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We all have this idea that Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns have very stoic , temperate and reserved personalities.
Afterall, walking Buddha’s Middle Path (of compassion), doesn’t exactly lend itself to the appearance of being excitable, emotional or argumentative. Yet, monks have their moments and in their monk clan, they reveal themselves to be absolutely human when it comes to “the art of debate”!
Watching Tibetan monks in debate-mode challenged my hypothesis that a monk’s life must be lived in compassionate … complacency.
In fact, it revealed the opposite…
That a monk’s life is filled with passion!
As I watched Tibetan monks in debate practice at the Dalai Lama’s temple in McLeod Ganj, I stood mesmerized…
From starvation strikes, monks in self-immolative acts of protest (i.e. there was a rally and fast over a recent death of a young monk, who set fire to himself in demonstration over China’s occupancy a month ago. Unfortunately his protest went unnoticed by the media) and now this… It seems, Tibetan Buddhism stem from a fiery and defiant heart.
Perhaps it has something to do with Tibet’s violent upheaval by communist China, that Tibetan Buddhists have long been prone to having to fight for their culture, land and existence. Or maybe its the rebellious and the un-toppled strength of Tibet’s spiritual faith that has itched communist China’s nose in the first place.
If you’re ever in the midst of this practice, it’s delightfully entertaining to watch the monks have fun.
The monk debating process:
One monk/nun poses the test question and the other monk must answer. Generally, the latter is in a seated position, while the former is standing.
As soon as the testing monk asks his question, he claps his hands at the sitter and the sitter must respond.
Sometimes, the tester goes into rapid fire and this is where it gets heated, fun and fervent.
Below are some 1-2 minute rough video examples
The impression I got was that the two elder monks were debating over something, which had to do with their pupils.
Below is an additional video of some of the monk activities in McLeod Ganj.