Tibetan Monks in Exile: Not as Tibetan as they Used to Be

pemachinnjor

(Pema Chinnjor, the current kalon of the Chorig Lekhung, or minister of the Religion and Culture Department of the Central Tibetan Administration in exile)

Below is a translation I made of part of a recent article by Dondup Tashi that appeared on the Tibetan news site Tibettimes.net on the 25th of March 2016, which deals with concerns about the fact that the majority of students in the reconstituted Tibetan monasteries in exile are now not in fact ethnic Tibetans, but are Buddhists of Himalayan descent. While in recent decades sarjorpas, or new arrivals from Tibet (i.e. Tibetans typically born and raised in occupied Tibet, who have come to live in Tibetan exile communities more recently), have made up the primary demographic in the exile monasteries, things have now changed. Continue reading

A Modern Tibetan Refuge Formula

internet refuge

I was sent this parody of the Tibetan Buddhist ‘refuge formula’, as seen on Tibetan social media, by a young Tibetan monk friend in McLeod Ganj. There’s potential commentary here on how much Tibetans depend today on social media and virtual connectivity to keep their sense of community together in diaspora. Continue reading

Teaching Christianity to Tibetan Buddhists, as a Non-Christian

Today, I used Hozier’s song ‘Take me to Church’ as part of an English listening exercise with some Tibetan students. I chose the song strategically: it is loaded with Christian and sexual themes but also reframes these in surprising, perhaps even blasphemous ways. I figured that the song could provide a good lesson in how important cultural background can be for language comprehension and offer a nice parallel with things the students were more familiar with as Tibetan Buddhists: in this case, the much celebrated if somewhat scandalous poetry of Tsangyang Gyatso, the sixth Dalai Lama, who in the early 18th century bucking the bonds of his royal, monastic education, returned his vows of celibacy and wrote erotic poems laden with tantric Buddhist religious imagery.

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