Smartphones meet sutras at ancient monastery

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Publish Time: 2019-06-03 Author: From: China Daily Global

One of China's leading Buddhist academies is using new technology to continue its age-old mission. Cui Jia and Palden Nyima report from Shigatse, Tibet autonomous region.

Editor's note: This is the seventh story in a series about the Tibet autonomous region, focusing on the area's history, poverty alleviation measures and the cultural and business sectors.

Dawa cast a stern look at some young monks at Tashilhunpo Monastery in the Tibet autonomous region, who were sitting on the stairs playing with their mobile phones.

The senior lama continued walking toward the Tsogchen Hall, aka the Great Chanting Hall, a legendary place for Tibetan Buddhists, where a scripture recital was due to begin.

Smartphones meet sutras at ancient monastery

A novice enters Tashilhunpo, the residential monastery for the Panchen Lama, in Shigatse, Tibet autonomous region. Photos by Zhu Xingxin / China Daily

Dawa's silent message saw the young, scarlet-robed lamas quickly put on their yellow hats, shaped like a rooster's comb, and rush to the hall. It is one of the oldest buildings in the monastery, one of the religion's leading academies, which was erected by the first Dalai Lama in 1447.

"I am letting them off. After all, it's break time," said the 39-year-old follower of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism, as he watched the young monks take off their shoes and prepare for the scripture session.

"They would be punished if they were caught using their phones in the hall, where they must learn about Tibetan Buddhism in the most traditional way. This has been preserved in Tashilhunpo for hundreds of years."

Dawa had his first glimpse of the recital, which takes place daily, when he arrived at the monastery at age 10.

Tashilhunpo straddles the Niseri Mountain in Tibet's Shigatse city; the golden-roofed temples sit near the top, while the four dratsangs (schools) occupy the middle and the lamas' quarters lie at the foot.

The center also provides rooms for the Panchen Lama, one of the most important figures in the Gelug sect, who visits regularly.

The visual impact of the thick windows and door frames, black against the scarlet and white walls, the chimes of bells hanging from the roofs of the temples and the incense smoke lingering in the air quickly draw outsiders into the world of Tibetan Buddhism.

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