Tibetan monks: can a foreigner become a Lama

© RIA Novosti / Ilya Petliurite in photobanks the monastery of TashilumpoTibetan monks: can a foreigner become a Lama© RIA Novosti / Ilya Petliurite the image Bank

Tibetan Buddhism has always attracted the Western world, the closeness of Tibet, its ancient traditions and way of life attract foreigners who want to learn more about the culture of the representatives of the people. Today, Tibetan Buddhism is an important component of Chinese Buddhism. Across the country there are more than three thousand Tibetan monasteries and 130 thousand Tibetan monks. Professor Chinese research Institute of Tibetology Wang Xiaobing told RIA Novosti, the difference between the life of the modern Tibetan monks from the lives of their ancestors in ancient times, what is the identity of the living Buddha, and whether foreigners have the opportunity to leave the monastery in Tibet.

Antiquity and modernity
«In ancient times it was not like now. Until 1959 the Tibetan monks could not enter a monastery at his own request. Two boys from each family traditionally went to the monastery at the insistence of parents,» said Wang Xiaobing.

According to him, children were forcibly sent to the temple at the age of 5-6 years, in this period, the child still could not understand whether he had the desire to become a monk. Therefore, the absence of initial motivation were deprived of their work’s true goal, he added.

«For example, in the family of the current Dalai Lama had seven children. Four brothers, including the Dalai Lama, went to study in a Tibetan monastery, but after some time he alone continued to study, his other brothers returned to the worldly life, because I didn’t want to become monks under duress,» added Wang Xiaobing.

«Today, in the monastery you can deal with 18-19 years old and strictly after school,» said the Professor.

He added that there are two ways of studying Tibetan Buddhism in the temple and in a special Buddhist College. «In Lhasa there is a special Institute for the llamas. Classes are held there from 6 am to 8 PM, students read Buddhist canons and gain the wisdom of teachers,» said Wang Xiaobing.

With regard to the equipment of modern technology, according to him, students in the monasteries there are smartphones, tablets, computers and the Internet. «Some teachers may not be allowed to use smartphones during the day, but in the evening there’s always time for calls and communication,» added the Professor.

To distinguish the numerous impostors from the real incarnations of the Buddha, the latter issued a special ID with name and photo, called «the identity of the living Buddha.» These identities are somewhat reminiscent of a driver’s license.

According to the Professor, only in very rare cases, a monk can become the incarnation of the Buddha, having passed a special examination. Usually the living Buddha choose a child with certain signs and religious traditions.

The most famous and influential living incarnation of the Buddha is the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. When he dies the next heir of this title, the Buddhists begin to pray about the new reincarnation.

«After the death of the living Buddha monks look at the sacred water signs indicating in which direction to look for a new living Buddha,» said the Professor.

He explained that before a young child is usually put special items or belongings of the previous Lama, and if he learns or behaves in a certain way, it becomes a candidate for succession.

© RIA Novosti / Ilya Petliurite in photobanks the monastery of TashilumpoTibetan monks: can a foreigner become a Lama© RIA Novosti / Ilya Petliurite in photobanks the monastery of Tashilumpo

For the procedure for selecting the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama carefully monitors the Central government, without the approval of which the candidate will not be able to take the title. The tradition of the approval of the heir to the Central government of China is rooted in the days of the Qing dynasty, when the government approved the status of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama in Tibetan Buddhism, giving them a special gold certificates.

A special permit for foreigners

The Professor also stressed that the alien is very hard to leave the monastery in Tibet and become a monk due to existing prohibitions.

According to him, in some books described rare cases when the foreigners managed to infiltrate the Tibetan monasteries under the guise of the poor, however, the actual confirmed facts and precedents is not.

© RIA Novosti / Ilya Petliurite in the Bank Patala PalaceTibetan monks: can a foreigner become a Lama© RIA Novosti / Ilya Petliurite in the Bank Patala Palace

Tibet was included in China in the XIII century, but in its history there were periods of independence. Shortly after the founding of the PRC in 1949, Beijing and Lhasa signed an «Agreement on the peaceful liberation of Tibet», according to which the region became part of China as an Autonomous region. In 1959, in Tibet an uprising, which was suppressed. The Tibetan government was dissolved, and the Dalai Lama XIV (Tenzin Gyatso) fled to India, where he headed the «Tibetan government in exile.»

In March 2008, Tibet erupted again unrest, which Chinese authorities accused the Dalai Lama. They began in Lhasa and later spread to other areas inhabited by Tibetans in China.

In 2011, on the eve of the third anniversary of anti-government unrest, Chinese authorities closed the Tibet Autonomous region for visits of foreign tourists. Now for such a visit, in addition to a Chinese visa, you should receive additionally a special permit.

© RIA Novosti / Ilya Petliurite in fotoracconti DrepungTibetan monks: can a foreigner become a Lama© RIA Novosti / Ilya Petliurite in fotoracconti Drepung

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