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Exiled Tibetan Buddhist monks protesting Chinese rule of Tibet at a rally in India in April 2011. TWO TIBETAN monks set themselves on fire today in a protest over China’s tight rein over Buddhist practices, a rights group said as the Chinese government reiterated it will choose the next Dalai Lama. The London-based Free Tibet campaign said Lobsang Kalsang and Lobsang Konchok, both believed to be 18 or 19 years old, self-immolated today at the Kirti Monastery in Sichuan province’s Aba prefectuture.
The official Xinhua News Agency said in a brief report that did not identify the monks by name that both were rescued by police, suffered slight burns and were in stable condition. Lobsang Kelsang is the brother of Rigzin Phuntsog, a 21-year-old Kirti monk who died March 16 after setting himself on fire, said Free Tibet.
A man who answered the phone Monday at the Kirti Monastery’s Administration Committee said he was not aware of any reports of monks setting themselves alight.
Also on Monday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said that it has never been up to the Dalai Lama to pick his own successor and that Beijing will identify who is the next incarnation of the Tibetan spiritual leader. China has said that religious law requires that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama be born in a Tibetan area under Chinese control. Tibetan monks play a major role in the lives of the Tibetan people, conducting religious ceremonies and taking care of the monasteries.
Rinpoches (an honorary term meaning “precious ones”) are senior lamas or the head lamas at monasteries. Rinpoches are lamas who are revered and honored as holy men who have progressed beyond the status of monk through reincarnation. Greatly revered abbots are considered a tulku by Tibetans and called a living Buddha in Chinese---an especially revered figure who is believed to be the essence of a prominent religious leader. Tertons, or treasure seekers, are credited with finding important Buddhist texts and objects. Sometimes a method of divination is used to select lamas in which the names of the candidates are placed in balls of tsampa (barley meal) and the bowl is rotated until one of the balls "jumps out." Theoretically women and non-Tibetans can become lamas but in nearly all cases lamas are Tibetan males.
A reincarnation of a lama is called a "tukla." He is regarded as a sacred vessel of Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhists believe that it is possible to communicate with spirits and deities through intermediaries and oracles. Traditionally large numbers of Tibetan males became monks and many families had at least one son who was a monk. Novice monks gain admittance to Sera monastery at age 16 by memorizing 300 scriptures and passing an exam.
Monks live as simply as possible They follow the model of the Buddha who traded in his clothing for simple robes. Tibetan monks rise at 5:30am offer holy water and light yak butter lamps to honor Buddha and the Dalai Lama, and pray and meditate for five hours. At the end of this period we were each sent off to live in a cave for four months to practice praying in solitude. In the Yellow Hat sect a monk initiate makes initial vows, known as the "genyen" or "getsui" ordination, in which he vows to give up secular life and become celibate. William Dalrymple of the Paris Review talked with an elderly Tibetan monk named Tashi Passang. When asked about the techniques to rid oneself of desire and attachment, a Tibetan monk said, “The lamas taught us to stare at a statue of the Lord Buddha and absorb the details of the object the color, the posture, and so on, reflecting back all we knew of their teachings. Monks have traditionally subsisted off of food from their labors, donations from farmers and herders and contributions from their families. Many monks spend their time laboriously duplicating sacred books by hand with intricate hand-carved printing blocks.
Buddhist monks at the Baoguang monastery in southwest Sichuan formed China's first and only monk fire department in 1989. Catholic monks have come to Tibetan monasteries to learn meditation techniques and Tibet monks have been sent to Catholic missions to lean how to set up orphanages, homes for the elderly, schools and hospitals. Many monks spend their time debating subtle points of Buddhist theology such as "whether or not a rabbit has a horn" or "whether form has shape and color." The abbots and teachers usually stand while the monks sit on the floor. Describing debating monks in a monastery, Tim Sullivan of Associated Press wrote: “The shouts of more than a dozen Tibetan monks echo through the small classroom.

Hats are also important costume for Tibetan monks and distinctive feature of different schools of Tibetan Buddhism, for example, Red Hats for Nyingmapa and Yellow Hats for Gelugpa. Although monks' attire is determined by rigid rules, nuns' attire is determined mostly by their financial situation. Tibetan robes are called "Kasaya", a translation of Sanskrit whose original meaning was "color that is not pure" or "bad color". A couple decades ago there were very few monks left as a result of Chinese repression and most of the monks were elderly. In Tibet, many monks are lured by money and run off and work as laborers or in restaurants. In many monasteries monks are not allowed to watch DVDs, surf the Internet or use cell phones in accordance with Beijing rules. Monasteries have been ordered to stop holding public teachings and are required to allow the Chinese government to conduct classes.
Foreign tourists have described undercover monks at some of the monasteries they have visited.
A monk at the Dege printing factory told National Geographic, “Fifteen times a year, Chinese officials visit the monasteries and conduct “patriotic education” Each class lasts two or three hours.
In recent years regular re-education classes have been stepped up and have become part of monastic life in Tibet. The re-education classes used to take place once or twice a month then they were increased to once or twice a week. Activists say that a dozen Tibetan monks and nuns have died over the past year after setting themselves on fire in protest. Tibetan Buddhist exiles offer prayers and light candles in solidarity with Tibetans protesting against Chinese rule. AN 18-YEAR-OLD Tibetan nun has set herself on fire in western China in the latest such protest against Beijing’s handling of the vast ethnic Tibetan regions it rules, an overseas activist group said today. Free Tibet said in a statement that the nun had died after setting set herself on fire yesterday. As many as 18 monks, nuns and ordinary Tibetans have set themselves on fire over the past year, and Free Tibet says at least 12 died from their injuries.
A statement by two Tibetan monks exiled in India, Losang Yeshe and Kanyag Tsering, distributed by the London-based International Campaign for Tibet said Choedon was the eldest of four children and a good student.
The Chinese government has condemned the self-immolations and says an upsurge in violence in Tibetan areas, including some deadly clashes between Tibetan protesters and security forces, are being instigated by forces outside the country wanting to separate Tibet from China. China says Tibet has been under its rule for centuries, but many Tibetans say the region was functionally independent for most of that time. Most are led by monks who are fiercely loyal to Tibet’s exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled the Himalayan region in 1959 amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule and is reviled by Beijing. The Dalai Lama insists he is only seeking increased autonomy for Tibet, not independence, and opposes Beijing’s involvement in selecting its leaders. China says Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the region was virtually independent for centuries.
Sometimes, in order to maintain a household and to avoid the dividing of property, a younger son is sent to the monastery to be a monk -- the equivalent of knighting a younger son without property in England -- and when the younger brother reaches adulthood, he shares his elder brother's wife.
Describing what they look for in a new lama one senior lama in Mongolia told National Geographic, "They are watched for certain qualities.
They believe they have inherited their places in society from the last Tibetan kings and this gives them spiritual and social authority.
Near midday, two monks climb a central temple and blow a horn, calling the senior monks to prayer. Describing a group of chanting monks in Mongolia, Thomas Allen wrote in National Geographic, "Dozens of monks sat in the center of the temple, while the world of tourists and worshipers whirled around them. People who know the monasteries well can tell which monastery the monk is from based on the shape of the bowl. In the old days it was customary for senior monks to keep young boys and girls as drombos (passive sexual partners) and marry noble women who bore them children.
The monk said, “The main struggle, especially when you are young, is to avoid four things: desire, greed, pride, and attachment.

The Buddhist scriptures are printed in three-foot-long books that are produced in sets consisting of 100 or more volumes.
About 80 of the monastery's 130 monks are members of the department and newly-recruited monks are trained in fire fighting. In daily life, a monk wears a shawl with the front and the back decorated with yellow cloth, and a long skirt, and drapes another long shawl that is approximately 2.5 times of the length of his height. When monks wear them, they are wrapped on the upper body, leaving the right shoulder exposed, and reaching the instep.
These days monks sometimes wear blue running shoes under their maroon robes and suck on popsicles and smoke cigarettes after the meditation sessions are over. One monk in Shigatse told the Washington Post, “We have enough to eat and enough clothes, but our spirits are heavy.
One American couple told Lonely Planet that they gave one monk at Tashilhunpo monastery in Shigatse some tapes of speeches by the Dalai Lama. Basically they tell the monks the Dalai Lama is evil and that he wants to split the motherland. In October, a 20-year-old nun from the same monastery died after setting herself on fire and a group of nuns at Mamae staged a protest march in 2008, carrying a portrait of the Dalai Lama, which led to mass detentions and prison terms for some of the nuns, the ICT statement said. China responded by flooding the area with troops and closing Tibetan regions entirely to foreigners for about a year.
Anger over cultural and religious restrictions is deepened by a sense that Tibetans have been marginalised economically by an influx of migrants from elsewhere in China. Some use their position to make money by blessing homes, livestock and people in return from money, goods or labor. The number of monks has been reduced from around 120,000 in 1950 to 14,000 in 1987 and has grown to around 467,000 today, a number fixed by the government since 1994. In the afternoon monks generally attend classes, participate in discussions on religious doctrine, say prayers for the dead “to help their soul reach heaven” and engage in debates with other monks. With the Dalai Lama in exile in India the traditional structure has collapsed and the monasteries have had to take over. One monk told the Times of London that in the morning, “We gather in the main hall and Communist Party officials deliver a speech telling us to be patriotic and they give each monk a paper to read.” In the afternoon the monks return to answer questions related to the paper. But as a monk you just have to practice your prayers and meditation, and to hope and work for enlightenment. At noon, they gather in the sutra hall of the Buddhist school of the monastery to pray and recite Buddhist scriptures while drinking tea.
After the monks are promoted to Gexi (the highest academic degree of Tibetan Buddhism), their waistcoats are rimmed with satin borders, and they hang satin water bags about their waists, in which is a small bottle for mouth-rinsing. It was said that such caps were once worn by Padmasambhava, a senior Indian monk who had come to preach his religion in Tibet. Along with the fast development of society, monk's and nun's clothes have been undergoing changes.
Monks who are responsible for blowing suona horn and monastic bugle may also wear these things as ornaments. Monks of the Sakya Sect wear heart-shaped caps called the "sakya cap." The golden-rimmed red caps, which were also said to be granted by an emperor of the Yuan Dynasty, but were later changed to yellow caps by Tsong-kha-pa. For example, some other monks wear long, steeple-crowned hat with its brim folded and its front open.
For example, when monks hold ceremonies, they often wear Jinlan clothes (kasaya woven with gold thread). Within the monastery or residence and when having an audience with a more senior monk, a simpler style is adoped (as a gesture of respect and to facilliate work).
It is very common for benefactors to visit monasteries, where they offer tea porridge to lamas while presenting them with the names of the Buddhist scriptures they wish the lamas to recite for them. There are also senior lamas studying for Geshi, a Buddhist academic degree equivalent to a Ph.D, who also offer tea porridge to the lamas of the whole monastery.

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