Monks are making a Buddhist scripture debate as one of their daily routines, May 21, 2012. [Photo by Mirenda Wu/ China Tibet Online]
A flock of tourists and Buddhist pilgrims cut short on their visit in the Sera Monastery and gathered around the woods in the courtyard to the north of its front gate.
The serenity of the Buddhist monastery prevailed in the courtyard amplified the flapping of sparrows, and muted the noice of tourists and pilgrims, who were waiting for an upcoming scripture debate here.
A bell struck 3 o'clock in the afternoon from the top of the main hall, urging monks to come to the arena in the woods, and announcing the beginning of the scripture debate of the day.
Monks in red robes filed in, and some with cushions in hand. After finding their own spots, a few of them took seat on the ground, cross-legged and mediated with their eyes closed, while others chatted and laughed with the peers, waiting for the imminent debate.
The Sera Monastery in Lhasa is a temple of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Neither as grand as the Drepung Monastery, nor as solemn as the Jokhang Monastery, two of the other monasteries in Lhasa, the Sera Monastery wins its own fame by its routine sutra debate activities.
The debate is set as a main course for monks studying in the Sera Monastery, and is held every day except Sunday, said Karma Chophel, deputy of the Administration Committee of the monastery.
Student monks are divided into grades according to the level of their Buddhist study and practice, and the same grade will gather in circles before the debate begins.
When the debates start, one of the monks raised a question about their Buddhist lessons they just have in the morning to his peer. If a monk cannot give an accurate answer, he will have to review the scriptures at night until he learns it by heart, Karma Chophel added.
The debates finally started after all the participants arrived.
They were held in different ways between different groups. In some group, the pair of debating monks were standing face to face with the questioner standing and the responder sitting cross-legged; while other groups placed the questioner in the center with the rest sitting in a semi-circle.【1】 【2】