A day for 11th Panchen Lama
Day breaks at seven o'clock in the morning. When we enter Tashilhunpo Monastery, the new residence for the 11th Panchen Lama in Xigaze, Tibet Autonomous Region, the building is alight with lamps. The Buddhist monk who opens doors for us says Renbuqin (Living Buddha in Tibetan language) is washing up.
7:30 Morning Recitation
Panchen Lama holds Buddhist ceremony
The neatly dressed 15-year-old 11th Panchen Lama, the highest-ranking figure of Tibetan Buddhism currently in China, unhurriedly enters the morning recitation room in Shisongsainolin sleeping quarter, as if the sleepiness on his childish face were just washed away. The Panchen Lama solemnly bows three times to the statue of Sakyamuni. After a series of religious ceremonies, he sits cross-legged on his Buddha seat, a basic skill of practising Buddhism for lamas and monks who believe in Tibetan Buddhism, and then lets a scripture recitation.
In the canteen opposite to the morning recitation room, there are two big dining tables covered with spotlessly white tablecloth on which simple Tibetan foods are served, including fresh and white dairy pieces, "Tui"-- a kind of pastry made from butter oil and milk that herdsmen like most, zanba made from highland barley, rice porridge, eggs, fried steam buns, hot pickled mustard tuber and tasty and hot butter oil tea in the thermos. Panchen Lama sits in the seat of honor, his scripture teacher Jamjian Galco and teacher's apprentices sitting at Panchen's right site and his several assistant monks sitting at his left side in proper order. Panchen Lama's parents also came this morning. They sit under Panchen Lama and had breakfast with their son.
Daily life of 11th Panchen Lama
According to the monks at the side of Panchen Lama, he often has zanba and butter oil tea for breakfast and his lunch is usually quite rich. However, he favors Tibetan-style steamed dumplings filled with minced meat and gravy, steam buns with beef fillings and dough drop soup with beef fillings, steam buns and noodle. After dinner, Panchen Lama usually takes a walk with scripture teacher and his parents in the yard. The inner yard of the new palace is not very large, but it is far from the busy streets. Since there are no people without fixed duties, the yard with trees and grass as well as a peaceful and secluded environment makes everyone there feel at ease.
9:30 Learning Buddhism scripture
11th Panchen Lama learns Buddhist sutra
A day for study begins. The classroom is a rectangle one. There are several Tangka on one wall and piles of neatly packed Buddhism Scripture in the cabinet near the door.
When the teacher sits in the seat of honor, Panchen respectfully kowtowed to Jimjiang Golco for three times and then sits cross-legged in his special seat. Eight monks who accompany Panchen Lama's studies seat on the ground near him. They take out their scripture, recite the scripture together and listen to teacher's explanation of the scripture. The young Panchen Lama listens attentively and thinks deeply.
10:30 Learning English
At this time of the day there is arrangement for learning English. In the past, there were other general knowledge courses that substituted for English. Currently, 11th Panchen Lama's Chinese level has reached to a primary school graduate and he will soon start the Chinese studies of middle school level. Now he is studying the first English textbook for the middle school students.
11th Panchen Lama learns English
The English teacher, whose family name is Xu, is an experienced teacher. He teaches students all in English in class full of easy atmosphere. After teacher and students greet each other, Xu opens the textbook, leads students to read the text and explains the meaning of new words?- Panchen Lama listens to Xu with great interests. The teacher continuously praises "Good, Good" and shows smile of compliment when Panchen Lama reads the text or answers questions.
Teacher Xu says that Panchen Lama is quite gifted and shows strong interests and eagerness in learning. Currently, he can hold simple dialogues with someone else in English. He can read and understand the texts and his pronunciation is fairly good.
All the courses are usually finished at 11:30 or even 12:30. Afterwards he has lunch and noontime break.
According to the working staff at the side of Panchen Lama, he usually reviews and studies computer skills or reads popular science books, newspapers and magazines during the break.
Now Panchen Lama has a desktop computer and a portable computer, which he is so fond of and will not let them out of his hands. He does his Chinese and English homework on the computer.
The servant monks say that the Living Buddha likes something of high-tech, such as computer, camera and videocassette recorder. But it is limited for his spare time. Being a Buddhist monk, the Living Buddha has strong self-discipline over himself though he is still very young. Therefore, he cannot touch all these high-tech things so often.
15:30 Argumentation on sutra
Debates among Lamas at the Zhaxi Lhunbo Lamasery (2)
The study in the afternoon is the argumentation on sutra at the Potala Palace in Zhaxi Lhunbo Lamasery.
Although the Potala Palace is spacious, it still looks a bit crowded. The two sides of the palace are packed with lamas and monks, including the respected lamas from various Buddhist temples, monks coming to attend the scripture augmentation and many spectators.
Sutra argumentation is one of comprehensively examining monks' study record forms. The main content for it is the Tibetan Treasure chapter in Five Tibetan fundamental laws. As usual, Panchen Lama asks his opponent first. This time, the opponent is Geqinlosanlangjie from Xianzong Lamasery.
Panchen Lama tidies his Kasaya cool-mindedly and stands in front of his opponent, raising the questions calmly and unhurriedly. Sometimes he turns around and thinks what kind of questions he is going to raise and how to defeat his opponent, sometimes he resolutely steps forward and puts out his questions by clapping his hands, sometimes he drags his voice and sometimes he reacts as if he were suddenly attacked?- When a round of argumentation finishes, the two sides exchange places. This time Panchen Lama is the opponent and Geqinlosanlangjie raises questions. Facing an experienced monk who came to lamasery more than 10 years earlier than him, the young Panchen Lama sits on the thick cushion and shows a calm expression. He answers questions without hesitation and shows no sign of nervousness.
Debates among Lamas at the Zhaxi Lhunbo Lamasery (3)
Jamjiang Galco notes that the sutra of Panchenology is the basic course and the study focuses on Five Tibetan Fundamental Laws, which will lay a solid foundation for making future studies easier. So far, 11th Panchen Lama has received Consecrations for more that 700 times and now is studying Buddha Logic. Jamjiang Galco says that his holiness shows great wisdom in Buddhism and he is very conscientious, diligent and sharp-minded.
It is suppertime already without being noticed. After dinner, Panchen Lama usually takes a walk in the yard and the topic for the walk also centers on the sutra argumentation in the afternoon.
19:30 Individual study in the evening
After watching CCTV news, Panchen Lama studies Tibetan, practises calligraphy, goes over Chinese and English. His Tibetan teacher says that his holiness has a good grasp of Tibetan language with a solid foundation on Tibetan grammar. Recently, he is practising the cursive script of Tibetan, which he has made remarkable progress, and studying Sanskrit.
21:15 Collective reciting scripture
It is the second time for collective reciting scripture. All the monks at Panchen Lama's side come together and recite. The recitation is about to last one hour.
22:30 Going to bed
When the lights in Panchen Lama's sleeping chamber go out, one intense but rich day for the Living Buddha of traditional Tibetan Buddhism Ge-luk ends.
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