this process including gesturing, clapping, tones, wording, and a bunch of other stuff that I'm sure that I didn't even notice. During the day of my visit I'd guess that there were about 100 monks in the courtyard.

Nearby Lhasa is another college monastery called the Deprung. Here I got to observe a couple of cool traditions. The first was a gathering of a large number of monks in a central prayer hall. It was a very interesting to see so many monks in one place.

After leaving the prayer hall, our guide took us over to another area of the monastery where repairs were being made to a roof on one building. In the courtyard in front of the building, workers were preparing a fine, reinforced crushed-stone mixture to be used up above.

About 100 young volunteers were up on the roof doing a call-and-response-style of singing (girls in one group and guys in another) and tamping down the roofing mix with weights on posts. I could tell that they were having lots of fun and you could see that it was an honor to work on the monastery.

I went up on the roof and helped (believe it or not) for about five minutes. Here's a quick video I took of the repair process:

It was an honor and quite an experience for me to be able to watch and participate in the repair of the monastery, which I know will be around for hundreds if not a thousand years.

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