Smartphones meet sutras at ancient monastery

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

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Ngawang Namdrol, the third Living Buddha Khyungpo, has studied at Tashilhunpo since he was 12. The 27-year-old is still learning the five theories of Tibetan Buddhism via a strict study routine from 5:30 am to 9 pm every day.

Despite that, he manages to find time to regularly update his social media accounts.

"I am one of the first Living Buddhas in China to have social media accounts," he said, sitting in his chair surrounded by small Buddha statues and thangka, traditional paintings. "The younger lamas all know new media pretty well, which is something we must use as society develops. I didn't open my Weibo account to become famous, but to pass on Tibetan Buddhism's positive energy to more people."

In 2010, he launched the official account of Living Buddha Khyungpo on Sina Weibo, China's Twitterlike platform, and it now has more than 270,000 followers. In addition to regularly posting Tibetan Buddhist content to encourage people to be kind to each other and help them better handle pressure, he posts nonreligious items, such as selfies, photos featuring the Potala Palace in Lhasa, the regional capital, or beautiful scenery he has captured on his smartphone.

"Some young lamas also post about their everyday lives in monasteries, which helps people learn about their real lifestyles," he said.

Khyungpo said people should be alert to fake Living Buddhas, conmen who are after money and sometimes even lure followers into performing sexual acts.

"Those fake Living Buddhas have bad intentions. Their behavior has severely damaged the image of Tibetan Buddhism," he said, adding that people should carefully check the masters they intend to follow, such as establishing which monastery they come from and their teachers' names.

In January 2016, the government created an online database of legitimate Living Buddhas to help followers distinguish between real monks and fakes. The database contains information about 870 Living Buddhas nationwide, and more will be added as their status is confirmed.

The database was devised after an incident in 2015 in which a man who called himself Baima Aose sought to hold a Living Buddha enthronement ceremony for an actor. He was forced to issue an apology after it was revealed that he had never been certified as a Living Buddha.

Khyungpo said: "As a Living Buddha, I need to focus on improving myself so I can better influence others. I don't mean to convert people to Tibetan Buddhism, but to show how to be a good person."

As many people are showing an interest in Tibetan Buddhism, more knowledgeable masters and Living Buddhas are required to provide accurate guidance, he added.

"I've noticed that some interpretations in books are inaccurate. Many people are learning Tibetan so they can understand Tibetan Buddhism. With better language skills, I could learn more about Buddhism and the world," said Khyungpo, who wants to study English.

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